Types of Goals and How to Measure Them

This article covers the different types of goals and the metrics we can use to measure them. 


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There is a lot of literature around "SMART" goal-setting. As far as I've seen, many schools and universities are teaching their students on how to set SMART goals. But is merely teaching SMART Goal-Setting sufficient?

Unless you measure your goals, with the right metrics, you stand at a risk of losing track of your progress towards your goal. 

Why Should You Assign Metrics?

When you assign meaningful metrics to your goals, it helps you to

  • Stay focused
  • Keep track of your progress
  • Take corrective action when you go off-track
  • Experience a sense of excitement as you move closer to your goals
  • Establish a link with your intrinsic motivators like sense of closure , sense of challenge, etc. 

What Can You Measure?

You can measure the following 

  • Completion of a goal (YES or NO)
  • Quantity ($, %, Amount)
  • Frequency (No. of Times)
  • Time (a deadline)

How do you know what to pick? The answer depends on the type of goal. Therefore, before we assign metrics, we first need to begin by understanding the different types of goals.

Types of Goals

Goals can be generalized into 3 different types - Outcome goals, Performance goals, and Process goals. Each of these are defined as follows:

Outcome Goals

Performance Goals 

Process Goals 

Outcome goals are things that you want to achieve. It can also the final or terminal goal you have in mind. Outcome goals are influenced by other factors in the environment.

E.g. To be promoted to VP in 18 months OR To weigh 65kg by end of the year. 

Performance goals are supporting achievements or milestones on the way to achieving your outcome goal. Therefore performance goals are also outcome goals, but not the eventual outcome. 

 E.g. Increase quarterly sales by 10% OR Lose 2 kg every month to reach 65kg by end of year.

Process goals tell you whether you are taking the necessary action to achieve your goals. It is something which focuses you towards the required action to deliver what you want to achieve.

​E.g. Conduct weekly sales competitions for salespeople in team OR Walk 45 minutes five times a week

Leading & Lagging Indicators

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators confirm whether we have achieved a goal or milestone. It requires you to wait for a period of time before knowing the outcome.

For e.g. To be promoted to VP after 18 months is a lagging indicator as it tells you whether you have been promoted to VP or not. Likewise, losing 2 kgs every month to reach 65kg at the end of the year is a lagging indicator because whenever you weigh in at the end of a month, it tells you if you have lost the required weight or not. 

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are metrics that tell us if we are taking action towards our goals or if we are on track.

E.g. if you run weekly sales competition, to motivate salespeople and improve sales the competition is a leading indicator showing that you are working towards your goal of being promoted to VP in 18 months. Likewise, walking for 45 minutes five times a week is a leading indicator that shows that you are on track to reaching a weight of 65kg by the end of the year. 

Which Metric is More Important?

We believe that both are equally important. If you only have leading indicators as your metrics, it is possible that you may be doing the wrong things to achieve your goals.

E.g. You can walk for 45 minutes five times a week but end up losing only 0.5 kg every month. This shows you that either walking is not suitable, or the duration of 45 minutes is insufficient or that you need to do something in addition such as controlling your diet or performing a high intensity exercise. Therefore, you need a mix of both.


Some things can't be measured - the love of a mother, the beauty of a flower, the serenity that overcomes you when you're in a special place - but many things can and must be measured. As a wise person rightly said, "What gets measured, gets done". 

Questions for Reflection

What challenges do you face while measuring your goals?

How consistent are you at assigning reasonable and effective metrics to your goals?

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Chaitra K

With a background in Literature and Psychology, and an MBA in Human Resources Management, Chaitra is responsible for the design and production of NKoach’s courses, workshops and corporate training programs. Her mission is to help people discover their passion and become better versions of themselves.

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