3 Thoughtful Questions to Help You Set Goals

The goals we set aren’t always the ones we actually want to achieve. Here’s how to make sure you’re on the right track.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #410

Goals!! I just love goals!!! Well … sometimes, I hate goals. But then I love them again. Because when we set goals, we can reach them!

But often, we set goals and proceed blindly ahead, assuming the goal is a good one. Then there we are, standing at the International Bubble Gum Blowing championship, blowing our little hearts out, and we realize that the bubble we’ve blown is so big that if it pops, it just might destroy our entire outfit, not to mention that Gucci haircut that means so much to us. Becoming #1 in Bubble Gum? Probably not the right goal. We should have seen that coming. So how do we nip bad goals in the bud? How do we tell if a goal is worth pursuing before we start pursuing it?

One of my earliest professional mentors and friends, Joseph Yeager of LinguisTechs, taught me a perfect framework. It’s spring, and Bernice is setting her goals. Let’s find out how Joe’s framework can help.

Bernice is feeling romantic. As owner of the Green Growing Things plant store, she’s decided to a massive Death Star out of solid flowers, roses to the core, like Jeff Koons’ flower poodle. This isn’t for her, of course. It’s for her fiancee Melvine. Melvin’s a big nerd, so she wanted to make it a big Death Star. One that would cover the roof of Green Growing Things. 

Is Your Goal Real?

The first element of Joe’s model is asking: are you meeting the real goal?

When you’re deciding to set a new goal, ask yourself if it’s the actual thing you want to achieve? When people say they want a million dollars, the goal is rarely actually a million dollars. The real goal is the one hidden behind. They want to be secure. Or maybe they want to be surrounded by beautiful people. Ask yourself, “what do I hope this goal will achieve?” Make sure the goal you’re setting is the right one.

Bernice asked herself if her real goal was building a Death Starflower. Of course it was! Her nerdy shmoopie would love nothing more than something she made, from one of his favorite movies. But wait! The goal isn’t actually building a Death Starflower of solid roses. It’s making something handmade for Melvin!

Upon reflection, Bernice realizes that the real goal is something handmade for Melvin. Fortunately, her original vision of the plant-store-sized Death Star made of petunias will be hand made. She passes the “Is it real?” test with flying colors … er, well, at least the color black. Because the Death Star is black.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.