Setting Interim Goals

Goal setting is an important component in a person’s growth and it provides opportunities for self-esteem and happiness. This is the time of year where people are inspired to create goals to seek something additional in their lives. Perhaps something elusive (a more challenging career), or something seemingly residing on their bucket list forever (regular exercise). While health clubs and authors of self-improvement books appreciate these intentions, goal setting should not be impulsive.

Frustration of Long Term Goal Pursuit

From a high-level perspective, goals should be meaningful and measurable. This is not always possible, a topic I covered in Goals Without Numbers. Time frame for accomplishment is an essential thing to consider when crafting goals. Simply put, goals that take too long to be completed can lead to frustration and disinterest.

I suspect this is one reason why BBC’s Amanda Ruggeri suggests goal setting is counterproductive. Effective goals must keep us interested, motivated and striving for the target. Unfortunately, goals that have a finish line that seem like a mirage doesn’t feed the commitment necessary to achieve. Ditching goals is not the answer. Goals should be carefully constructed and supported by feasible plans that provide ongoing engagement.

Interim Goals

Assume a person has a goal of achieving a traditional four-year college degree. At the start of the journey the finish line seems a considerable distance away. The answer is in setting interim goals. Interim goals place us on the path to achieve our ultimate goal. Progress occurs in increments that make the advancement real, achievable, and engrossing. In this scenario, goals should be established for each quarter, semester, or academic year. This depends on the comfort level of the individual that establishes the goals. There is no right answer or formula.

There are a variety of circumstances where interim goals are applicable. Much of it is dependent on the individual and their ability to maintain motivation for extended periods of time. I’d like to cite two common situations where interim goals are likely appropriate:

  • Goals that will take more than a year to accomplish. Often the endurance required in pursuit of these types of goals tests even the most highly motivated.
  • Goals that rely on many moving parts. For example, seeking a promotion which requires additional training/certification and on the job performance.

These are examples of circumstances where interim goals make the entire process of planning and monitoring progress manageable. An additional benefit to interim goals is that they give us an opportunity to hold ourselves, or have others hold us, accountable.

Don’t Abandon Goals Due to Frustration

Goals are part of the human condition. They help us to thrive, to develop character, and the ability to overcome adversity. Properly constructed and implemented they provide excitement and a feeling of success.

“Without goals, life would lack structure and purpose. Goals serve as the lynchpin of psychological organization.”  ~ (Klinger) American Psychology Magazine

Utilizing interim goals as a part of careful planning is a very useful tool in effective goal setting.

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