Have we missed the boat discussing goal setting 3 weeks into 2021? We could be mistaken for being late to the party, I mean, you’re already smashing your goals, aren’t you?

So, how’s it going? Dropped 20lb’s, en route to your first million, got that promotion?

Yeah, in all honesty probably not. So, let me ask a better question…


Where are you on your journey towards achieving your goal?

Take a second to think about your answer before continuing, and take note of the answer for later.


To answer this accurately we need to truly understand the difference between a Goal and a Target, and why one is useless without the other. A great way to visualise the difference is to use the analogy, Rudder and Oars.


Your Goal is your Rudder, Targets your Oars


The Goal – The Rudder

I want you to think of your ultimate goal, the most over the top goal you have. Now multiply this by 10. A goal should be the ultimate result, often beyond what you believe possible; it should be less about achieving the goal and more about the direction it provides. 

Is your goal to own your own home? Think of a 5-bedroom home with a pool. 

Is your goal to ‘get fit’? Think of a marathon. 

It might sound ridiculous but truth is most people set goals, arguably achievable goals, in a heightened state of motivation, i.e. A new year resolution, or when starting a new position, or often after a particularly low point. 

How many people achieve these goals through sheer sustained motivation? Probably few to none, and failing at goals you perceive as achievable can, and does, have an adverse effect on your motivation and future belief in goal setting. Achieving a goal seems so far away.

Decisions based on motivation are emotionally driven; and emotions change daily, hourly, even by the second. But do not confuse an emotionally driven decision with intuition, or a ‘gut feeling’. 


Take away – Make logic-based decisions and avoid emotionally driven decisions. 


Go back to your goal you thought of a second ago, the most elaborate goal you have. If you haven’t thought of one then just make one up; let’s say you want to own an island.

This is your direction, your point of aim, your steer, your rudder. 

You are the captain of your boat, and it is your responsibility to maintain direction by controlling the rudder, controlling the goal, and staying on the correct path.  If you change the goal, you change the direction of your journey; change the goal too often and you have no true direction never really achieving anything.

So how do you actually achieve a goal, if you already have it in the boat? Well, that is the true meaning of a goal – it is a tool you have developed to give you direction. If you achieve your goal does the journey stop? Game over? Not necessarily. If you are happy with where you are at that moment then yes, why not enjoy it. But as you develop as a person on your journey approach a point whereby your goal seems highly achievable then that is the time to re-assess. Has your goal now become a target? Do you need a new goal? Have you achieved enough to perhaps focus energy on a different goal and begin a new journey? 

If you understand that you do not need to achieve the goal, but instead make the most of the journey, then the destination becomes irrelevant. The reality is you probably do not want to own an island, but the journey towards that goal has allowed you to learn new skills, own a house, a car, or become successful professionally. Do you like where you are now, do you still need that goal? 

Then stop. Enjoy where you are and park that goal. Perhaps you can then reassess and set a new goal for a different journey.


Let’s go back to the question…

Where are you on your journey towards achieving your goal?


Targets – The Oars

While the rudder controls the direction of the journey, the oars control the momentum. Targets are your oars; technically achieved targets are your oars. Oars power your boat, and with hard work and discipline to achieve each target they move you forward on your journey. The number of oars you have, the better chance you have of maintaining motion towards the goal. 

So how do I get loads of oars and speed boat myself to that island? Well, it doesn’t really work like that. 

Think of it this way, you set a target with your goal in mind. That target becomes an oar, but you do not own that oar yet, you have merely created it. You now cast that oar out in front of you and you work hard to reach it. When you achieve that oar, you are one step closer further along the journey. The point is when you reach that target and you pull that oar into your boat, all the hard work, the lessons learnt, and the experience gained from achieving that oar becomes its energy. That oar is now yours to move forward on your journey, it is yours to use when you need to, it can also be used across other relatable goals.

Where a goal is perhaps ambiguous and unmeasurable, a target must be SMART. It must be specific without ambiguity, you must be able to measure your progress, it must be achievable with work, it must be relevant to the goal, it must have a time cap to hold you accountable. How are you going to own an island? Well presumably an island is expensive, so a target could be to begin actively saving money to invest down the line. Starting with £1200 in 12 months.


Specific – I will save £1200 over the next 12 months

Measurable – I will set the £100 aside at the start of each month

Achievable – I will budget my outgoings and reduce my personal spend

Relevant – Saving money will help me increase my overall investment fund

Time capped – 12 months, I will review the process in 9 months to ensure I am on track


This example is completely relatable to the overall goal of owning an island and although small in comparison to the goal outcome, it is still of value towards the goal. 

It is beneficial to set multiple targets but it is important to remember that while some targets can be achieved simultaneously, others can only be achieved consecutively, and they must all remain relevant to the end goal. And often setting too many targets can in fact saturate your capacity to achieve, often leading you to doing ‘a whole lot of nothing’.



So, imagine you are in your boat, steering the rudder and controlling your course towards the goal. You have set your targets and cast your oars into the water in front of you, and through hard work and discipline, you begin to collect the oars one by one. The more oars you create and collect the more forward momentum you create towards that goal. Just remember one thing, always be aware of your environment. Always be aware that the goal is not important, the goal is not meant to be achieved; the goal is to offer you direction, and you may find yourself somewhere along the journey that you like. This is an achievement. The ability to no longer want from a certain goal, through achievement, cannot be underestimated. 

The notion of goal and target setting can and should be applied in all aspects of your life, whether personal, professional or toward a specific outcome. Just remember to work SMART, not hard.

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