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4 Examples of Realistic Goals

 , February 23, 2022
A realistic goal is a future target that is achievable. This is based on your current capabilities, resources and situation whereby what's realistic for one person or organization may not be realistic for another. The following are illustrative examples and counterexamples.

Actionable

A realistic goal is actionable today or soon. Goals in the distant future are known as aspirational goals whereby they are big dreams that could happen but aren't exactly realistic yet. In a business context, aspirational goals are known as a vision.
Actionable / Realistic
Take a dance class to see if I have any talent.

Aspirational
Become a famous dancer.

Actionable / Realistic
Reduce waste by reducing the size of product packaging and shipping boxes to exactly fit the product or shipment.

Vision
Our business will produce zero waste with complete reuse and recycling of all packaging, shipping and products at end of life.

Capabilities

Realistic goals are relative to your talent, capacities and track record in a particular area. For example, if you have demonstrated the ability to do big things well, you may establish aggressive goals that are nonetheless realistic for you. If you have historically struggled with some area, aggressive goals aren't likely to be realistic. Organizations and teams also have capabilities whereby one firm may be able to change quickly to lead an industry and another firm would find it difficult to change at all.
Realistic (track record: good at math)
Step up studying to get the highest grade in both Calculus and Algebra class.

Realistic (track record: struggles with math)
Study 2 hours a night and get a tutor to improve Calculus grade to a B average.

Realistic (track record: innovative firm)
Reinvent ladders to make a product that is fundamentally safer, cheaper, more durable and easier to use. Goal: 50% market share within 3 years.

Realistic (track record: firm resists change, lags competition)
Improve ladder product to produce a ladder with comparable quality and price as the market leader. Goal: turnaround sales decline and return to growth.

Capacity / Priority

Realistic goals also depend on the amount of resources you can dedicate to them. If you are trying to improve your math grade and you have hundreds of other priorities, this is very different from a situation where math is currently your top priority such that all other concerns are secondary. Likewise, the realism of organization goals relate to the attention, priority, budget and staffing that an organization will commit to the goal.
Realistic (1 hour a week)
Try coding to see if I like it.

Realistic (6 hours a week)
Learn the ruby programming language to a reasonable level of proficiency.

Realistic (low budget, low priority)
Develop a business case to explore the feasibility and return on investment of launching new locations in Europe.

Realistic (high budget, high priority, high commitment)
Launch 4 locations in Europe with first year sales of $12 million.

Estimate Quality

The last major factor that predicts whether a goal is realistic is the quality of your estimates. For example, if it normally takes 8 years to master the piano and you have a goal to do this in six months, your goal isn't likely to be realistic unless you have some unusual capability or capacity. Organizations may base estimates on the opinions of multiple domain experts and validate these with methods such as reference class forecasting.
Conservative Estimate / Realistic
Replant the front garden by the end of Spring.

Aggressive Estimate / Unrealistic
Replant the front garden in a single weekend.

Validated Estimate / Realistic
Construct the head office within 24 months of the approval and sign-off of the construction contract.

Political Estimate / Unrealistic
Construct the head office within 8 months to align with the projected growth of the sales team.

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