a woman seated at a desk in an office contemplating how to create resilient goals

Year of Resilience Tip 9: Create Resilient Goals

“A Goal without A Plan is Just a Wish”

The origins of this modern proverb are unknown, but it gets to the heart of why goals generate stress in our lives. We know something needs to happen. We have a vague sense of what that will look like, but nothing is crystalized into clear steps.

Vague and unclear goals create feelings of overwhelm. Creating manageable goals with clear actions avoids the stress of achieving the impossible.

The tip this week is to build resilience by creating the right kind of goals.

The Truth about Goals

Goal-setting is important. Merely setting a goal in writing, even if it is vague, increases your ability to achieve them A study from the Dominican University found that people who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them.

Even though goals can create stress, setting challenging goals does lead to higher levels of performance than setting easy or vague goals (Journal of Applied Psychology). The key is knowing how to articulate and manage the goal-setting process for achievement.

Having accountability also increases the likelihood of achieving goals. One study found that people who had a specific accountability appointment with a friend were 95% more likely to achieve their goals than those who didn’t have such an appointment (American Society of Training and Development).

Goals are important not only in the workplace where we all have financial targets to achieve and projects to be completed, but goals toward personal development and skill building help develop greater resilience against change and obstacles.


The tried and true method for creating strong goals is to follow the SMART model of goal setting. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This method of goal setting helps individuals and teams to create clear, actionable objectives that are designed to lead to success. 


The first step and most important step in setting SMART goals is to be specific.

Goals should be well-defined, clear, and concise. This helps to avoid ambiguity and ensures that everyone involved knows exactly what is expected of them. Remember, it is the ambiguity that creates stress around goals. Clear conversations with your team are necessary. 

A specific goal should answer the following questions:

  • What needs to be accomplished?
  • Who will be responsible for achieving the goal?
  • When will the goal be accomplished?
  • For Example: Increase Sales by 10% in Q2
  • The goal is to increase sales by 10% in the second quarter of the year.
  • The sales team will be responsible for achieving this goal.
  • The goal will be accomplished by the end of the second quarter.

One reason this step in goal setting is so critical is that it forces conversation within groups. The collaboration within the group toward the goal helps refine the goal and brings a diversity of ideas on the details of the goal.

There is power in specificity. People who have a specific goal in mind are more likely to achieve it than those who have a general goal. For example, people who set a goal of “losing 10 pounds in 3 months” are more likely to achieve it than those who set a goal of “losing weight.” 


The second step in setting SMART goals is to ensure that they are measurable. This means that progress toward the goal can be tracked and measured over time. Measurable goals are essential for determining whether or not you are making progress toward achieving your objective.

For Example: Reduce Customer Wait Time by 25%

  • The goal is to reduce customer wait time by 25%.
  • The time that customers spend waiting in line will be measured using a tracking system.
  • Progress towards the goal will be reviewed on a weekly basis.


The third step in setting SMART goals is to ensure that they are achievable. Goals should be challenging, but also realistic. If goals are too easy, there will be no sense of accomplishment, but if they are too difficult, they will be demotivating.

For Example: Launch a New Product Line in 6 Months

  • The goal is to launch a new product line in six months.
  • The product development team will be responsible for achieving this goal.
  • The goal is achievable based on the team’s current capacity and resources.


The fourth step in setting SMART goals is to ensure that they are relevant. Goals should be aligned with the overall strategy and objectives of the organization. They should also be relevant to the individual or team responsible for achieving them.

For Example: Improve Employee Retention by 20%

  • The goal is to improve employee retention by 20%.
  • Employee turnover rates will be measured and reviewed.
  • This goal is relevant to the human resources team, as they are responsible for employee retention.


The fifth and final step in setting SMART goals is to ensure that they are time-bound. This means that a specific deadline is set for achieving the goal. Time-bound goals help to create a sense of urgency and motivate individuals and teams to take action.

Example: Complete Website Redesign in 3 Months

  • The goal is to complete a website redesign in three months.
  • The website design team will be responsible for achieving this goal.
  • The goal will be accomplished by the end of the third month.

Having goals in place that follow the SMART model allows you to begin creating detailed action plans. The real key to reducing stress in goal setting is clarity, and this only happens with deep conversations within teams. 

Systems vs. Goals

Another approach to goal setting that reduces the psychic strain of trying to achieve the impossible is to think in terms of systems vs. goals. While it can be motivational to have a vision of a goal achieved, they tend to loom over our heads and just out of reach. 

Creating systems for achieving a goal and focusing on those simple repeatable steps is much more manageable

A goal is a specific outcome that a person wishes to achieve, such as losing 10 pounds or getting a promotion at work. A system, on the other hand, is a set of habits or routines that a person adopts in order to achieve a desired outcome. For example, instead of setting a goal to lose 10 pounds, a person might create a system of healthy eating and regular exercise.

Real-Life Examples

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of how systems and goals can be used to achieve success:

Sales team: The goal of a sales team is to meet or exceed its sales targets. However, the system they use to achieve this goal is equally important. A well-designed sales process that involves lead generation, lead qualification, product demos, and follow-up is a good system that can help the team achieve its sales targets.

Manufacturing company: The goal of a manufacturing company is to produce high-quality products at a low cost. The system they use to achieve this goal includes process optimization, waste reduction, and quality control measures.

Marketing department: The goal of a marketing department is to increase brand awareness and generate leads. The system they use to achieve this goal includes social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and SEO.

Project management: The goal of a project manager is to deliver a project on time, within budget, and with high quality. The system they use to achieve this goal includes project planning, task allocation, risk management, and communication protocols.

Customer service: The goal of a customer service team is to provide excellent customer support. The system they use to achieve this goal includes call center operations, ticket management, and feedback mechanisms to improve service quality.

Focusing on the system rather than the massive goal reduces the emotional pressure of achievement. You focus on small steps that lead to consistent progress, flexibility, and sustainable habits.


In conclusion, setting goals is crucial for achieving success, but it’s important to set the right kind of goals.

Vague goals create overwhelm and stress, while specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals lead to success. SMART goals enable teams to create clear, actionable objectives, and provide clarity and detail actions. Moreover, the key to reducing stress in goal-setting is clarity, which can only happen through deep conversations within teams. Lastly, creating systems for achieving goals instead of focusing on the outcome is a more manageable approach. By following these strategies, you can achieve your goals and build resilience against change and obstacles. Remember, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”

For over 20 years, Fierce has worked with organizations to build the conversation skills necessary for developing clear goals and the systems to achieve them. Click here to learn more about how Fierce has helped organizations achieve their goals and transform their performance culture

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