Without goals, not only does it become difficult to channel your time and energy constructively, it is also impossible to measure success and failure. How can you possibly know if you have done something when you haven’t defined what it is you want to do and what criteria marks it as done?

Goal setting however is not simply about wanting to do something, it is also about being able to articulate what the goal is about, realistic in whether you can accomplish it or not and what yard stick you can measure your progress against.When applied to your personal and professional life, goal setting is about taking control of how your life evolves. It is about exercising your freedom to choose. It is about being proactive about your happiness.

So what makes a good goal?

Here are a few simple guidelines for determining what a goal should be:

That is, you must be able to articulate what it is about and describe it to your family and friends. The more vividly you can visualize your goal, the more committed you will be. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, can you visualize what you’d look like in that nice new suit or dress?

Do not set yourself unrealistic goals. Not only is it a waste of time (because they are unattainable), it is also damaging to your confidence and well being. How would you feel if you set yourself an unrealistic goal of losing 20kgs overnight, be totally committed to it and then failing to do so miserably?

You must be able to track your progress and definitively say if you have attained a goal or not. Generally, the more worthwhile the goal, the more difficult it is and the more time it will take. Especially for these goals, it is important to have a yard stick to measure progress against. An example of a measurable goal is losing 20kgs in 6 months.

Every goal you set for yourself must be consistent with your overall objectives, desires, expectations and beliefs. You cannot set yourself conflicting or contradictory goals. For example, losing weight is probably in contradiction to a goal to sample the best cuisines around the world.

Although not completely mandatory, I believe a goal should be challenging and worthwhile. Life is too short doing unimportant things. If you genuinely wish to improve your personal or professional life, set yourself worthwhile goals. Losing weight is a worthwhile goal – it can improve your health and overall standard of living.

Not only is it important to have worthwhile goals, they must be goals you genuinely desire to attain. A desirable goal will command more commitment, dedication and perseverance from you. This desire will be your motivation. In our example, losing weight is desirable because you can be more alive and energetic, feel more confident, lead a better life, play with your kids etc.

Many people fear setting goals, especially the goals which seem tough and worth achieving. I feel that way for some of my own goals. Ultimately, this fear stems from a fear of failure.

We fear setting goals because we are afraid of failing. If I failed, what would my friends think of me?

One effective way I know of to combat this fear is to ask yourself – Why do I have this goal? What do I wish to accomplish? Is the pain to change less than the pain not to change?

Do not focus on the fear.

Focus instead on the positives and your desire to accomplish your goal. Yes, I want to lose that 20kgs. Yes, I want to look good in that new dress. Yes, I want to feel alive!

If you have a goal that is truly desirable, you owe it to yourself to try. There is nothing wrong with failure. There is no shame in failing when you have tried your best. However, you’d regret it for the rest of your life if you have a goal but did not attempt to accomplish it simply because you were paralysed with the fear of failure.