Goal setting is such a favorite topic talked about, especially during the last few weeks of the year. People link it to achieving success at work and living the life they dream.
One of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous quotes encompasses the importance the importance of goal setting: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Author Steven Covey includes setting goals in his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
John Maxwell shared in one of his talks that his secret to writing several bestselling leadership books is to hit 5 specific goals every day.
Apple’s goal to create better products gave us the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and Apple Watch.
Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon, thanks to a goal set by President John F. Kennedy.
Yet, it may surprise that only 10% of people living in the US ever set goals while only 3% of adultswrite down their goals.
After all, if some of the most notable leaders in history attribute their success to setting goals, then we should be all doing it.
The equally surprising reason, I found, is that not everyone that set goals was successful.
Infamous goals that failed
Back in the 1970s, Ford sold a car called the Pinto. This was the realization of their then CEO Lee Iacocca to launch a vehicle that was lighter and cheaper than Volkswagen’s Beetle and other small cars being imported from Japan.
What Ford believed to be a resounding success turned out to be a fatal mistake not just to the company’s safety record but to their customers as well with as many as 53 people dying from the cars exploding upon impact.
In 1999, General Motors set a goal to win back 29% of the American market and regain their footing in the automotive industry. Again, another failure. Not only did General Motors lose even more money, but ultimately lost their title to Toyota as the world’s largest car company in 2008.
And let’s not forget the infamous sinking of the Titanic, which claimed the lives of 1,500 passengers and crew that fateful night of April 15, 1912.
One of the most significant contributors to the disaster was White Star Line’s President, J. Bruce Ismay, and his goal for the Titanic to cross the Atlantic in record time.
Why should you set goals?
Now the question is: is goal setting even worth it?
The short answer to this is a resounding YES!
I’m not just saying this based on my personal experience on how goal setting has helped me in my business and own life. Organizational psychologists Gary Latham and Edwin Locke conducted several studies that showed setting goals could improve your performance and productivity by as much as 25%.
That’s because when you have set goals to accomplish, it narrows your attention and focus. Set goals also help you decide which actions to take and which ones to avoid.
As to why some goals inflict more harm than good, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management professor, Adam Galinsky, explains that the problem lies in the actual process of achieving these goals.
“[When the goals you set] focus too much [on] the wrong things, it can lead to crazy behaviors to get people to achieve them,” he explained.
It’s for that very reason why I decided to create this guide so that you not only set the right kind of goals but, more importantly, crush them and achieve whatever your heart desires.
10 goal setting tips
1. Do a brain dump.
As we’ve learned earlier, there’s such a thing as good goals and bad goals. Good goals are more than those things that you know will make you a better employee, business owner, friend, spouse, or parent.
The right goals to set are those that inspire and motivate you, and not those suggested to you by someone else. If you try to achieve someone else’s goal but your heart’s not into it, it would be easy for you to quit. And even if you are successful in achieving this, you won’t be thrilled with accomplishing it.
Doing a brain dump will help find which are the right goals to achieve because it allows you to write everything down, review each one, and get in touch with the feelings that they evoke.
For this, you’ll need a timer, a pen, and some sheets of paper.
Step #1: Write everything down.
Set your timer for 10 minutes. During this time, write down every single thing that you want to accomplish. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Just write down everything as they come to mind. The goal here is to get everything out of your head and onto the paper.
After the 10 minutes are up, you should have quite a long list of things that you want to do.
Step #2: Remove those that are beyond your control.
Next, set the timer for 5 minutes. During this time, go through your list and draw a line across those that you have no control over.
For example, perhaps you wrote there that you want your children or your spouse to love you more. I hate to break it to you, but this is something that is beyond your control because you can’t control how a person feels, even if those are your children.
Or perhaps you want to aim to have a zero absenteeism in your team. Again, that’s something that’s beyond your control. That’s because you can’t control how each of your team members live their lives beyond the walls of your office.
