Strategic Planning…Goal Setting…Are You Still on Track?

by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR

Do you remember how much time and energy you put into setting goals for yourself and/or your business earlier this year? Do you even remember what those goals were? What actions have you taken toward accomplishing them?

Each year, January 1 is a milestone that forces me to establish both my personal and business goals for the year. Whether you have a strategic plan for your business/department or personal goals/resolutions, it is exciting and motivating to set them but very easy to put them on the shelf and forget about them until next year. According to research by Tom Terez, only about one in five individuals make a resolution each year AND actually keep it. Why do so few actually realize their goals?

There are many reasons that we lose sight of our goals within even just a few months of setting them. Here are the top 10 reasons that I have found are why most of us fail to meet our goals:

 #10 Lack of long-term motivation

January 1 really motivates us to want to set goals to help us improve something (i.e. lose weight, increase sales, reduce turnover) over the coming year. But shouldn’t there be another holiday about every three months for the purpose of saying “how are you doing” on your goals and resolutions for the year? So, until I am able to get Hallmark to create this holiday filled with lots of cards to remind us, we have to set our own milestones.

#9 No thought put into goals

Many individuals let the pressure of the new year force them to set goals. Unfortunately, this results in goals that didn’t have much thought put into them. Therefore, they are not accurate, realistic, or on-target.

#8 Too many goals

Too often, our list of goals quickly becomes a long list of to-dos that completely overwhelms us and ends up lost after just a few weeks of creating it. You can probably only accomplish between 3 – 6 goals a year depending on the scope of those goals. Remember, most goals involve some sort of change and it takes at least 30 days to change a behavior!

#7 Unrealistic

How often have you heard someone tell you their New Years resolution or business goals and knew right away there was no way that would ever happen? It is great to be optimistic and confident but your goals have to at least be attainable or you will definitely lose the energy and motivation to complete them. A goal is only realistic if you can control the outcome because it is based on your own skills, knowledge, or abilities and cannot be impacted by outside factors beyond your control.

#6 Not specific

Each goal will need a detailed and specific plan of action. To create these steps, I find it helpful to think about these five things: what result, outcome, or benefit do I hope to obtain from reaching this goal / objective? What is going to prevent me from reaching it? Who or what resources can help me to reach it? What will be the specific steps that I will take to accomplish the goal? And finally, how will I know I got there or how will I evaluate or measure it?

#5 Not measurable

This last component “how will you know you got there” is often neglected. This is the measurement part of the goal. Be sure you are able to measure whether or not you have reached your goal.

#4 Never committed to in writing

Brainstorming goals is great but not enough. You’ll need to write down your goals being as specific as you can so you know what you need to do and when to accomplish a goal. Plus, try to prioritize your goals and actions so you know what is most important and must be done first, second, third, etc.

#3 Side tracked

The day to day of our lives and/or jobs is so busy that we often forgot about our goals. This is probably one of the most popular reasons why goals fail. But, many times we are sidetracked by the things that are not going to help us get where we ultimately need to in the long run. And, if we would just review our goals every time this happens, it will help us maintain focus and stay on track.

#2 Failure to celebrate your accomplishments

We are all human and we love the feeling of knowing we succeeded at something. But, when we set a goal and actually accomplish it, we basically just “check it off” and move on. You need to celebrate these accomplishments. If it was a group goal, make it a group celebration – pitch in lunch, ice cream at 3:00, etc. If it was a personal goal, do something special for yourself – relax for 30 minutes, get a massage, talk a walk, write yourself a congratulations note, etc.

#1 Failure to re-evaluate goals

You might be saying, why are we talking about how to set goals when we should be evaluating them. Once you’ve set your goals, they are not cast in stone. There is no law that says you can’t adjust them. And, things do change so you should review and revise them as needed. Part of the goal should include milestones (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually) to evaluate your progress on the goal and revise if things have changed. Plus, how often do we dive into creating new goals before even evaluating how well we did at meeting our past goals? We have to know how we did in the past in order to determine what we need to do in the future to reach our ultimate goals. THEN, we can begin planning.

So, whether it is a strategic plan or your own personal goals, most goals are established to help you get from where you are today to where you want to ultimately be. The goals are the actual steps you’ll take to reach that ultimate future. To set your goals, you need to find out where you are now, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there. And, constantly re-evaluate and revise as needed.

So, grab your goals that you set earlier this year. Review them against these top ten reasons why they may never be accomplished. Then decide if they need modified based on these reasons or even changes that have happened in your business, economy, etc.? Did you write them specific enough so you know what you need to accomplish and when? And, how do they measure up so far.

Now, be sure you celebrate your accomplishments and be sure to revisit your goals on a regular basis between now and December 31 and especially before you reset your goals next year.

Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant is President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. ( If you have any questions or wish to share your comments, you can contact Robin at