Each of us spends our lives striving for something, whether it’s the perfect job, a happy family, a healthy mind and body, or successful financial status. However, it’s difficult to achieve success in any of these areas if we don’t set specific goals to make these goals more obtainable.
But what happens if we don’t clearly identify our goals before we try to achieve success? What if we don’t really know what kind of success we want to see? If we don’t clearly identify our goals and set aside strategies to achieve our goals, we may feel unfulfilled or even overwhelmed because we’re concentrating on the bigger picture instead of the steps needed to get where we want to be.
By setting measurable goals, we help to motivate ourselves as we strive to reach success, while also helping to identify the steps we need to take along the way.
Why Goal Setting is Essential
Without goal setting, your desires are more comparable to dreams than they are real-life goals. Take it from Harsha Bhogle, author of The Winning Way: Learnings from sport for managers: “The moment you put a deadline on a dream, it becomes a goal.”
For example, if we know we want to write a novel one day but we never take the time to make the writing a goal, we may never actually get that book written. You may spend your whole life thinking about it without really acting on it. It may seem more like a dream that you’ll publish a book one day, but you won’t make it a priority until you’ve given yourself a deadline.
However, if you make it a goal to write a novel in the next year, you finally have a deadline to help you get motivated. You know that you need to start research, form an outline, and begin the writing process.
Setting Smaller Goals Along the Way
Additionally, it may also be useful to set smaller goals along the way. Perhaps you’ll take the time to set individual goals for conducting your research and creating an outline before you make it a goal to start the actual writing process. Sometimes it helps to set smaller goals before raising the bar any higher.
According to MindTools, goal setting can be done in three various steps:
Your big picture/long term goals should be determined to cover your plans over the next ten years.
The next step is setting your long-term plans to help you obtain your big picture/long term goal. These goals include your five-year, one-year, six-month, and one-month goals.
Then, you should put together a to-do list for the tasks you need to complete today and every step along the way to help you reach your ultimate big picture goals.
Achieving Your Goals Through the SMART System
Once you have your plan in place, you should start working on achieving these goals. MindTools suggests following the SMART system to help you set effective goals that are also achievable. The SMART system looks like this:
- S: Set specific or significant goals
- M: Set measurable or meaningful goals
- A: Make sure your goals are action-oriented and attainable
- R: Your goals should be relevant and rewarding
- T: Goals should be time-bound and trackable
For example, your goals should be detailed rather than vague. Instead of making it a goal to “eat healthy food” which is rather vague, you’ll have a higher rate of success if your goal is detailed and includes specific information. Perhaps your goal can instead involve something like “eliminate all sugar from my diet by July 15, 2017.”
Know Your Goal Setting ABCs
In an article written by psychologists Frank Smoll, Ph.D. and Ronald Smith, Ph.D. and published by Psychology Today, the importance of setting goals in sports and other achievement arenas is explained.
As the article points out, setting goals helps to increase motivation as well as performance. However, this is where the ABCs of goal setting come in. It’s important that the goals we set be achievable, believable, and that goal setters are committed to achieving them. Like the SMART system, goals should be specific and measurable, difficult but realistic, and they should include ideas for long-term and short-term timeframes.
Use Positive Language
As stated in the Psychology Today article, individuals should set goals in a positive way rather than negatively. Setting goals in a positive way helps individuals to focus on the success of the goal rather than focusing on a failure.
To get an idea of a negative goal versus a positive goal, consider the goal of improving your typing skills. A negative goal might include something like “reduce the number of typing mistakes I always make”. A positive goal might include something like “I plan to increase my typing speed to 50 words per minute before I take my next typing test on January 20, 2017.”
How Goal Progress Leads to Happiness
Many of us strive to lead happy and productive lives. And as it turns out, goal progress may be the key to unleashing happiness in our lives. According to an article written by Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D. and published by Psychology Today, the progress we make on our goals helps us to feel happy and satisfied with our lives. At the same time, we also feel more productive and we get more work done. See how the cycle works?
When we set positive, attainable goals for ourselves, we feel more productive and we’re happier when we achieve our goals. Plus, we get more work done overall.
If you’re new to goal setting, focus on setting long-term and short-term goals that are reachable and realistic. The goals you set should be goals that you are fully committed to accomplishing, and they should align within the SMART system. Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound for best results.
According to the wise words of author Og Mandino, “The victory of success if already half won when one gains the habit of setting and achieving their goals.”
Remember, half the battle is simply setting the goal, and the rest is history.