February 20, 2018

Defining Your Leadership Goals

If we are defined by what we do and what we do is shaped by our goals, the process of goal-setting is vital to our success as student leaders.  Often we set goals and don’t know what they look like.

Before you huff and puff about the goal setting acronym you think is on the way, save it!! I am going to propose a different way to think about goal setting.  I want to redefine your student leadership experience and give you a tool to make you a more powerful, effective and balanced student leader.

I propose that we take the time to visualize our goals. I mean really see them. I’m talking HD, 3D, Blu-Ray see them. Imagine the hard work, the right work, the setbacks, and the achievements.

So often goals are simply notches on our belt, or necessary evils for us to live a certain lifestyle. Aside from our END LINE FOCUS, goals are simply items on a to-do list. Normally, when we set goals, we concentrate on the quantitative aspect (one more thing checked off the to-do list) of reaching new heights. This sets up the structure or bones of our dreams and aspirations. It provides a decent outline, but when things begin to fall apart and “it” finally hits the fan, you need more than an outline or skeleton! The visualizing I’m suggesting we do is how you put the meat on the bones! Something you can sink your teeth into when you are forced to regroup.

The next time you set a goal for yourself, I want you to know what it looks like. I want you to be able to close your eyes and see it, take a deep breath and smell it, lick your lips and taste it!!

The process works by engaging your imagination and your quantitative thought process. Normally, these two thought processes occur separately. By combining these two opposite ways of thinking, we are able to balance them both while formulating a more complete idea.

Think about it. When you are planning an event, you have a different thought process for coming up with the budget than coming up with ideas for a social activity. And sometimes, that budget planning thought process will kill a couple of big ideas you have. That’s because you have two opposing thought processes going on and we have always been taught that prudence wins out. However, through the process of visualizing your goals, you can combine both processes and achieve bigger and better. Instead of letting your budget kill your big ideas, let your big ideas fill your coffers and grow your budget.

Try These 4 Steps to Powerful, Effective and Balanced Goal-Setting:

  1. First, write down your goals the way most people do, in sequential list form.
  2. Then take each goal and write a brief 3-5 sentence paragraph about how you will achieve the goal. Include things that may be an obstacle to meeting the goal.
  3. Then come up with solutions, no matter how off the wall they may seem, as long as they’re feasible…list them! This is the visualization/defining process.
  4. Last, work right, work smart, and work hard. See what happens when you define your goals instead of listing them.

Stop viewing your goals as task on a to-do list and start seeing them for what they are, building blocks on your path to personal greatness.

Side note:  When visualizing your goals beware of the “tiara and crowns” trap!  It’s important that we paint an accurate picture of our success.  Think about everything that comes with your goal, both positive and negative.  Be realistic about the effort and maintenance that your goals will require.  Don’t let the smooth taste fool you; reaching our personal greatness is a stubbornly difficult process. Paint that part of the picture too!

About the Author: Chris Collins (10 Posts)

Chris Collins is focused on encouraging and developing student leadership. Chris is a speaker, author, and entrepreneur inspiring students across the country. Chris has excelled in several levels of student leadership highlighted by his roles as Chapter President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a Resident Assistant, NPHC President, and counselor for TRiO/Upward Bound. He intertwines his life lessons with his passion for achieving greatness into an energy that provides real talk about real issues to reach real solutions; teaching those he reaches the tools to live a life filled with real passion. His passion for encouraging, empowering, and educating young people forces him to stay on his grind to develop the most relevant and impactful programs in today's urban culture.


  1. Great life lesson!
    Some people may seem to think that setting goals is a trivial task or something you engage in when on an interview and the interviewer asks what are your short term and long term goals.But in fact goal setting is so important life can be so overwhelming at times and it is essential to every day life in all we do.

  2. Great tips! I sometimes feel overwhelmed looking at the “big picture” but the action steps help break everything down. Goal setting is tedious for some because they don’t know how they will reach the goal, but the visualization process helps map out all the trouble spots! 🙂

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