Have you ever had a feeling of working hard but not getting anywhere? Have you thought about what you want to be doing in five years’ time? Or what you want to achieve by the end of today?
Setting goals is much more important than it might look at first sight – without goals everyone lacks focus and sense of direction. Goal setting not only helps you to have a direction of your life but also allows you to monitor whether you are actually succeeding. However, for successful goal setting simply deciding that you want something is not enough. You have to carefully consider what you want to achieve and arrange some well-defined steps that will lead you to success.
Here are five golden rules on goal setting that will help you clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want in life.
- Set goals that motivate you the most.
Goals are like morning coffee: they should energize people. Goals provide the purpose for work and extraordinary effort. When you set a goal, the first thing is to make sure you see a value of achieving it. If you imagine the outcome but it does not make you feel proud and satisfied, this means it has little importance to you and you should focus on more meaningful tasks. Aiming to have a Porsche because your neighbour has one isn’t a goal that will induce sustainable satisfaction and lasting happiness. In fact, according to Science of People, 93 percent of people can’t translate goals into actions if the goals are irrelevant to them.
As many of us, you probably have a list of goals you want to pursue, however, you should always focus on those that are the highest on your priority list. In this case, less is more, so try to limit your goals to only 3-4. This will help you distribute your time more efficiently and reduce the risk of failure. If you have a goal that is difficult to achieve and takes a lot of time, make sure to break it down into smaller chunks and work on three first parts, then three next ones, and so on. Many successful business men and women always act according to this rule in order to stay focused and concentrate their efforts to the most important tasks.
- Set SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting. It is an effective tool that provides the clarity, focus and motivation you need to achieve your goals. This acronym stands for:
- S– Specific (What do I want to accomplish? Why is this goal important?)
The more specific your description, the bigger the chance you’ll get exactly that. S.M.A.R.T. goal setting clarifies the difference between ‘I want to be a millionaire’ and ‘I want to earn €20.000 a month for the next five years by developing an IT business’.
- M – Measurable (How will I know that it is accomplished?)
A SMART goal must have criteria for measuring progress. Therefore, your goal needs to have measurable elements. If you feel happier or healthier, is not a measurable accomplishment. However, if you promise yourself to eat vegetables at least twice a day, and you actually do so, is an achievement that you are able to measure easily.
- A – Achievable (How can I accomplish this goal?)
You always need to consider the effort, time and other costs your goal will take against the profits and other priorities you might have. If you do not have enough talent, money or time to reach a certain goal, you will most likely fail. That’s why you need to plan smartly!
- R – Realistic (How realistic is this goal, based on possible constraints?)
It is crucial to consider if the goal is reachable given the time and resources. Also, to attract success you should analyse whether you are able to commit to achieving this goal.
- T – Time defined (What can I do six months from now? What can I do today?)
A SMART goal must be time-bound in that it has a start and finish date. Having a time constraint helps people to stay motivated. If there are multiple small steps to achieve your goal, have deadlines for each of them.
- Write your goal down.
Let’s say you already have a goal set up in your head. Is it enough to start working on it? The answer is simple – no. Make sure to write it down! According to Andy Shaw’s survey results on the struggles of achieving goals, 45% of respondents do have goals but have never written them down. Once people are asked to write their goal down, they realise that actually they have never fully formulated it. How can one work on a plan that is not even defined yet? Once you have it clearly stated, it will boost your sense of commitment towards it and help you achieve it by reviewing progress.
It’s easy to get too focused on the outcome and forget the steps needed to achieve the outcome. You might go from A through Z, giving not enough thought to D, K, or M, and everything else in between. So, write down all of the individual steps. If it helps, also write down why a particular goal is valuable to you. Some people get more inspired, are able to push further and be more willing to go an extra mile to achieve it when they constantly remind themselves of that goal’s importance in their lives.
Making a daily to-do list is also very helpful to stay organized. These daily goals are visible at all times and you should cross check the things you have accomplished to gauge where you stand at the end of the day. For many people this is a best practice because it makes things tangible and the person more accountable.
Your own long-term goals don’t have to be spelled out quite as publicly, but you should keep them someplace where, every so often, you are reminded of what you need to do. Use an active voice when writing them down; for example, say, “I will increase my travelling budget”, instead of using more passive language such as “I would like…”
- Follow through.
Having a plan in place is what makes you focused, but only working the plan makes you successful. Look long-term, but live short-term. It’s really easy to simply focus on the things you want and the money you can make, but those don’t become possible without the here and now.
Some ideas to help you keep working on your goals are making reminders to keep yourself on track, scheduling a weekly time in your calendar to review your goals and your progress, and, of course, celebrating your progress.
- Reset your goals regularly.
Big achievers always reflect on the past before jumping into the future. You need to evaluate what happened, take a critical look back and be honest about what worked and what didn’t. With each and every attempt you will find it easier to establish new goals and you will develop a habit of sticking to them. When you succeed reaching your goal, it will boost your motivation to keep going and achieve even more. That is why you need to keep yourself challenged and make new goals helping you become an even better version of yourself.
In case you were not exactly successful the first time, think about what you can say no to in order to say yes to what really matters. What can you eliminate or delegate, in order to invest more time to the right activities that support your goals?
Don’t give up, get clear on how far you’ve come and where you want to be!
Knowledge Pathways International provides training and development services for individuals and businesses. For more information on our programmes and how we can help you with goal setting and many other aspects of self-development, click here.