What Amazons Want: Crash Course in Goal Setting


January 8, 2013 by Darlene McC

Last week we encouraged you to give up resolutions for 2013 and settle down to some REAL change via a month long Goals Extravaganza, hosted by Urban Amazon.  If you missed that post check out What Amazons Want: The Big Picture to catch up.

First, let’s start off with a little data about 2012 to whet your whistle:

So... which number were you last year?

Thank you to easel.ly for providing the free tools to create this beautiful lil infographic (I ❤ infographics, if you’re curious). But back to the sweet, sweet goals!

While there’s a lot of interesting information to glean from this study, the thing that really jumped up and bit me on the chin was that people who set specific goals are 10 times more likely to achieve them than people who make vague declarations.  While I know this to be true from a number of other sources regarding will-power and life change, it’s nice to have a study reference New Years resolutions directly (oh, I hate them so).

Writing goals is a skill, and getting it right is a key component to success.  Today’s post is on the raw materials needed to set a great goal.  This will set you up to practice for Thursday when we leverage the goals from last Thursday’s exercise to set some “Decade Goals”.

4 Components of a Killer Goal

To me there are 4 essential bits that make up the DNA of a well constructed goal:

1. It’s Clearly Stated

There are few things that irk a coach more than a vague goal.

Ladies title=

Many people have a hard time articulating what they want; but without a clearly defined goal it’s possible you’ll get something different from what you wanted, or not any change at all.  It also makes it nearly impossible to create an action plan.

For example: Your goal is “I want a house”.  You don’t have any savings now, but you know you’ll need some set aside for a down payment.  You tell your partner “sweetheart, I really want to buy a house” and they are ecstatic! So much so that they volunteer to manage your savings account and savings strategy for the next 2 years.  You don’t even notice the day to day impact of the strategy, you think it’s ’cause they’ve done such a good job of it!  The day rolls around that you’re ready to find a place & your wonderful partner says “look at how much we saved!”, and it’s just enough to get that 2 bedroom ranch style they’ve always been in love with forever… but you’re disappointed. Upon reflection you realize you’ve been dreaming of a 4 bedroom colonial all along – but you guys haven’t saved enough for that big of a house.

What does a healthy body and lifestyle mean to you?  What kind of house do you want to have?  How big and where?  The more specific you can be the more solid the goal will become.

2. There’s a Definite “End Point” (even if it’s not a specific date)

How will you know when to celebrate?  Is there a number you can assign or another way to measure your success or failure?  Here’s something to think about: Which goal do you think is easier to make a plan for:  “I want to be more mindful” or “I want to improve my 5k time to under 25 minutes”?

Being more mindful can mean many things – from mindfulness meditation to not tripping on the sidewalk so often.  Saying you want to run faster gives you a specific metric, something you can make a training program for and gauge progress over time.

Another of the most common “goal fouls” that I encounter (and another reason I hate resolutions) is trying to change in absolutes.  It is far easier to modify behavior over time than it is to expect absolute change.  The body and brain both take time to adapt, and absolute resolutions deplete chemicals in the brain that are responsible for self control, to the point you completely lose it.  However, there is good news.  Recent research in neuro-plasticity continues to reinforce the fact that your brain can rewire itself, habits can be re-molded, and change is possible; it just takes time and it takes a plan.

There is one big exception to this rule, and that’s “By the time I die….” goals.  Your pie in the sky life goals are going to be relatively broad statements.  You’ll still have an idea of success or failure, but they’re less likely to have specific numbers or target dates.  On Thursday we’ll start setting decade goals to help you work toward reaching those big life goals.

3. The Goal is Actually Possible

Is it possible under the laws of space time? (You know science is my home girl.)

Fine, less Star Trek this time…

Can it physically be done?  I am very tall – so a goal of being 5’7″ would be silly and a waste of my energy.  It can’t be done!  If you make 50k a year and your goal is to save 40k this year you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Now, I’ve heard the argument made that by setting goals too high to ever reach even your failure is better than nothing (an “aim for the moon, you’ll miss and hit the stars” approach).  I strongly disagree with this idea; but as one of the rules of What Amazons Want is to customize, I leave it to you.

4. You Give a Damn About it!

This one is relatively simple.  If you don’t give a crap about it you’re not going to work for it.  Don’t give a shit that you’re giving yourself cancer if you’re still smoking?  Then no matter how much pressure your mom puts on you, you aren’t going to successfully quit.  Just doing a marathon because your boyfriend is?  Don’t expect an amazing time.

Invest your time and energy in something you actually care about and you’re more likely to get something out of it.

“I Want” Statements

I have no specific scientific observation to back up what I’m about to write, but: as women we are conditioned to believe that it is impolite and kinda shitty to take care of ourselves first.  That it’s “selfish”.  Well, you can’t have good goals without heading down that road.  Time to empower yourself, ladies, and think about what you want!

At this stage in the game we are setting high level, long term goals.  In a few weeks we’re going to start making planned, specific statements to get you where you want to go.  For now, I want you to focus on “I Want ___, and that means ___” statements.  For example:

  • I want to live as long as possible, that means eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, and preventing medical problems.  It also means addressing medical problems as soon as they arise and not writing them off.
  • I want to own my own home outright, that means saving for a down payment on a 4 bedroom house with a yard, paying off the mortgage over the time we own the home, and having an amazing garden.
  • I want to have a good marriage, that means communicating well with my partner, spending time with them doing things we both like, and treating one another with mutual respect.

You get the idea.

Between now and Thursday go over the list you’ve been working on and make some specific “I want___, that means___” statements where needed.

Looking Ahead

On Thursday we’re going to talk about where you want to go in the next decade.  We’re going to start breaking down those BIG things you believe are important in your life and piece them up for the next 10 years.  I’m going to give you some organizational tools to help you think freely and get these ideas out of your head and onto paper/computer screen/wherever and make them more real.

See you then.



If you are interested in private coaching regarding your goals please contact me at darlene@urbanamazon.net for availability and pricing.


You can find the next step in our January 2013 Goal Setting Extravaganza at
What Amazon’s Want: Decade Plans


5 thoughts on “What Amazons Want: Crash Course in Goal Setting

  1. […] You can find the next step in our January 2013 Goal Setting Extravaganza at What Amazons Want: A Crash Course in Goal Setting […]

  2. […] focus statement, sketched some categories for goals, picked some things you want in life, learned the rules of long-term goal setting, and where you want to be in 10 years.  If you’ve skipped a step I’d suggest going […]

  3. […] a focus statement, sketched some categories for your goals, some life goals, learned the rules of long-term goal setting, where you want to be in 10 years, and some 5 year benchmarks.  If you’ve skipped a step […]

  4. […] What Amazons Want: Crash Course in Goal Setting […]

  5. […] and marinate a bit, just jotting things down as they come to you.  If you’ve been following What Amazons Want this is a great extension of your […]

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