Before we talk about goal setting for writers, it’s crucial that we demystify something. Most people confuse goals and targets when they’re goal setting – and it’s crucial to the successful pursuit of a goal to understand the fundamental difference between the two.
So What Is The Difference Between A Goal And A Target?
A goal is something that you want to achieve – and can be achieved by your efforts alone. You are 100% in control of whether you achieve the goal.
As opposed to a target – which is ALSO something that you want to achieve. But to complete a target you need events to line up that you have no control over.
Let me give you an example of this that should clarify those two paragraphs involving my fiction writing persona.
So currently I’m writing Episode 2 – or Book 2 – of my supernatural fiction series. Let’s say one of my readers has pleaded with me to get Episode 2 published ASAP. And to placate her I could say that it will be published on April 20th.
So as I self publish, I can now set myself a goal of hitting the ‘Publish’ button on Episode 2 on 18th April (it often takes 48 hours to get approved).
Whether Episode 2 gets published on the 20th April is 100% down to me. I know what needs doing – the 1st draft finishing and then a comprehensive edit before compiling to MOBI format. And all of those events are 100% within my control.
But now let’s say I want to sell 10,000 copies of Episode 2 on Amazon. That’s not a goal, it’s a target…because to achieve those sales 10,000 different people have to be persuaded that they should part with their $2.99. And that is totally outside of my control.
For sure I can affect it with things like writing the best book I possibly can, commissioning a funky cover, running a marketing campaign to raise my fiction author profile and so on.
But ultimately whether or not I sell 10,000 copies ISN’T down to me. So it’s a target. Not a goal.
Why Knowing The Difference Between A Goal And A Target Is Important
Knowing the difference between a goal and a target is important because when you set a goal you can subdivide that goal into the tasks needed to complete it – and no more – and then work out a plan to actually get those tasks done.
But with a target although you can come up with a plan of items you can do towards meeting the target, that’s ALL you can do. You may hit your target – in which case you can crack the bubbly! – or you may not.
Not completing a target is never a failure – and never something to get down about. That’s the crucial reason it’s important to know the difference between a goal and a target.
If you don’t meet a target – and understand the difference between a goal and a target – not meeting the target is merely a sign that something is not working and your plan(s) need tweaking and/or reworking.
But responsibility for not completing a goal is almost certainly down to you. (There are sometimes exceptions where you have to drop everything for a period of time or can’t work – health issues for you or members of your family for example – when this happens you have to retool your goal plan). And if you’ve set a goal and not met it, you need to have a long hard look in the mirror to understand why.
A goal is different than a target – and when you’re goal setting it’s important that you are setting goals, and not targets. Goals are something that can be achieved by you. Targets are something that rely on other people. If you don’t hit a target it’s a sign that you need to work more on some aspect of your target plan rather than a failure. But not achieving a goal requires you to do some soul searching to find out why.
Paul’s Note: I used to have monthly income goals with my bass website. And if I didn’t hit them I used to get down about it. This was in the days when I didn’t know the difference.
Now whilst I have income targets (and other business targets like number of new subscribers and so on) if I don’t meet them I don’t get down about them, and instead use it as a sign that I need to refine my marketing processes.