The Goal Question Context

This time of the year when the maximum number of people give up on their new year resolutions. I know many of my friends have made a resolution that they will not make any resolution. I’m glad that some of them are at least keeping that resolution. I have gone through my cycle of failures, denial and many years of “no resolution” and I have finally cracked the code of the new year resolutions. The answer is in using the framework called the Goal Question Context (GQC).

I find the framework useful to set, revise and reset goals annually and track them on a weekly basis. Some years like 2020 are special where you can make goals for the next 20, 10 or 5 years.

To have these new year resolutions and goals is a personal choice. If you have a goal then you will at least try some actions towards achieving it. The chance of achieving your goal is higher if you have one.

What is the Goal Question Context (GQC) ?

The Goal Question Context (GQC) is inspired by Victor Basili’s work on Software Metrics called GQM (Goal Question Metric).

The GQC consists of three parts.

Goal – It is the desired state. This should be unambiguous, verifiable or measurable.

Question – Mechanism to clarify the goal and refine it and derive the context

Context – Your personal context within which you want to accomplish this goal.

Broadly we can say Goal is the end toward which effort is directed: aim. One clear distinction of a goal is at any point in time you can assess whether you have achieved your goal or not. If you have not yet achieved your goal you should be able to determine are your efforts are towards achieving the goal or not.

Characteristics of a Good Goal

  • Goal should be measurable and timeboxed.
    Example 1: I should lose 5kgs in 3 months.

If this is the goal, you should make a note of your current weight (78kgs), start and end dates (01-Jan-2020 to 31-Jan-2020).

Then the goal can be written as: By 31st March 2020, I will bring my weight under 73 kgs

  • The goal should be personal.
    Unfortunately many goals most people chase are derived out of comparing with others or trying to maintain a certain level of acceptance in the society. If the goal comes out of your intrinsic desire and not due to some external source then the commitment towards the goal will be very high.

“Dont let fears of what others might think of you stand in your way” –
Ray Dalio – “Principles”

  • The goal should be important.

Though it sounds obvious, many times you have goals that are more like fashion accessories than something you need to achieve. Do not confuse your goals with your desires. In fact, desires are things that you want that will come in your way of accomplishing your goals. In life, though anyone can almost achieve anything in life, you should remember that you can not achieve everything in life. It is important that you choose wisely.

The questions and context
These two help in refining and aligning to your goals.

Let’s explore the above example

  • Goal: By 31st March 2020, I will bring my weight under 73 kgs
    Then the question to ask is

Why do you want to bring your weight under 73kgs?

I have realised that I’m feeling a bit lethargic these days, I’m also thinking of participating in a marathon, that was always my dream. I was inspired by my friend Martin, who completed a half marathon last year. I can also do it if I prepare myself.

How are you planning to achieve this goal?

I’m planning to use a two-pronged strategy. Watch out on my food intake: control my sugar intake, the quantity of food, snacking etc. and a bit of exercise. I will also start running at least twice a week.

What will or might come in your way? And what are you going to do about it?

First one is my laziness. I’m going beyond this. I really enjoy going out and in the fresh air. My travel and work schedules are big constraints. I can use them as an opportunity. Use the hotel Gym facilities, use public transport and walking.

Also, focus on eating healthy. I will also take support from Martin as my accountability buddy.

Based on these questions and answers a context can be created.

The context for my goal is to feel energetic and be a person full of energy. My mantra is “Just Do It !”

End note

The biggest benefit of doing this activity is that you slowly start knowing and understanding about yourself, your body and your mind. You will start noticing the effect of environment, space and people on you and also how you are impacts others around you.

One important final note about Goals, actions and consequence is that the goals can be achieved only through actions. When you take action you will have a first-order consequence, second-order consequence and so on.

If you decide to go for a morning jog. The first-order consequences are, getting up from the bed and sacrificing the sleep time, initial days you might also experience body/muscle pain and lack sleep.

Second-order consequence – you will feel better, health improves, you look fit. It might take a couple of days.

Another example, you might decide to take it easy and focus on enjoying life now!

First-order consequence: You experience happiness and joy, you are having a good time now. Second-order consequence: In a few years you might end up spending all your savings, may or may not have the motivation to work hard and earn.

Normally most first-order consequences which give you instant pleasure, happiness will have a negative consequence in the long run. Those which are difficult, not interesting will give long-lasting happiness later (for example learning a musical instrument).

For many years I also explored by not having goals but just enjoying the journey (the process towards achieving the goal rather than the goal itself), I did not bother about the results. The only drawback of that approach was, your full potential is not understood and most importantly there is no learning. With the Goal Question Context approach, it ensures that you enjoy the journey and also achieve the goals. Through this approach, the chances of achieving the goals are enhanced. In the worst case this framework will provide data points to analyse (through questions and context) and learn. Sometimes the learning from these experiments is as important or more important than the original goal itself.

So all ready to set new goals? What are some goals in life that you want to achieve?

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist.

If you need any support with setting your long term goals do not hesitate to contact me.

Inspiration / Credits 

Principles – Ray Dalio

GQM  – Vistor Basili