Goal Setting or Wishful Thinking?

by Jonathan

Goal Setting or Wishful Thinking?

With the prospect of a brand new year laid out in front of us, many people are busy setting goals for the future. Why is this such a common practice this time of year?

Because the nature of people tends to be progressive. We all enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from making positive changes in our lives. The desire to improve seems to be hardwired into us.

Is it goal setting or just wishful thinking?

Sad to say, even with the best of intentions our goals often fail to become reality. It’s happened to all of us at some point. What can we do avoid repeating that scenario? First, we need to recognize that effective goal setting involves many different elements.

Today, I want to focus on just one of those elements. Let’s talk about various ways of measuring our progress while working toward a goal. It’s relatively easy to create goals for ourselves, but without a way to keep track of our progress, goals can quickly be reduced to nothing more than wishful thinking. I want to help you avoid that outcome.

How will you gauge your progress?

Without some way to gauge how we are  progressing it is impossible to know where we are headed. The truthfulness of this is not restricted to our individual goals. It actually applies to every aspect of our entire life. If we want to avoid wishful thinking so our life really is progressive, then we need a way to measure our progress. Makes sense, right?

Many people go through life never measuring their advancement. Where does this lead? More often than not, it leads to massive disappointment when they finally take the time to look back and analyze their life course.

It’s very easy to get so caught up in day to day living that we never stop to get our bearings. The problem with this approach is that we can be completely off course without ever realizing it. So, what’s the best way to keep track of our progress?

Is this how you gauge your headway?

There are basically two ways that we can keep track of our progress. While both of them have their place, they also need to be kept in their place. One way to gauge advancement is to compare where we are to our ideal. For every area of life there is usually an ideal that we would like to strive for. There is nothing wrong with this concept, unless you try to use it as a way of keeping track of your progress. Why?

Because as you move toward your ideal it will change. It’s like moving towards the horizon. Even though you are covering ground, you never get any closer to the horizon. Ideals are just as elusive as the horizon. Even if we are making headway, our evaluation of what is ideal tends to evolve in proportion to our progress.

Regardless of the fact that we may have accomplished some notable changes in our life, our position with relation to our ideal never improves. It’s far better to use ideals to establish a general direction. Much like a compass pointing to the North Pole, ideals can help us stay on a particular heading, but they really don’t help us gauge our progress.

Here’s a more reasonable approach

A far better way to gauge your forward movement is to compare where you are to where you were. This type of comparison makes it very easy to identify how, or if, things have changed. This approach also helps you avoid the trap of comparing your progress to someone else’s. Remember, personal development is personal, it really doesn’t have anything to do with what other people are doing.

On the other end of the journey, if you have established a specific goal, or milestone, you can also compare where you are now to your intended outcome. Looking back at the advancement that you have made can motivate you to keep moving toward your goal. Progress is encouraging. So, having a way to gauge your progress can provide you with just the right motivation to keep moving forward.

There’s more to goal setting and just measuring progress

Obviously, there is much more involved in learning how to set and achieve goals than just finding a way to gauge advancement. Goal setting is a multifaceted life skill, with several vital aspects. 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 in life. Perhaps this would be a good time to analyze your past performance and get your bearings.

Before you get all wrapped up in setting new goals, why not take some time to celebrate your accomplishments? As you look back on this year’s activities, don’t forget to give yourself credit for the progress you’ve already made. Chances are your life is changed in many positive ways over the last year. Reflecting on your personal achievements will likely inspire and motivate you to to keep moving in the direction of your ideals.

Got goals? Feel free to share them!
How will you keep track of your progress?
Did you accomplish something important this year?

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

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }


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 - Advanced Life Skills

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.


Jonathan Beebe

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 - Advanced Life Skills

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?



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 - Advanced Life Skills

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!


Steven Aitchison

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 - Advanced Life Skills

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.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations}

Hi Jonathan,
An awesome end of the year 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.
p.s. I like it that youve added the twitter id widget to your blog. MAkes us tweet tweet people easier to find like minded folks :)
Happy New Year :)


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

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.


Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice

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 - Advanced Life Skills

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.


Justin Wright

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.



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.


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