How Good Is Your Goal Setting?

Are You Meeting Your Goals, or Missing Out?

Think back to a time when you set yourself a goal but didn't achieve it. Perhaps you planned to get fitter, or learn a new language.

You probably felt frustrated when you realized that you'd failed. But did you reflect on what went wrong, and think about how you could improve next time?

If you repeatedly miss the targets that you've set yourself at work, you may find that your career begins to stall. For example, if you keep failing to develop new skills, other team members might get promoted ahead of you. And if you become known as someone who sets goals but doesn't achieve them, this can affect your professional reputation.

Take our short quiz to explore your goal-setting approach, and to learn about some of the obstacles that can get in your way. Then, follow our tips to give yourself the best chance of fulfilling your ambitions.

How smart are your goals?

How Good Is Your Goal Setting?


Answer the following statements as you actually are (rather than as you think you should be!) When you've finished, click the "Calculate My Total" button to get your score. Then, use the tips that follow the quiz to improve your goal-setting skills.

Your last quiz results are shown.

You last completed this quiz on , at .

18 Statements to Answer

Not at All Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
1 I set lots of goals in the hope that I will achieve some of them.
2 I find that my targets are too ambitious.
3 If I'm struggling to meet a goal, I set sub-goals to renew my motivation.
4 I don't celebrate success until I've achieved a goal.
5 I tie my work-related objectives to personal ambitions.
6 I set low standards so that my goals are easy to meet.
7 I don't ask for support from friends and colleagues if I become demotivated.
8 I celebrate my success when I hit my targets, and I thank the people who helped me.
9 I think about what my boss or family wants me to achieve when I set personal goals.
10 I regularly monitor how I am doing, so that I can measure how well I'm progressing towards my goals.
11 My personal values aren't relevant to my work-related objectives.
12 I don't set an end date for achieving my goals, so that I give myself plenty of time.
13 I seek out tools that help me reach my goals.
14 When I make new plans, I reflect on my existing commitments to make sure that I don't take on too much.
15 If I fail to meet a target, I move on without reflecting on what went wrong.
16 I look for ways to build goals into my daily life by developing new habits.
17 I get excited by new ideas and I flit from goal to goal without achieving anything.
18 I enjoy planning how to achieve goals, but then get bored by the mundane work of delivering them.
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment

You probably don't meet many of your goals because you're not setting them realistically. They may be overambitious or unclear, or you might lose motivation because your goals aren't connected to your personal ambitions.

Perhaps you enjoy planning your goals, but get bored by the day-to-day work needed to achieve them, or you may flit from one goal to another without ever achieving any of them.

Work through the advice below to find out how to be more successful with goal setting.

Whatever the reason, don't let your past experiences dent your confidence. Improve your goal-setting skills, and boost your chances of achieving your goals by following the advice below. You'll be back on track in no time!


Although you meet some of your goals – which may be those that are most connected to your values and long-term plans – you sometimes fall short on others.

Do you find that you get overwhelmed by other commitments as you progress towards a goal, do you struggle with self-discipline, or, do you find it hard to form new habits when working towards your goals?

Read our tips below to find out how to overcome these obstacles and boost your self-motivation.


Congratulations - you set yourself realistic goals, and you've found plenty of ways to support yourself as you work towards them. Your colleagues are likely to admire you for the way you set yourself targets and work diligently to meet them.

Don't forget that experience can be the best teacher. Reflect on previous successes and failures to make sure that you continue to set SMART goals.

You're in a great position to offer advice to others on goal setting. Look at the advice below for ideas on how to you can tailor your guidance.

Preparing to Set Goals

(Questions 1, 5, 6, 9, 11)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

Many people miss out this stage when they set goals, and they struggle later as a result. The planning step is essential because you need to tie your personal goals to your personal values and dreams (and not to the goals and dreams of other people). This will help to motivate you when times get tough. (Our article on Intentional Change Theory explains why this is so important.)

If you're unclear about your own long-term goals, use a planning tool such as Schein's Career Anchors to explore what motivates you. You may also find our Life Plan Workbook ($) helpful.

If you're new to goal setting, read our article on Locke's Goal-Setting Theory. Here, we explain why goals matter, and we outline what SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals are.

Forming Goals

(Questions 2, 10, 12, 14)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

You are probably familiar with the idea of goal setting, but how do you make sure that your goals are SMART? If you need guidance on setting SMART goals, read our article before you start. Then, familiarize yourself with goal-setting mistakes to make sure that you are not unintentionally holding yourself back.

Spend some time imagining the positive impact that achieving your goals will have on your life. See our article on "Using Well-Formed Outcomes in Goal Setting" to find out why this is so important.

Also, think about the times when you haven't been successful, or when a project has failed. Reflect on what went wrong, and whether there was anything you could have done differently - then take what you've learned and apply it to your new goals.


(Questions 3, 4, 7, 13, 16, 17, 18)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

There are plenty of ways that you can support yourself if you start to lose motivation during a tough patch.

Look for some quick wins right from the start. Keep working towards your goals by building them into your To-Do List or action program, and "park" other good ideas until you can do something about them - this will help you keep on top of multiple goals without getting distracted by exciting new ideas.

If you lose motivation, explore what is making you feel demotivated. Do you struggle with self-discipline, a lack of time or a drifting sense of purpose? Redesign your goals around your time commitments if you need to, or create smaller sub-goals to give yourself some "easy wins" to boost your enthusiasm.

It's also OK to ask for support from friends or colleagues. For example, you may want them to remind you of your bigger-picture dreams when you're finding things tough.

And remember: change is difficult, even when you're working towards something you want.

Achieving Goals

(Questions 8, 15)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

As you get nearer to your goal, plan how you'll celebrate success. This will spur you on to cross the finishing line!

You need to make time to recognize and enjoy your achievement - for your own sake, as well as to thank those who have supported you along the way.

After you've acknowledged your success, take time to reflect on the process of achieving your goal. Think about what you found tough, what went wrong, and what went better than you expected. Build that self-knowledge into your future goal-planning.

Key Points

When you want to achieve something in your life, setting goals can be highly motivational, but only when they're SMART. You're unlikely to achieve success if your goals are vague, too ambitious, or not what you really want.

Take time to reflect on your ambitions and dreams before you create your goals. Then, think back to the times when you've failed, and take care not to make the same mistakes again.

Once you've formed a SMART goal, make sure that you have support. Don't be afraid to ask friends and colleagues to help you along the way if your self-discipline is flagging, and look for tools and apps that can boost your motivation.


This assessment has not been validated and is intended for illustrative purposes only. It is just one of many that help you evaluate your abilities in a wide range of important career skills. Click here for other self-tests.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (18)
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    Hi Jessica,

    That's great to hear. I hope you find the resources useful!

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago Jessicca wrote
    Hi, I'm jessicca Recesio libando
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi SparkyMark,

    Way to go! Congratulations on the achievement of your goal. Goal setting does work. Your results prove it.

    Mind Tools Team
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