Answer These 5 Questions and Become Part of the 8% That Reach Their Goals

Over the many years of attempting to change myself by setting New Year’s resolutions, I am painfully aware of the research that reveals only 8% of people who set goals actually meet them, recently documented by research from the University of Scranton.

The remaining 92% either quit, even though they are left feeling discouraged and frustrated or they take the attitude, “Oh, well. It didn’t really matter anyway” and they move on.

Life is busy and to be fair to the 92% that lose sight of their goal, the issues of sustaining life – keeping the home sanitary, fixing meals, taking care of bodily aches and pains, and getting kids to school and activities on time, etc. – may have claimed their attention versus the dedication needed to be part of the 8%.

For this article, we’ll focus on reaching your professional goals and becoming part of the 8%. We’ll avoid the typical New Year’s goals of lose 10 pounds, start going to the gym, or work on being nice to your off-the-wall in-laws that come for Thanksgiving dinner.

The key to reaching your professional goals starts with strategic thinking. Synonyms for strategic are key, meaningful, crucial, critical, pivotal, and essential. From an understanding of these synonyms, we come to understand that strategic thinking is required to reach a goal.

If you were to promote an event, you would use the strategic thinking of WHAT, WHY, WHEN, HOW and WHO. We can apply the same strategic thinking to setting professional goals. Ask yourself:

What do I want?

Why do I want to reach this goal?

When do I want to reach this goal?

How can I consistently make progress toward this goal?  

Who can help me? 

The Strategic WHAT: To be part of the 8% takes clarity of vision, a vision you can figuratively see, taste, touch, and smell. It is your vision of the future you.

The WHAT of your goal must be stated in specific terms. The more specific, the higher the motivation and the higher the excitement to reach the goal. 

An example is the statement, “My goal is to be a top team leader in the company that delivers results on time and maintains high morale among team members.” This statement is the bare bones of a strategic plan to transform  your leadership skills. The remaining strategic questions clarify what this goal means and puts the flesh on the bones. 

The Strategic WHY: Why do I want this goal? How will it benefit me, the team or the company? Will it increase my self-esteem and the self-esteem of each team member? Will it add to my leadership acumen? Each question can be answered with YES!

As you improve your leadership expertise and build team cohesiveness, you become the leader people CHOOSE to follow, not HAVE to follow because you are the team lead.

Bill Copeland, a poet and writer from Georgia, said “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

The Why of building an excellent team is that you score recognition by senior leadership as someone who can be trusted with critical assignments. You also score increased team pride because everyone loves to be on the winning team.  

The Strategic When: Nothing is more motivating than a deadline. Set a deadline, even if, due to circumstances, you need to move that deadline. A deadline gives you an internal sense of urgency that moves you into action. 

When you are given a deadline, it is normal to have butterflies in your stomach as you close your eyes and imagine a whirling noise as it hurtles through space, passing you by.   

Then the magic of a deadline occurs. No more excuses. No more going down rabbit holes. No more procrastination. You work more effectively with great focus. You do the work of worrying: You start planning HOW you will achieve your goal.

A past manager put it succinctly: “Without a deadline, many people won’t finish and without reaching the finish line, there can be no celebration.”

An example of When could be: “In one year at performance review time, my team will have completed their assigned projects on time and within budget.”

The Strategic How: When and How are inextricably connected with one phrase: the work of worrying.  You can make consistent progress if you stop worrying about meeting the goal and instead, dive in and start breaking the goal into smaller and smaller increments until you come to items that can go on a daily to-do list. Breaking a goal into its components is the work of worrying. You keep asking the question, “In order to reach this goal, I must have ______________.” Keep asking this question until you have a plethora of daily tasks that take 10-15 minutes to complete. Here lies the essence of reaching your goal.

In the How stage, you will have many options and prioritizing is essential. Here is an example of the Hows you can break into smaller increments.


In order to meet the September 1st deadline on project XYZ, I will hold a meeting on August 15 to delegate assignments. To make the August 15 meeting successful I must:

  • Reserve a room – August 1
  • Decide catering – August 2
  • Decide the scope and number of individual assignments for the project – August 5
  • Decide which team member should have which portion of the project – August 6
  • Write the agenda – August 10
  • Send out invites – May 12

Sometimes the breaking down of a task can be done in your head, but making a list ensures no detail is missed.

The Strategic Who: Make a short list of who can help you. There is power in confiding your goal to someone you trust, a friend or a colleague. When working to reach a professional goal, it is important to find a mentor in your organization who can give you advice.

It may also be helpful to find a professional coach who can hold you accountable for the steps you decided to take in those moments of inspiration and determination to be more than you are at the present moment.

In summary, you can’t DO a goal. You DO steps to reach your goal. The old cliché, “How do you eat an elephant,” is appropriate here. The answer? “One bite at a time.”

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