Is it Goal Setting or just Wishful Thinking?

goal setting

To a person with a progressive mindset, goal setting represents an opportunity for continued growth and achievement. It’s like being able to create a new beginning any time and for any reason.

By nature, some of us are hardwired to want to keep making progress in all areas of our life. We enjoy the process of setting our sights on something, and then pursuing that desired outcome until it is realized. There is a special kind of gratification that comes from challenging ourselves to meet a higher standard and then rising to meet that challenge.

Don’t let goal setting be reduced to wishful thinking

While we are at it, let’s also acknowledge that the other side of that coin is the fact that even when fueled by good intentions, many peoples goal setting efforts fail to become a reality. What can we do avoid that scenario? First, we need to recognize that effective goal setting produces measurable results while wishful thinking is just a fantasy.

Today, I want to talk about various ways of measuring your results while working toward a goal. You see, no matter how thorough you are with the initial goal setting process , if you don’t have a way to keep track of your progress you will never reach the finish line. Instead, your good intentions will quickly be reduced to nothing more than wishful thinking. I want to help you avoid that outcome.

Different ways to measure progress

There are basically two ways to keep track of your progress. One way will help you stay motivated and the other will discourage you. The most common way to measure progress is to compare where you are to your ideal outcome. For every goal there is usually an ideal outcome that you are striving for. Knowing what that outcome is helps to establish your direction, but it’s not a good way to keep track of your progress. Here’s why!

As you move toward your ideal outcome it will change. It’s like moving towards the horizon. Even though you are covering ground, you never seem to get any closer to the horizon. Ideal outcomes are just as elusive as the horizon. Even when you are making headway, your concept of your ideal outcome tends to change and evolve in proportion to your progress.

Regardless of the fact that your goal setting efforts are producing results, your position with relation to that ideal outcome never improves because it is constantly moving away from you. It’s far better to use your ideal outcome like a compass pointing you in the right direction. Ideal outcomes can help you stay on a particular heading, but that’s about it.

Here’s a more reasonable approach

A far better way to measure your forward movement is to compare where you are to where you started. This type of comparison makes it very easy to see how far you have come. It also helps you avoid the trap of comparing your progress to someone else’s. Unless you are involved in some kind of competition, it’s best to assess your progress on its own merit and not in comparison to someone else.

As you reach predetermined  milestones on your goal setting journey, you can also compare where you are now in proximity to where you want to end up. And looking back at the progress you’ve made will motivate you to keep moving toward your goal. Progress is encouraging. So, having a way to gauge your progress provides enough motivation to move you to the next milestone.

There’s more to goal setting and just measuring progress

Obviously, there is much more involved in successful goal setting than just finding a way to measure your progress, but it’s a vital part of the process. Goal setting is a multifaceted life skill, with several vital aspects. And we’ll talk about some of those other aspects in future articles. For now, I invite you to examine the way that you currently measure your progress and make any needed changes.

While you are at it, don’t forget to give yourself credit for the progress you’ve already made. Reflecting on how far you’ve already come will likely inspire and motivate you to to keep moving in the direction of your ideal outcome.

Are you hardwired for goal setting?
How will you keep track of your progress?
The lines are open!

If you enjoyed this article consider email updates!

My all time favorite tool for accomplishing amazing goals and creating massive positive change is called the 100 Day Challenge. If you are ready to realize your dreams and goals, then you should read this article.


  1. Kikolani December 29, 2009 Reply

    I think it is important to set realistic goals, and definitely have a way to measure the progress. I’m looking to setup a vision board for the year, with some areas where I can write in specific steps I have taken toward each of my goals. Hopefully, the visual inspiration will help me work toward them daily, and not lose sight of them.

    • Jonathan December 30, 2009 Reply

      Hi Kristi, I like the idea of a vision board with a way to keep track of progress. I might give that a go also, thanks.

  2. Jonathan Beebe December 29, 2009 Reply

    I think keeping a journal is a great way to measure your progress AND recognize your achievements. Of course, you can still get off course, but if you are writing in a journal regularly, you can definitely notice it a lot sooner than when most of your life has passed you by and you’re reflecting on your life outcome.

    I believe that if more people get in the habit of accomplishing smaller goals, the sense of reward they’ll feel will help motivate them to accomplish bigger goals. I think many people go their entire lives without accomplishing any REAL goals, and it’s sad they don’t get to experience the rewarding feeling it gives.

    Thanks for another great article!

    • Jonathan December 30, 2009 Reply

      Hi Jonathan, everyone who keeps a journal says it’s a great way to go. I’ve tried several times to develop the habit but it always winds up being hit and miss.

      Setting smaller goals, or breaking large goals into phases is definitely helpful. I would be curious to know how often you write in your journal. Is it a daily practice, or just at certain times?

  3. Lana December 29, 2009 Reply

    I agree Jonathan, what is measured, improves. And you are right, my life has changed in many positive ways this year, I definitely need to celebrate it! Thanks for the reminder!

    • Jonathan December 30, 2009 Reply

      Hi Lana, celebrating our accomplishments will help anchor the whole process in positive emotions. When the result of our efforts is a positive experience (emotionally), we tend to view the whole experience as positive. So, go celebrate girl, I am sure you’ve earned it!

  4. Steven Aitchison December 30, 2009 Reply

    I’m with you 100% on this Jonathan. We need to be able to track and measure our goals for us to have momentum.

    It’s also true that we don’t celebrate our achievements as much as we could and I am glad you emphasized that here.

    Wishing you a very Happy New Year my friend.

    • Jonathan December 30, 2009 Reply

      Hi Steve, you’ve had some major accomplishments this year. I hope you take some time to reflect on, and celebrate your successes my friend. You’ve been an inspiration to us all.

  5. Zeenat December 30, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    An awesome article!
    Lets you look within and really ask yourself if youve been on track with your goals….or are you just simply telling yourself you are.
    My personal goals included losing some weight..which i have done…am still on the way to my actual goal…and growing my blogging skills..which are also well on the way..or atleast i think :)
    The other goal was to grow the blog….and start work on the ebook. Which is well on the way as well.
    So for me..a realistic approach to goal setting helps. Also subtle reminders in your life that lead you to think of these goals also helps.

    • Jonathan December 30, 2009 Reply

      Wow Z, sounds like you are on a role. I love being surrounded by progressive people who are seeing positive results for their efforts. Very motivating. It’s interesting, every single person that has left a comment since I added the twitter widget has used it. Looks like a keeper.

  6. Amit Sodha December 30, 2009 Reply

    Hey Jonathan,

    ‘A far better way to gauge your progress is to compare where you are to where you were’ – That’s just so uncanny as I wrote something almost identical on my latest blog post too! LOL

    You’re bang on big J and it’s just the beginning portion of a much larger process!

    • Jonathan December 30, 2009 Reply

      Thanks for joining in Amit. The great thing about comparing where we are to where we were is that our progress becomes obvious. Seeing results from our efforts is very motivating, so it’s important that we notice our accomplishments.

  7. Justin Wright January 18, 2010 Reply

    Goal setting is one of the things I really like to incorporate into my life. I find that if I don’t set goals I am usually too scatter brained and have a hard time focusing on certain things.

    I do agree that it’s important to set realistic goals, but at the same time I also think it’s important to not set yourself short. I would rather set a too difficult of goal than too easy of one.

  8. Marc December 2, 2010 Reply

    Always best to start any endeavor with a detailed set of goals. In the end it is not the achievement of the goal that helps us most, it is what we become and how we evolve through the attempt of achieving a goal.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>