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The science and art of goal setting – How to define realistic goals. By Dr. Drake Patrick Mirembe, PhD.

It is that season of the year, when every conversation is punctuated by the phrase “my new year’s resolutions” for individuals and corporations. Brian Tracy reminds us that, the definition of clear goals in life is the starting point of all success. Goals are important as they; improve one’s self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration on tasks, instill self-confidence, improve productivity and make the individual happier.

As a tradition at Eight Tech Consults, every member of the 8Tech family by 14th of January every year MUST share their professional and personal development goals for the New Year, in an informal staff meeting.  As I sat down and listened to a number of dreams and aspirations from my colleagues especially those who are in their formative years of their careers, I started to reflect on my own experience of setting goals during my young days when I had just started working. In that moment, I pulled out my phone and started checking resolutions shared by colleagues on various WhatsApp groups. As I read with greater curiosity the goals people are setting for 2017, I came to realize the need to share my experience in setting goals.

At our staff meeting  I was not expected to speak on goal setting, but like any other senior member of the organization, my role was to share the company goals and strategies for 2017. However, the quality of presentation by some colleagues coupled with what I read on WhatsApp groups inspired me to share tips on the science and art of goal setting.  For the greater benefit of others, I reproduce those tips here.

It is important to note that, dreams become goals when action is taken toward achieving them. Merriam-Webster defines a goal as the end towards which effort is directed. From my experience, learning how to set goals is as important as knowing what the goal should contain. What’s important to remember when setting goals, you must be in the correct “F.R.A.M.E” of mind. What is meant by “frame of mind?” one can say you must be in a sober state of mind.  Each letter in the word “frame” illustrates status of your mind when setting your goals. F.R.A.M.E refers to;

  1. Fantasize – Dream your wildest dreams and make sure that your goals match your core values, abilities and personality. Ask yourself: what do you want to be doing in first, second, third and four quarter? What kind of person do you want to be by the end of the year? Remember by declaring positive activity, your mental model generates positive energy to help you produce the desired results. Remember our success largely depends on the triple “A” formula, i.e. Ambition, Ability and Attitude. These three must be aligned for you to succeed.
  2. Reality – Fantasies can become reality, depending on how hard you are willing to work for them. Remember the 80:20 percent rule, you should invest your time and effort into activities which guarantee you a good return on your investment. While challenging yourself is an important part of goal setting, you need to be realistic to avoid frustrations.
  3. Aim – Define your goals/ year 2017 resolution by striking a balance between Fantasy and Reality; set a high but realistic goal. Your goals should be SPECIFIC enough so that you know exactly what you are striving to achieve.
  4. Method – Be truthful to yourself by narrowing your choices to goals you really intend to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For each goal, write a strategy of achieving the goal, and define alternative routes to the goal, each with your estimated degree of complexity and efficiency. Remember success depends on your abilities and right strategy not dreams and wishes.
  5. Evaluation – Process the results, but don’t make it the last step; evaluation should be on going. A good goal must be MEASURABLE. It should have concrete and tangible facts. You should be able to answer very specifically, when and how you will know you attained your goal. Define hanging fruits and prepare yourself to celebrate small victories.

One key action in goal setting is, writing your goals down. Tom Hopkins reminds us that, the unwritten want is a wish, a dream, which never happens. The day you put your goal in writing is the day it becomes a commitment that will change your life. Are you ready to change your life? Then write down your goals and display them in location you frequently visit, to remind you of your commitment. Remember to increase your motivation to achieve the goals through the crafting of a personal statement which creates a high level of emotion and energy that guarantees achievement.  Why do some people fail to achieve their goals?  Below are the reasons.

  1. They do not write their goals down.
  2. They do not define clear rewards for achieving the goals, I recommend that you learn to celebrate small successes.
  3. They set unrealistic goals which lack any specifics. The goals are not really believable or little commitment exists to achieve them.
  4. They keep changing or switching goals with the emotions.
  5. They do not share their goals with anyone, hence they lack accountability, help and support.
  6. They have no realistic strategy that includes measurements, timelines and resources to achieve the goal.

Avoid the above pitfalls and you will for sure be on your way to success in 2017.

The author is a Senior Consultant at Eight Tech Consults ( and a Lecturer at Makerere University ( & Uganda Technology and Management University (

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Vincent

    This is really wonderful, Thanks Dr.

  2. Linda Alum

    Great Message,

    It has helped me.

  3. Nyakoojo Trevor

    Awesome! Inspired truly by the fruitful words on goal setting. I have learned from today onwards to always write my goals and add action to my dreams so as to keep them alive as well as achieve big out of them. Thank you Dr. Drake Mirembe.

  4. Thomas Friday

    Thanks Doctor! Quite an insightful contribution you have towards designing and implementing effective systems on performance management. Indeed its usually a big hurdle to evaluate and reward performance whose initial basis was undefined by precise goals thereby keeping it simple – any result as any performance!!

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