Dreams with Deadlines - 180 x 600
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

― Ernest Hemingway

When I was a young sales manager, my colleagues and I would go through an annual ritual of setting goals for the following year. These goals were strictly numeric, and we would live or die by their attainment. Inevitably, our district sales manager would pressure us to commit to a target higher than we thought realistic, making an already stressful process excruciating. For a long time, the idea of setting business goals made my blood run cold. This was until I realized that goals are really dreams with deadlines.

When I began coaching clients in job transition, I realized the value of goal setting. Not the larger goal of getting a new job or changing careers, that’s obvious, but the many steps along the way.  These shorter-term objectives are critical to staying motivated and increasing self-confidence. Published author and psychologist, Tal Ben Shahar, talks using this approach for writing books.  Setting a goal of writing a book is overwhelming he explained. Instead, he views each chapter as a letter to someone. The book then naturally evolves as a sum of the pieces.

Shahar also talks bout the importance of getting satisfaction from the steps along the way.  “Happiness is not about reaching the peak of the mountain, happiness is about climbing toward the peak.” Goals help us from wondering aimlessly, and help us enjoy the moment.

Edwin Locke, Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, pioneered research in goal setting and its relationship to motivation and job satisfaction.  His research showed that people who set stretch goals, ones perceived as being slightly out of reach but still attainable, are 50% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t challenge themselves. In other words, the more challenging the goal, the more a person will work to reach it. He also found that setting specific goals e.g. I want to earn $600 more per month, results in higher levels of performance than setting general goals.

Sometimes fear that we won’t achieve our goals keeps us silent. We hesitate to tell others about our goals should we fail and be embarrassed. Research also proves that when we voice our plans out loud, we are more likely to follow through. Think of the Weight Watchers model, for example. Committing to weekly weigh-ins with fellow dieters holds people accountable and helps them stay on track.

What insurmountable mountain will you turn into manageable hills?


Pick your large, long-term goal. Identify the smaller, short-term objectives that you need to achieve to move you toward your larger goal.  Prioritize and set timelines for each.

Tell a few people, whom you trust to keep you on track. Ask them to hold you accountable.  Set up a schedule to check in with them weekly, together or individually, to keep them apprised of your successes and challenges. If you find yourself falling behind on your commitments, brainstorm possible solutions with them.