How to Choose a Goal

People set goals every day. They set goals to improve their grades, lose weight, raise money, run a race or learn a new skill, but how do they choose those goals? Your friends may have goals to become a better basketball player, get into Harvard or lose 20 pounds. Some people like to set the same goals as their friends or let others set goals for them, but these people do not usually reach their goals. In order to choose a goal, you have to know what is right for you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • In what areas would I like to improve?
  • Is there anything new I would like to learn to do?
  • What are my plans for the future?

Your answers to these questions can help you choose a goal. Simply write down your answers, and then choose a weakness, an area you would like to improve or something new you would like to learn and rewrite it as a goal.

However, you want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Choose one goal to start with. Too many goals can overwhelm you.
  • Choose a goal that really means something, not one that’s just easy to do.
  • Choose a goal that will help you in some way. For example, learning to shoot a basket is a good goal, but not if you do not plan to play basketball.
  • Choose a goal that you have time to complete.

SWOT Analysis

Another way to choose a goal is to complete a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Take a look at the following chart:


What are some things you are good at?
What do other people think you are good at?


What are some areas/skills you could improve?
What are some areas/skills others think you could improve?


What people or resources do you have around you that could help you improve your weaknesses?
What are some ways you can add value to your life?


Who/what keeps you from showing your strengths?
What is keeping you from being all you want to be?

Once you fill out a SWOT analysis, look at the weaknesses, opportunities and threats sections. Choose three or four items from the boxes and write them out as goals. Then look at the goals and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Which goal will make me the happiest if I achieve it?
  2. Which goal(s) will add the most value to my life?
  3. Which goal(s) will be the easiest to achieve?
  4. Which goal(s) can wait a bit?

Using your answers to those questions, you will choose one goal to focus on first. Once you achieve that goal, you already have two or three new goals ready to take its place.

Suggested Exercises
  1. Look at the sample SWOT analysis and the accompanying worksheet and complete a SWOT analysis to come up with a goal of your own.
  2. Answer the questions from the first paragraph of the passage on the accompanying worksheet and narrow them down to a goal.
  3. Think about where you would like to be one year from now. Write out all of the things you will need to do to get there and then choose one and write it out as a goal.

Discussion Questions
  1. How can other people play a role in choosing a goal for you?
  2. Why is it important to set a goal that means something?
  3. What are some examples of goals you have set or people you know have set? Did you/they reach them?

Accompanying worksheets:

Choosing a Goal - Printable Worksheet SWOT Analysis - Printable Worksheet