Make Sure Your Goals Have POP!!

Peter Bruening

The most successful people in the world are goal setters. It's an indisputable fact. Study after study has shown that people who achieve the most in life - whether it's financial success, happiness, or any other form of life fulfillment - are goal setters. They are people who envision what they want in their lives, they write it down in the form of goals, and they organize their actions around those goals.

Smart Goals
Most of us have encountered, at some point, the SMART acronym for setting and pursuing goals. In a nutshell, SMART stands for:

S / M: Smart & Attainable
A / R: Attainable & Realistic
T: Time Sensitive (scheduled)
This tried and true method is a valuable tool to test your goals. If your goals don't meet these 5 criteria, then you need to do some more work on refining them. And I'd like to introduce you to another acronym that will add even more power to your goal-setting activities: POP

Goals with POP! - The 1st 'P'
The first 'P' in POP stands for Personal. In today's society, we are bombarded with messages of what our goals should be. What car we should drive, how our body should look, how much money we should make, what clothes we should wear, etc, etc, etc. Take an hour some evening and sit in front of the TV with a pad of paper, and you'll be deluged with messages about how you should live your life. And the messages keep coming - radio, billboards, the Internet. We are under constant bombardment of 'should' messages.

It is very easy to adopt these messages that preach external goals. But to really succeed at your own game, you have to develop your own rules. You must realize that external goals are just that. They are external. Personal goals, on the other hand, are the result of introspection, and determining what is important to you. Does that mean you can't strive to own an expensive car? Or an expensive wardrobe? Absolutely not! Just make sure that those desires are something you want for you, not something you want because someone else is saying you should want them.

Goals with POP! - The 'O'
The 'O' stands for Ownership. Any goal you set must be one that you can own - you must be able to control it. Let's say you're unhappy with your job because you don't particularly like your boss. I know, it's hard to believe this could happen, but some people actually struggle with this situation. Anyway, if you were in that situation, you may set a goal that your boss would stop yelling at you so much. This goal has no Ownership, because it involves something over which you have no control. No matter what you do, your boss may continue to yell at you. His, or her, behavior is out of your control.

To create a goal with ownership, you may instead set a goal that from now on, you are going to work on developing the ability to listen to criticism from any source, your boss included, by using 3 specific steps. First, you will listen openly to any criticism you hear. Second, you will logically and unemotionally evaluate it for any value it may contain. Third, you will accept and make use of any legitimate input, and you will discard anything you don't deem relevant or useful. This is a goal with Ownership. It is now irrelevant whether your boss continues to behave in the same way, or even if you get a new boss who behaves in a more negative manner. Your goal is based on creating thoughts and behaviors that you control.

Goals with POP! - The 2nd 'P'
The second 'P' stands for Positive - your goals must be stated in the form of positive statements, not negative statements. The key is to take a "negative" objective and restate it in a positive way. So, instead of saying to yourself, "I want to stop procrastinating", you might instead say this: "I want to start planning each day in advance so that I am making conscious choices every day to spend my time on those things that are important to me. I will start this new habit today." Or, you may say this: "From now on, I will keep a checklist during the day and every hour I will make a note of exactly what I am doing at that moment in time. At the end of each week, I will review my list of activities and I will place a '+' next to activities that are productive, and a '-' next to those that are a waste of time. I will begin doing this on Monday."

Both of these goals are focused on making a positive statement about your desire to use your time more effectively. They call your mind's attention to desired behaviors and habits, not those behaviors and habits you want to eliminate. You will also notice that those two goal statements are consistent with the SMART elements, as well as each of the POP elements.


It has been proven that those people who are the most successful - and the most fulfilled - have developed excellent goal-setting skills. And that is a key point. The ability to be a goal setter is not something you are either born with or not. It is a skill. And as with all skills, it can be learned and improved over time. So start now. Think about what you want your life to look like - professionally, personally, financially - and create statements about what needs to happen for those things to come true. By SMART about your goals, and put some POP in them! Before you know it, you'll be moving forward, a little each day.

Peter Bruening is a professional sales and management advisor. He offers training, consulting and speaking services in the areas of sales, customer service, leadership and personal effectiveness. More information can be found at his website: