Have you ever taken the time to think about what you want to be doing in five years’ time? Are you certain about what your primary objective at work is at the moment? Do you know what you want to have completed by the end of today? If you answered no to any of the above questions, you may want to reconsider how you set goals.
It’s pretty simple – if you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Furthermore, you lack focus and direction without clearly defined goals. Goal setting provides you with the means to take control of your life’s direction. It also provides you a benchmark to determine whether you are actually succeeding. Think about it. Having a $1,000,000 in the bank is merely proof of success if one of your goals is to amass riches. However, if your goal is to practice acts of charity, then your wealth suddenly contradicts your definition of success.
In order to accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want…” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve and ends with a lot of hard work to make it a reality. In between are a series of well-defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. It is essential to know each of these steps since they allow you to formulate smaller goals for you to accomplish along the way.
The 5 Golden Rules
1.) Set targets that motivate you
When you set personal goals, it is important that they motivate you on a personal level. This means that you make sure that they are important to you and that there is personal value in achieving them. The chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim if you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant in the big picture. That being said, motivation is key to achieving your goals.
Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. If you lack this type of focus, you can end up with fare to many goals and leave yourself with little time to devote to each of them. Achieving your goals requires commitment, so to maximize the chances of your success, you need to have a sense of urgency and have a “must do” attitude. If you don’t have this sense of urgency, you risk putting off what you need to do in order to make this goal a reality. This, in turn, leaves you frustrated with yourself and feeling disappointed overall. Both of these feelings are very de-motivating. Furthermore, you can end up in a destructive, “I can’t do anything or be successful at anything” state of mind.
2.) Set SMART goals
You have likely heard of SMART goals at one point or another. However, do you always apply the rules? In the most simple terms, in order for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are a number of variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is as follows:
- Time Sensitive
Set specific targets
Your goal(s) need to be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are not helpful since they don’t provide the necessary sense of direction. It is important to remember that your goals need to show you the way. Make it easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining where you want to go as best you can.
Set measurable goals
Increase precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. How will you know if you have achieved success if your goal is to simply reduce expenses? Rather, you can set specific benchmarks, such as “reduce spending by 1% in one month”, or “reduce spending by 10% in one year”. Without a way to measure your success, you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something.
Set attainable targets
It is vital that you make sure that it’s possible to achieve the target that you set for yourself. You will only demoralize yourself and destroy any sense of confidence if you set a goal that you have no chance of achieving. However, you need to resist the urge to set benchmarks that are too easy to achieve. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best. Doing so can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic, yet challenging targets, you can hit the balance and sense of harmony that you need. These goals require you to “raise the bar” and they also bring the greatest sense of personal satisfaction.
Set relevant goals
Your targets should be relevant to the direction you want to take your life and your career. By keeping goals aligned with your overall big picture, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. On the contrary, if you set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, you’ll fritter your time – and your life – away.
Set time-bound targets
Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you’re working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.
3.) Set your goals in writing
The physical act of writing down a target makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. As you write, make sure to use the word “will” instead of “would like to” or “might”. For instance, “I will reduce my operating expenses by 10% this year,” not “I would like to reduce my operating expenses by 10% this year.” The first statement has power and you can “see” yourself reducing expenses. The second lacks passion and gives you an excuse if you get sidetracked.
Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is that you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.
4.) Make an action plan
This is typically the most overlooked step in the goal-setting process. People often get so focused on the outcome that they forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term.
5.) Stick with it!
Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build-in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high throughout the entire process.
Key Points & Takeaways
Goal setting is much more than simply stating that you want something to happen. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it in the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced. By following the above five golden rules of goal setting, you can set goals with confidence and enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you achieved what you set out to do.
That being said, what will you decide to accomplish today…this week…this month…or this year?