Whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, or memorizing Qur’an, I have recently learnt that developing a “well-formed goal” is half way towards achieving it1 . Not only that, the remaining half becomes easy and even enjoyable.
Too good to be true? Try it out for yourself.
Below is a checklist describing a well-formed goal. Think about an important (or even not so important) goal you want to achieve and invest some time in phrasing it according to the checklist below, then watch and see what happens.
A well-formed goal:
1. Is positive and phrased in the present
A well-formed goal is one which is worded positively; it does not include “don’t” or “without” or “stop”. For example, “I’m not lazy anymore” is not a goal phrased in the positive; “I am efficient” is.
A well-formed goal is also one that is phrased in the present. Instead of saying “I will finish my assignment” try “I finish my assignment” or “I am finishing my assignment”.
2. Is initiated and maintained by you
A well-formed goal is one that can be initiated and maintained by you. In other words, it is one that is not dependent on other people acting in a particular way. This is because, while we may be able to influence other people, we cannot really make them do anything.
So, rather than setting a goal for how you want your spouse to treat you, develop a goal on how you want to treat your spouse to encourage them to treat you in a certain way.
3. Is defined in sensory language
What will it look/feel/sound like to achieve your goal? What will others see/feel/hear when you achieve your goal? Include that in your goal.
For example: I am a non smoker; my lungs feel fresh and I have an extra $200 to spend on myself.
4. Takes into consideration the positive by-products of the current situation
What advantages does your current context/situation have?
For not memorizing Qur’an:
- I have time to read other topics;
- I’m relaxed because I don’t feel like I’m always getting ready for an exam;
- I have more time to spend with my family.
Now let’s take all of these positive by-products and include them in the goal:
I am memorizing Qur’an and have time to read other books and spend time with family, and I feel relaxed and in control.
5. Is conscious of ‘ecology’
Ecology here is meant to indicate context, the context in which we exist and with which we interact. In other words, ‘ecology’ is the social system in which we live, which is influenced by us and which influences us.
This is similar to items 3 and 4, and is very important to remember.
When you achieve your goal, what kind of things might you lose out on? Who might you annoy? Who might you make jealous?
Go back to your goal and add to it a description of the ‘ecology’:
I am efficient whilst spending time with my family and relaxing appropriately. My friends support and encourage me.
Note that “my friends support and encourage me” is not actually part of the goal, but a supporting phrase to relieve your anxieties. As such, this part does not have to be maintained by you (in reference to point no. 2 above).
Let us go through a final example to illustrate the five steps. Starting with “I do not want to disrespect my parents”, below is how the goal can be reworded based on the five steps:
I do not want to disrespect my parents
- I respect my parents (Steps 1 and 2)
- I respect my parents, and I am happy when I interact with them (Step 3)
- I respect my parents, and I am happy when I interact with them. I have my space and feel in control of my life (Step 4)
- I respect my parents, and I am happy when I interact with them. I have my space and feel in control of my life. My classmates encourage me to respect my parents well. (Step 5)
By the time you are done with the above five criteria, your short and sweet goal may end up being a few paragraphs. That is perfectly fine; write down that long and winding goal and keep going back to it. You may even want to break it down into a number of shorter goals, especially if you realize that you actually want more than one thing. Most importantly, once you’ve written your goals, enjoy the journey of achieving them.
Huda Shaka is Sustainability Consultant based in the UAE. She is involved in a number of da`wah (outreach) projects and enjoys reading and tweeting. This article was inspired by tazkiyah (spiritual purification) concepts taught at ipersonalenrichment.com.
- I learnt this as part of the Whims-I-Kill program on ipersonalenrichment.com [↩]