Here’s how you can set effective goals using a simple model of Why, What and How.
The Why, What and How Goal Setting Model
There are three layers to this model:
- What, which is broken down into a title and milestones.
When you write out your goals, you can use this format:
Title: (the what) Reasons: (the why) Target: (the what broken down) Process: (the how)
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Your Why is your mission, your purpose or your reasons for doing something.
There are two parts to the What.
The first is the title or heading of the goal.
This is a simple one sentence summary of the goal.
e.g., “Implement a bodyweight routine so I can workout from home during lockdown periods”.
If you are taking a systems approach to goals, this can just be the name of the system or area of life.
The second are the targets or milestones within this heading.
You can also think about this as breaking down the larger goal/title into smaller goals.
You want to make sure that both the title and targets are well-formed. From my article on new year’s resolutions:
* Do you actually know what you want? * Why do you want that? * What will having that do for you? * Is your outcome expressed in positive or as positive as possible terms? * Is it defined in sensory and specific terms? * Will there be any supporting evidence to show your achievement of this outcome? * Do you think you can achieve this outcome or the majority of it by yourself? * How will this impact others in your life? * How do you know that this outcome will actually improve your life? * What will it be like in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years after achieving this outcome? * Is this outcome epistemologically sound? In other words, will achieving this outcome hurt or change other parts of your self, identity or beliefs?
The How are the steps you take to achieve your goal.
This can be in the form of a process, a mental state, some overarching themes, or your personal values.
Similar Goal Setting Models
Two similar models worth mentioning are Simon Sinek’s Why-How-What model and OKR (Objective, Key Results).
Simon Sinek’s model:
- The Why is still your purpose, your reasons.
- The How are the themes in your life, rather than the process.
- The What are your actions and vehicles, rather than the title.
OKR doesn’t address the why or the how. It simply focuses on the big objective (what/title), and the key results (what/targets) for a goal.
Setting Effective Personal Goals
Here’s how you can set effective personal goals using the model:
- The What is the title of the goal and the milestones within it.
- The Why are your reasons for doing the goal, usually related to your personal purpose.
- The How is your process for achieving the goal. This can be the specific process steps, or your philosophy and approach to the goal, based on the values and themes of your life.
And here’s an example:
Title (What): Implement a bodyweight routine so I can workout from home during lockdown periods. Reasons (Why): * Ability to work out at home. * Keep fit during temporary lockdown periods. * Learn a new skill - working out without gym equipment. This will be useful for future travel. Targets (What): * Mapped out bodyweight routine. * First trial run of bodyweight routine. * Regularly perform 4x a week. * Ability to run routine without referring to form or technique notes each time. Process (How): * Find a routine. * Read and understand the routine. * Write down my version of the routine. * Load the routine into my workout app. * Try it. * Refine notes and app setup. * Put into calendar and perform consistently.
Setting Effective Business Goals
Setting effective goals at a strategic or project level inside a business is similar to setting them for your personal life:
- The What is the big objective that needs to be completed. It is also the targets or milestones under this objective, which in business will usually take the form of metrics or key results.
- The Why will link directly to the company’s mission or BHAG.1Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
- The How are the specific steps to be taken to complete the objective. This will usually be predetermined by an SOP for routine processes.
Here’s an example:
Title (What): Create a marketing proposal to send to industry partners to cover next year's marketing plans. Reasons (Why): * Additional financial support from industry partners. * Set expectations for industry partners for what we will do for them next year. * Action our strategic plan and marketing strategy and loop in our industry partners. Targets (What): * Proposal outline created. * Proposal first draft created. * Proposal final version approved. * Proposal sent out. Process (How): * Refer to theme set in strategic plan. * Decide on format of proposal (written, online, video). * Create proposal. * Edit proposal. * Have proposal approved. * Send out proposal.
In the case of a business goal, the how/process will usually have more steps as work is carried out by multiple people.
What To Do Next
You now know how to use a simple model of Why, What and How to set effective goals.
You can take the model and update your existing goals. Or you can use the model for the next time you set goals.
You can also take the model and use it in your business to clarify strategic goals, project goals and tasks.
To see how you can apply this model in your journals, you can read my guide to journal entries here.
- Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
Photo by Álvaro Serrano.