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Goal Setting

Motivation Diagram

Motivation Diagram

Anthony Robbins, the international speaker, said “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Here, Robbins offers us a vision of successful goal setting, and therefore motivation as a process of taking something intangible and making it tangible – giving shape to ideas and thoughts (or what may well start off as only loose intentions) and making them happen; going from invisible to visible.  This can be compared to the process of transforming a dream into reality.

So if goals are the critical first step in motivating people to action, what are effective goals?  A good goal give us something to shoot for, they keep our efforts focused, and allow us to measure our success. The benefits of regular goal setting effort may be obvious but goals are only goals until action is applied. In other words, just writing your goals down is useless unless you actually have a PLAN for following through and accomplishing them and your plan can’t just be a static one. The plan should be reviewed regularly with progress being tracked. This approach not only greatly increases your probability of achievement, it will also allow you to overcome procrastination, easily spot new opportunities, make big decisions, and identify and solve problems.

As the motivation diagram shown here illustrates, even where the process of goal-setting is well-embedded, many organizations suffer from the creation what we can call “SOFT” goals (shown on the far left of the diagram).  Soft stands for “some other future time.”  Put another way, a vague plan to do something, but not necessarily now or even in the near future.

These so-called SOFT goals are set because the people who are setting them don’t want to be held accountable for moving forward, or changing-it is paying only lip-service to setting goals and motivating people.  Many times this is a failure of involvement and commitment.  People are just not properly motivated to make the goal a reality.

Because SOFT goals lack the elements that get people to commit to action, this is why SHARP goals are needed (shown in the diagram to the right).  SHARP is also an acronym standing for “specific, hard, actionable, realistic plans.” These characteristics are needed for any goal to be more likely to motivate people to action.

The fundamental difference between SOFT and SHARP goals is the extent to which involvement is not the same as commitment.  A SOFT goal gets a person involved and a SHARP goal creates commitment.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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