Should Goals Be Realistic Or Your Heart’s Desire?

Joy is Measurable

Joy is Measurable (Photo credit: Funkybug)

The New Year is coming up and we’re supposed to be setting goals…30-day goals; 90-day goals; one-year goals.  But as I ponder what I want to write down for my goals some questions arise that I can’t answer.

For instance, do I write down what I really want, or what I think is realistic?  By what criteria do I determine what is realistic?  Is it based on past experience? (I hope not.)  Is it based on other’s achievements? (Shouldn’t be.)  Is it based on what I think I can do? (This would just be a guess.)

If we go by the definition of a SMART goal we have Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-sensitive.  So, accordingly, it’s got to be realistic.  But what if I want more than that?  What about my heart’s desire? Perhaps I know what I can set for a monthly income goal for the next 90-days, realistically.  But I also know what I’d like to earn in the next 90 days…my heart’s desire.  Which figure do I attach myself to for the next 90-days?

Do I go for the higher figure and hope something will come along to make it happen?  Do I take the lower one knowing that maybe reaching the lower goal will give me more satisfaction than not reaching a higher one?  How do the Olympic athletes feel who don’t make the gold medal?  Are they just happy to place? Or does their disappointment take them down?

Mindset is so important when setting a goal that one must weigh the consequences when deciding on one.  This is not something to be taken lightly.

What’s your opinion? Which way do you choose when setting your goals?  How do you guide your coaching clients when setting their goals? Write your comments below.


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  1. Very interesting question, Jeannette!

    One way to approach this is to “split the difference” between what you consider to be realistic and what your heart’s desire is – assuming that they are not one and the same.

    If you realistically think that you can earn $15K in the next 90 days but your heart’s desire is to earn $30K during that period, why not set your goal as $22.5K? That’s a stretch for you, but perhaps not so “over the top” that you go into the 90-day period with the idea that you’re doomed before you start.

    Another way to approach it, and the way that I would do it, is to set the “realistic” goal, identify your milestones along the way, and reward yourself for each one that you make. If you make them more quickly than you expect or exceed the amount that you set for the milestone, give yourself a bigger reward and set a new milestone beyond the last one that you initially set. Each milestone achieved and duly recognized will give you added impetus to achieve the next one and you may find that you begin to exceed milestones as they come along. This is a gentler way to reach your heart’s desire without the worry of failing to achieve it.

    Your thoughts?

      • on January 3, 2013 at 4:17 PM
      • Reply

      I think that’s a great approach, Monique, to split the difference; then you get the best of both worlds! I myself, would prefer that one to the second one, but the second one is good to have as an option. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • Clark Helfrich on January 1, 2013 at 8:21 PM
    • Reply

    Awesome subject and insight! I would offer that many of our goals originate as inspirations, such as dreams and heart’s desire. But I think we owe it to ourselves (and clients) to ensure we follow a SMART goal evaluation, as you have suggested, before we set things in motion.
    There are a few varieties to SMART goal structures out there, such as Specific, Measurable, Attainable(realistic), Relevant(to the goal), and Trackable.

    I can have a desire, and set a goal to loose 50LBs of body weight in 50 days. The goal is Specific and I have set a date. I can Measure my final body weight in 50 days, it is Attainable (assuming I don’t have a medical condition that would prevent it), my diet plan would be Relevant to the goal, and I can Track daily progress. Without the tracking element, I can’t tell if my plan is working, nor can I make any needed adjustments that I might need in order to meet the goal-date.

    I can also have a desire to be an elected official in my community-state. Specific, and there is an election date. It is Measurable by my being elected. If I have the political skills and background, then the goal is Attainable. My campaign plan, hand-shaking, and baby-kissing is certainly Relevant, but all my Tracking measures are subjective vs. objective. I could use polls to determine progress, but those are only opinion polls. So I can’t really determine if my plan is getting me to my goal, because all those things should work, but if not elected, I did not meet my goal. Does not mean I had a bad plan. But it would be important for me to be aware of the potential of not being able to meet my goal, because it does not fit solidly in a good goal structure. Does not mean I would not pursue it, but it is not a solid goal plan.
    As you have already noted, the use and application of any variety of SMART goal structure is an important element in helping a client determine if their dreams and aspirations are actually achievable. Well worth working through the SMART goal structure with individuals to ensure they are aware of their potential for success, before they set out on a path to disappointment.
    Excellent timing for the topic. Thank you!

      • on January 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM
      • Reply

      I agree, Clark. Goals must have some kind of structure in order to be realized. The SMART structure is one excellent way to do it. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. I really like this question. I think both. Your heart’s desire would be the big goal and the ultimate outcome you want. From there setting smaller, more realistic goals that support the big goal that bring you closer to what you ultimately want. Simply taking action will automatically shift energy to the positive.

      • on January 23, 2013 at 5:29 PM
      • Reply

      Yes, Kim, the action part is so important because it really does shift the energy. Thanks for your comment.

  3. SMART is the way to go for goals. And you can (and should) have goals in different spheres. And break them down into objectives enroute to each goal (and steps for each beyond that!)

    Wants is different and so is Needs: you might want a car but not need one; you might need car but you don’t need a Maserati.

    And we can get into dreams and hopes which are different still.

    So are resolutions!

    And I agree with the old advice: if you have goals, write them down.
    If it’s not written down it’s a dream, or worse, a notion!

      • on January 23, 2013 at 5:31 PM
      • Reply

      Yes, Frank, the SMART way for goals gives us a structure and that’s the fast route for reaching goals as well as turning hopes, dreams, desires, wants, and needs into goals. Thanks for your comment!

    • Paul Coulter on January 23, 2013 at 10:09 PM
    • Reply

    There’s the SMART Way, other ways and a BODACIOUS Way. A 5 step process in place as a empowering vehicle leading to Audacious and Bold outcomes on purpose! Desires that feed the Heart while being lead by your natural knowing and not attached to any ego satisfaction,

    1. Self Accepting of your self in every moment (being accepting of self and others). Where you are is OK

    2. Connected to your own unique power source – your Personal Guidance System and being conscious of being connected. GPS will be leading each dance not the ego

    3. Intentions – a critical piece of clarity important before setting out on any journey, goal, want or desire. (Freedom, financial freedom, impacting those I touch with a powerful perspective). The Why comes before making any choice ( a decision and a choice are two different processes.

    4, Choice – choosing the specific desires that “light your fire” and also move you toward the full expression of your talents, gifts and passions. The “what’s” always add fullness to your WHY’s

    5. Focus – energy flows where focus glows – Keep your mind on where your going as your “how to’s”, who, when and where’s begin to show up in your life as you follow and allow your passion/s, interests vision and dreams to express easily and with less effort

    Also they provide stress free and minimal resistance as you take steps before implementing any behavioral action.

    Give a voice to the story you want to live not to the story you are living (unless it’s already great)

    Learn to dance with uncertainty it’s the only certainty!

    What latent desire/s lie dormant waiting to gains wings and fly

    Were making it all up anyway why not stretch through and touch Bodacious. Goals and New Years Resolutions are so 20th Century! 🙂

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