For me, a true goal needs to have a number of characteristics:
1. It must be realistically achievable. ("I want to develop my telekenisis" appears, alas, to fail this test, and as such was a goal I gave up, with difficulty, at around age 12.)
2. It must be quantifiable, both in achieving its stated objective and evaluating one's progress to that end. This eliminates a number of amorphous, though noble intentions in the "I want to be a better person." vein.
3. It must be inherently motivating (i.e. there must be something meritous in acheiving a goal that sustains its emotional appeal.)
4. The unspoken (though apparently not unwritten) characteristic - it must be noble (if not simply decent). I can think of many goals that meet 1-3 but fail this one big time.
This topic actually came up yesterday in a discussion with my wife, when she explained that her and a friend had it as a goal to make and sell soap during the summer farmers' market period. Needless to say, my attempts at deconstructing her 'goal' were not met with wild enthusiasm.
Why bring this up? For me, goals that meet these criteria are rare and powerful guiding forces. As contracts we make with ourselves they provide a point of reference for which every action, decision, pursuit can be evaluated. If any given opportunity would not advance one toward one's goals (no matter how fleetingly attractive) I usually give it a miss. Despite appearances, this is not an opporunity, it is a distraction.
Like most people I have a few of these goal-visions, though the one that I hope to document here is, specifically, my likely winding path to an accrual of $308,446.64 in non-registered, dividend-paying equity and $197,870.62 in registered (RRSP) savings by December 31, 2020. While I'm not expecting to retire with these sums, the non-registered account of dividend paying equity should allow a level of passive, tax-advantaged income that will certainly make things easier. While this goal meets the above-mentioned 4 criteria it offers an excitement factor for blog readers that rivals weed-pulling. To make this a little more focused, let's start with 2006.