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SWOT Analysis for Goal Setting

SWOT, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, is a way to analyze and evaluate your current situation and environment. While it's typically used for strategic planning in business settings, it can also be used in goal setting to help you identify goals that will give you the most benefit. It is a way of matching your internal capabilities, resources and liabilities with the external factors you are facing.

SWOT analysis works best when focused on a particular result area.

Performing a SWOT Analysis

You start by identifying your strengths, which represent your internal capabilities and resources in this result area. Here are some questions you can use to help you get started:

  • What are your core competencies in this area?

  • What relevant skills, talents or abilities do you poses?

  • What resources do you have at your disposal?

  • What specialized knowledge or expertise do you have access to?

  • Who can you ask for advice, support or help?

  • What special/proprietary tools can you use or develop?

  • What is already working well in this area? What related strengths does that reveal?

Keep in mind that not all of these questions will apply to every result area. Just use the ones that make sense to help you identify your strengths.

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The next step is to identify your weaknesses, which represent your internal liabilities. In many cases, the lack of a strength or resource can be considered a weakness. Here are some ideas to help you identify your weaknesses:

  • What are your main liabilities in this area?

  • List all the relevant skills, abilities and talents that you would find helpful in this result area. Which ones are you the least good or proficient at?

  • List the specialized knowledge or expertise that you would find helpful in this result area. Any knowledge or expertise that you lack could be considered a weakness.

  • Are there any resources (money, time, help) that you currently don't have access to?

  • What is not working in this area right now? What related weaknesses does that reveal?

Your strengths and weaknesses give you an idea of your internal capabilities, resources and liabilities. The next step in SWOT analysis is to identify your external opportunities for profit, growth and improvement. Here are some ideas to help you identify them:

  • List the opportunities that you have been considering.

  • What things could you improve in this result area?

  • Think of one thing you could do that would significantly improve your situation in this area.

  • What important goals could you pursue?

  • How can you take advantage of your strengths?

  • Can you take advantage of any changes in your environment or circumstances?

  • What opportunities would become available to you if you eliminate some of your weaknesses?

Now identify your threats, which represent external events, environmental factors, or changes that could affect you negatively. Here are some ideas to help you identify some threats:

  • Make a list of serious risks you are facing in this area if you continue along your current path.

  • What obstacles or roadblocks are impeding your progress?

  • What environmental factors are affecting you negatively?

  • Think about how current changes to your environment or circumstances could affect you negatively.

Using SWOT Analysis to Identify Targets and Strategies

The whole point of doing a SWOT analysis is to help you identify the most beneficial targets and strategies to pursue right now based on your current situation, and to identify strategies that will help you prepare for the future.

You do this by analyzing the four quadrants of the SWOT matrix.

SWOT Quadrant I - Strengths/Opportunities (SO)

This quadrant focuses on goals and strategies that take advantage of your core strengths to aggressively pursue the best opportunities at your disposal. This is particularly important if the opportunities are short-lived. An example would be to utilize a temporary competitive advantage to gain market share in your business.

SWOT Quadrant II - Strengths/Threats (ST)

This quadrant focuses on goals and strategies that utilize your strengths to actively eliminate or reduce threats you are facing.

SWOT Quadrant III-Weaknesses/Opportunities (WO)

This quadrant focuses on goals and strategies that can help you open up opportunities down the road by working to reduce some of your weaknesses (or making your strengths even stronger). You can use this quadrant to help you prepare a long-term improvement plan.

SWOT Quadrant IV - Weaknesses/Threats (WT)

This quadrant focuses on goals and strategies that can help you mitigate and avoid threats that could result from your weaknesses. You could do this by eliminating the weaknesses and turning them into strengths, or by developing defensive strategies to reduce the likelihood or severity of the threat.


The four SWOT quadrants provide different perspectives to help you identify targets and strategies:

  • SO Quadrant - Opportunities to Pursue

  • ST Quadrant - Threats to Eliminate

  • WO Quadrant - Things to Improve

  • WT Quadrant - Risk Mitigation & Avoidance

Over the long term, you should include goals from each of the four quadrants for balance. In the short term, you may want to focus on one or two quadrants to take advantage of any circumstances you are currently facing.

Successes/Failures Analysis

While SWOT analysis is a good way to examine you current situation looking forward, it doesn't always reveal past trends that you can learn from. A successes/failures analysis complements the SWOT matrix and can give you more insight into your strengths and weaknesses.

You start by listing all your successes and achievements in this result area, followed by listing all your failures or missteps. Once you've listed them, you can identify additional strengths and weaknesses based on the trends that they show you.

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