Effective Goal Setting: Key to Moving in the Direction We Want to Go

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Written by Guest Blogger, Mariana C. Gonzalez

Effective goal setting is fundamental in many aspects of our lives, whether we are drafting and proposing annual performance goals to our manager or setting personal goals of any kind (e.g. related to exercising, learning a new skill, executing a home-improvement project, writing a book etc.). Knowing how to formulate goals in a way that is truly helpful and conducive to reaching them is essential. A well-formulated goal galvanizes one’s energy and resources as well as establishes a clear direction towards its attainment. Further, effective goal setting also involves prioritizing beforehand and deciding on what we ought to concentrate our efforts, as doing so spares us from overstretching, losing focus, and pursuing too many goals to the detriment of reaching any.

Such clarity with respect to deciding and articulating goals is inextricably tied to having a clear vision in which these goals fit as steps in the direction of its materialization. Reaching a goal is meaningless if having done so does not lead us in the direction of our vision.

At Schneider Electric, 3 of the 6 transformations towards our company vision involve 1) supporting all employees to reach their full potential as we recognize that all employees are talent; 2) creating a culture of lifelong learners across all levels of the organization; and 3) fostering the well-being of all employees by enabling them to optimize their energy. In my case, being well-anchored on the basics of effective goal setting is an important element of how I can best align with these 3 transformations, and as a general matter, it’s also helpful when setting personal goals.

Below are essential recommendations based on the Schneider Electric internal online learning resources concerning effective goal setting that are worth keeping in mind when formulating goals. Many people may already be familiar with them but, like me, recognize that sometimes it’s beneficial to review the basics.


  1. Goals should be short and clear.

Goals are typically best articulated in one or two short and clear sentences. The details with respect to their action plan may require further elaboration but a goal itself is best kept simple and short.


  1. Goals must be expressed positively.

They must reflect what we do want. A goal that merely articulates what we don’t want and that is formulated in the negative (e.g. I won’t do…, I will stop doing… etc.) is not helpful in that it does not establish a clear direction towards which to channel our efforts.


  1. Goals must be under our control.

A goal is useful only if its attainment depends on the person who is setting the goal for herself. When we set goals that don’t depend on us completely, we unknowingly not only position ourselves to fail but we also cause for ourselves unnecessary frustration and discouragement. Based on this guideline, a goal such as “Win X prize” may not be a good goal (depending on the prize in question) in that winning might depend on factors outside of one’s control, such as the subjective taste of a jury. Instead, we can set more concrete goals within our control concerning our performance and work that increase our competitive chances of winning a prize in our chosen field.


  1. Goals must be specific, measurable, and time-bound.

Vague goals are useless. “Improve my listening skills” would not be a good goal as it lacks precision. It would need to be contextualized (i.e. answer “Where?”, “How?”, “With whom?”); made measurable to establish clear criteria that indicates when we have reached this goal; and set to be attained within a certain time frame. Example: “For the next 3 months, starting X date, during meetings I will conscientiously apply at least 3 recommendations concerning active listening from the SE learning resources.”


  1. Goals must be “ecological” / compatible with our environment.

Reaching a given goal can sometimes involve adverse consequences for ourselves and those around us that we may not have considered when we first set the goal and proceeded to attain it. When drafting goals, it’s good to think about how they will impact us, our family, our colleagues, our clients, our organization, and even human and nonhuman persons with whom we may not interact directly. For example, would reaching a certain goal compromise our work-life balance or that of others significantly? If so, are we and others prepared for that trade-off and do we consider reaching that goal worth it? Is there any way to mitigate such impact or any other that we may consider undesirable?, etc. A good goal is considered “ecological” when it is compatible with the different environments in which we operate.


  1. Goals must be realistic / achievable.

Lastly, a good goal should involve a stretch on our part but be nevertheless reachable. Setting a goal that we have no way of achieving in our present circumstances because we lack the resources, skills, or other things is not useful. If a certain goal seems impossible to achieve right now, we can instead draft more accessible goals that once reached could position us closer to achieving that which at present seems impossible.

At Schneider Electric, as employees we are all—without exception—regarded as talent and empowered to reach our goals by embracing a lifelong learning mindset and well-being values that enable us to optimize our energy, both of which are essential aspects of our corporate culture. Effective goal setting is a key building block in this process, and in my view, a periodic review of the basics can help ensure that the goals we formulate for ourselves truly put us in the best position for their accomplishment and lead us in the direction we want to go.


Looking for a career where you feel empowered to reach your goals?  We’d love to have you join as one of our #SEGreatPeople! Check out our job openings.

About the Author

Mariana C. Gonzalez joined Schneider Electric in 2011. She is a Relocation Counselor and part of the North America HR Shared Services Organization. Since 2011, Mariana has overseen hundreds of relocations, which have included intra-US and intra-Canada moves, as well as international relocations between the US and Canada; and from Mexico, China, India, Europe, and the Middle East to the US or Canada. Since October 2017, her scope has been exclusively domestic intra-US and intra-Canada relocations. She is a vegan primarily for moral reasons and secondly for environmental reasons. In her free time, Mariana enjoys writing, making art, and engaging in creative, abolitionist vegan advocacy.

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