Setting Goals with Purpose: What, Why and How?

Set a goal, work hard towards that goal, and then eventually forget about that goal is a cycle we are all guilty of. Well at least I know for a fact that I am, or I was! It’s the New Year so we set a goal to exercise more and eat better, or it’s the beginning of the semester so we set a goal to stop procrastinating. It all works out well for the first month but eventually we choose the General Tso Chicken over the salad, and we find ourselves pulling all nighters to write papers and prepare for exams.

This was my story, and for the longest time I could not figure out why. I was setting SMART goals, as I was taught to do (for details on what a SMART goal is, read my post on my 2016 goals!). But no matter how good my goals were on paper, there was something missing that was allowing me to fall short of reaching/keeping up with them.

This something was purpose. I would take the time to write out what my goals were, and how I planned to achieve them, but one thing I never did was write down why I wanted to achieve them. I’m not even sure that I was even giving the “why” much thought, and because of this I was working towards things that I wasn’t quite sure I actually cared about which eventually caused me to stop working towards them.

I decided to take a new approach to writing my goals; I call it “What, Why, How.” I write down what it is that I want to do, why it is that I want to do it and how it is that I plan to do it. Here’s an example:

  • What: Pass the remaining parts of the CPA examination
  • Why: It is important for me to pass the remaining parts of the CPA exam because it is necessary for me to obtain my CPA license. I would like to obtain this license because I’ve worked extremely hard in college, and at my place of employment to meet the requirements needed to obtain the license, and now the only thing I have left to complete are the exams. Once obtaining the license, it will (1) give me more credibility when talking about money and (2) provide me with more opportunities to make money and help people.
  • How: In order to pass the remaining exam, I need to create a study schedule, and stick to it! I need to set time aside after work, as well as on the weekends to prepare for the exam. During the time I have set aside, I need to be focused and curious, making sure that I am retaining what I am learning so that I only have to take each exam once!

Once I adopted this new method, there were two things that changed. First, the amount of goals I was setting decreased drastically. I went from having 10 goals at the beginning of the year to having around 3 or 4. The second thing I noticed is that most of the major moves I made throughout the year were all in line with my goals, naturally. I was naturally working towards my goals because every single one of my goals had purpose!

I challenge you to reassess your goal planning strategies and try the “What, Why, How?” method and begin to set goals with purpose, on purpose! Please feel free to leave a comment of email me and let me know how this method works for you and if you find it helpful!

Peace and Blessings,


By Khadija Bingham

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