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Goal setting: Achieving significant success among professionals


‘The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high but that it is too low and we reach it’— Michel Angelo.

Perhaps, more than any other reason, the fear of failure has discouraged more persons from setting goals. The logic being that their inability to achieve earlier goals is the main reason to desist from attempting to engage in the business of setting new ones. The negative response to goal setting could vary, depending on occasions, from mockery to misunderstanding and from despise to delusion.

However, ignorance of the principles and practise of setting targets is a major reason why some of us detest it. Pointing out the inevitability of goal setting to success in life, an organisational leadership expert Jim Rohn rightly noted that ‘If you don’t design your own plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what, they have planned for you. Not much’.

Again, many people who attempt to set goals end up engaging in day dreaming or having an intention, which lacks focus and action. Goal setting that is effective must be well articulated, written down and followed up with corresponding actions. Consistent with this idea, Andy Andrews said, ‘ Intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you’.


In the context of this article, professionals refer to all cadres of career people who are engaged in productive labour. Normally, there are processes of acquiring specific knowledge and skills, which qualify the individual for various professions. Professionals here, include those engaged in both blue and white-collar jobs. Both have codes of conduct, ethical principles as well as privileges.

With reference to the current global and national socioeconomic and political milieu we live in, one would be interested in how best professionals in the various spheres of life and strata of the society can benefit from goal setting. In the academia, how would teachers and students, business world of buyers and sellers, political realm of governed and governors, health sector of patients and caregivers, and others such as investors and brokers, clergy and the faithful obtain maximum benefits from goal setting?

In our nation where the issue of determining the minimum wage of workers is a huge challenge, what happens if the goal setting of the employers of labour clashes with those of the employees? Or that the targets set by the government differs from those set by the workers? Can there be consensus in the business of goal setting?

The truth is that viewed from every angle, life is full of conflicts, contrasts, and complications. However also, life is full of resolutions, reconciliation, and restoration. The error most people fall into is to concentrate on the negative aspects of life. To be alive is a great blessing. There is so much to be grateful for. Therefore, anybody who desires to benefit from goal setting must begin with an optimistic view about life. Failure isn’t final, neither is success the ultimate. Life is worth more than moments of discouragements or celebrations. When we hold hope alive, do our best and expect great things, the result is often favourable.

Consequently, in situations where there is clash between the goals of the employers and employees, or the governed and the governor, consensus is a veritable strategy to resolve the matter. In some peculiar and difficult circumstances, reaching consensus may be impossible. The best approach in such a situation is to adjust the strategy of achieving the goal. For instance, a case of irreconcilable difference in the minimum wage of workers and government or other employers of labour may lead the former to adopt an adjustment strategy like discovering other legitimate sources or channels of income, engaging in cooperative and thrift business with the hope that the future would be better.


In such climes where there exist strong labour unions, nothing stops the workers from engaging in dialogues, organising protests as well as speaking to power until their economic financial targets are met. The truth is that the labourer is worthy of his wages. Salaries, allowances and business profits are core issues in the lives of workers and business people and shouldn’t be treated with levity, particularly in a situation where the management is supervising unbridled wastage in some quarters while denying others of their basic emoluments.

To achieve significant success in goal setting, professionals should make their plans from the core of their personalities. This principle underscores the philosophy of self-knowledge, and mastery. Best results of goal setting are obtained when the individual set goals that are consistent with his strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a melancholic personality who is supposed to have stamina for sedentary work shouldn’t set short- term goals of market place excellence. The right clime for such a recluse is to set great goals in the area of sedentary labour while at the same time, he can begin to explore opportunities in outdoor form of work.

In relation to setting consistent targets, professionals will make greater progress in goal setting when they bring into account their core values. What do they believe in? What are their value systems? What gives meaning or essence to their lives? What types of accomplishments bring joy to their lives? What are the philosophies of their lives? What is in their lives that money cannot buy? Providing sincere answers to these questions and planning their goals in synergy with them would promote significant results among professionals.

The issue of personal development should be a central issue in goal setting. This is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of goal setting. Obtaining such tangible and specific achievements of goal setting such as earning a degree, buying a property, earning more money, increasing in influence, or obtaining a promotion, in comparison to making progress in personal development is like obtaining fish and learning to catch fish. The latter would always be superior and more profitable than the former.


Consequently, in setting goals, one should take the issue of making progress in personal development seriously. The great American leadership expert, John Maxwell highlights this lesson in his book, entitled, ‘ Developing the leader within you’. Truly, most of us mortals would obtain a harvest of significant result if we target developing our potentials and abilities. After all, wealth and riches are the rewards of delivering quality goods and services. Promotion, riches, favour and blessings indeed respond appropriately to the value we add to others. As our usefulness increases, so does our blessing.

Professionals and all who engage in goal setting should practise altruism. Anyone who desires to achieve their targets should include a deliberate plan and programme to accommodate and help others as well. Take for instance; a medical doctor working among other health workers should think seriously how to help his colleagues so that together, the team should render quality healthcare services, which will equally benefit all. A female graduate who accepted to handle children in a kindergarten school at a ridiculous salary of N15, 000 exemplifies this principle. She did this job so well that several parents began to seek her out and hand their children to her. The result?

Not long after, through the connection of one of those parents, this diligent and caring underpaid lady got an oil company job which began to pay her more than thirty times her earlier salary. It was a limit breaking achievement. The secret was that this lady practised altruism. She accommodated other people in her goal setting. She rendered quality service.

Let me round off this discourse by referring to the wise words of Swett Marden who said that, ‘ All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible’. Yes, set high goals. Review them regularly. Get quality education or enlightenment in the relevant areas. Consult professionals, be specific, wear the garment of discipline, include the welfare of others in your plan and persist in your pursuit. If you don’t achieve all your set goals, you will end up becoming a better person than when you began. This may be the reason Stephen Kellogg said that, ‘ It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want than at the top of the one you don’t.”Therefore, I challenge you to rise up and set your goals. Rise up and lay a new solid foundation. Rise up and conquer all fears. Greatness awaits you. In the words of Zig Zigglar, ‘ See you over the top’.

• Dr. Passy Amaraegbu, Clinical Psychologist is also the writer of last Sunday’s Strategies That Enhance Goal Setting.’ He can be reached on


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