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Goal Setting - is There a Difference Between a Goal and a Wish?

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Posted 17 December 2012 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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Goal setting: Is there a difference between a goal and a wish?

This philosophy is concerned with you achieving your goals.

But we need to be clear about something: Is there are difference between a "goal" and a "wish"?

Answer: Yes

What is the difference between a goal and a wish?

A "wish" can consist of anything: You can wish for anything conceivable by your wildest imagination. A wish is not bound by logic and a wish does not need to be a guide to action. It is merely a form of entertainment and amusement.

For example:

1. You might wish that you could win the lottery.
2. You might wish that you could fly like a bird
3. You might with that you could live forever.
4. You might wish for a date with your favourite Hollywood movie star.

But presumably, none of the above is on your goals list.

1. You don't plan your life on the belief that you will win next week's Euro lottery
2. You don't jump out of windows to see if you can fly
3. You don't expect to live forever
4. And Jennifer Aniston or Brad Pitt will have to wait a little longer for the pleasure of your company

On the other hand-Goals are those things to which you can and should commit, and then use as a practical guide to your daily action.
Goals are more than mere "flights of fancy" or a form of entertainment and amusement.
Goals are the key to your future.
Your goals define you.

You can set goals:
1. To be wealthier than you are now
2. To be healthier than you are now
3. To be more educated than you are now
4. To be more organised and happier than you are now

The problem of making only "General statements of positive intent"

If you were to go into town today and stop 500 people, chosen at random, and say this to them "Excuse me Sir /Madame I am doing a survey. Would you please tell me: what are your achievement goals for the next three years and can I see the detailed written plans for their achievement?"

What response would you get? "Are you joking? What kind of weird question is that?"
Less than 1% of the population would have a detailed goals list and a set of well formulated plans.

The other 99% would say "my goal is to be happy and successful"

To be happy and successful
Everyone says the same thing "I want to be happy and successful. That is my goal."

That sounds good; that sounds like an answer to the question.
But on reflection you will find that it is not a proper answer.

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Why is "my goal is to be happy and successful" not a proper answer?

Because it does not satisfy the original question
If you heard the answer "my goal is to be happy and successful", then what would be your next question?

It would be "And what, specifically would have to happen for you to feel happy and successful?"
Which is a re-statement of the original question "What is your goal?"

The "happy and successful" answer is too general. Too vague. Too ambiguous.
And on this philosophy, we do not like vague, general, ambiguous statements.

We prefer specific statements:

In fact, here is a good principle for you to memorise and apply:
Clarity is a virtue and vagueness is a vice.

A vague or ambiguous statement is defined as: Any statement that can be properly interpreted in more than one way.
On the other hand, a specific statement is defined as: any statement that can be properly interpreted in only one way.
When communicating to yourself, use specific communication, not vague communication.

Be specific not vague

Vague statements are not good; vague statements have multiple meanings and so do not denoted any specific thing to the mind; therefore the mind has no specific target-image to work with.

Specific statements are better: specific statements have only one meaning and so they denote a specific object; therefore the mind has a specific target-image to work with.
In order to achieve the state of being goal focused, it is important to use specific language to help to identify your target with pinpoint accuracy.

How to be more specific and gain pinpoint accuracy?

There are many answers to that question but my best answer is this:

Use Numbers

Learn to describe things numerically.
Numbers are great!

The use of numbers is the easiest and the most effective way to improve your clarity.


Because using numbers introduces exact quantities, exact times; they carry more specific information. Numbers improve the quantitative nature of your language and they make it less prone to mis-interpretation.

Please look at the following sentences: You will recognise immediately that they all share the same problem. They are all too vague.
How could you correct these statements, making them more specific, by using numbers?

1. "I want to earn more money"
2. "I want a bigger house"
3. "I want a better body"
4. "I want a better car"
5. "I want to live out of town"
6. "I want to go on holiday to a place far far away!"

Always try to reduce your goals to specifics

Specific actions that can be counted.
Specific amounts that can be counted.
Specific ratios that could be counted.

If you can't give an exact amount then give a range
"I want it to be between three and four times as big as the one I have now"

Numbers are great

Ask for or give the numbers whenever possible
Always try to quantify things numerically.
If you quantify things numerically then you will be able to picture and count the instances.
If you don't quantify things numerically then you won't be able to picture nor count the instances.
If you cannot picture or count the instances, then you are never really sure what you are doing.

So learn to describe things numerically


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