Step #3: Remove those you find boring or give you a negative feeling.
In Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map Experience: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul, she made a bold statement that it’s not all about the goals that you set. Instead, it’s the feeling that you get as you go through the process and, ultimately, when you achieve it.
So the next step is to set the timer for another 5 minutes and go through your list again. This time, take a look at those that you haven’t crossed out yet and become mindful about how each of these makes you feel. Place a line across those that you don’t find exciting, inspiring or interesting. Also, scratch off those that are giving you some negative feelings like guilt and regret.
That way, you’re left with a list that inspires and motivates you. All these positive vibes will makes you feel competent and confident.
2. Choose one goal for each area in your life.
Less is more when it comes to goal setting. That’s because studies show that having more than 7 goals at any given time causes us to lose focus.
A common mistake people in this part is focusing on hitting goals just in one area of your life. Doing this throws your entire work-life balance out the window.
That said, to achieve a healthy work-life balance, choose one goal to accomplish for your business or career, for your family, for your health, for your finances, and your personal development. That gives you five goals to hit.
When choosing which goals to pick from your list, there’s always the possibility that one goal may come into conflict with another. If that happens, take a moment to step back and evaluate which of these is more important and prioritize this. You can always add the other goal into your list once you’ve achieved the first.
Recommended Reading: Transitioning from College to Career: A Guide for New Grads
3. Write down your goals.
Henriette Ann Klauser highlights the importance of writing down your goals in her book Write It Down and Make It Happen.
In this book, she notes that writing something down shows your level of commitment and intention to make this happen. It’s the same principle as signing a contract or listing your business’ terms and conditions.
Take note that Klauser says to write your goals down, which means that you need to scribble your goals by hand. The reason is that writing by hand takes longer than typing it out on your computer. The time difference may be minimal, but taking that extra time to write it down is one way of telling your subconscious self that you’re fully committed to making this happen.
Also, writing things down improves memory recall. The moment you begin to write, your brain starts processing every single stroke you make. This, combined with the positive feelings you feel as you write down these goals, help burn them into your memory and subconscious.
In addition to writing your goals, make sure to include WHY you want to achieve this particular. Take some time to go into detail when writing this. Not only will this help you internalize this, but explaining why you’re setting out to achieve this goal will keep you motivated to press through when challenges and struggles come your way.
4. Follow the SMART method.
SMART is an acronym that best describes the characteristics of a well-defined goal. It also what differentiates a goal from a dream or a wish.
When setting a goal, make sure that it’s:
Your goal must plainly tell you what is it that you want to accomplish. At the same time, it shouldn’t be too narrow that there’s no wiggle room for you or for members of your team (if you’re setting a business goal).
You need to have some sort of benchmark in place to let you know whether you’ve hit your goal. It also serves as a guide to tell you how far off you are from reaching your goal so you can make the proper adjustments if needed.
This is tricky because you need to make sure that you’ll be able to achieve this goal regardless of the circumstance. At the same time, your goals should be big and imaginative enough to force you to step out in your comfort zone.
When determining whether the goal you’re setting is realistic, you first need to determine what you will need to make this goal into a reality. From there, ask yourself and honestly answer if you have the skills or means to get these done.
Another is to imagine the worst case scenario because the truth is obstacles and challenges will come in between you and your goal. These can come in the form of time, money, family members, and even your own fears and doubts.
A realistic goal should make you nervous, but not to the point that it will make you feel overwhelmed and second-guess yourself. If you’re starting to feel that, then it means that your goal isn’t realistic and you may have to tone it down.
All goals must have a deadline when you want to achieve this. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself either procrastinating on it or aimlessly wandering through the journey.
5. Break down big goals into chunks.
Big goals are those that take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete. The majority of the goals we usually set are big goals: launching an online business, publishing a book, or losing weight.
Since these take a considerable amount of time, it’s very easy for these to make you feel overwhelmed and not want to even go anywhere near it.
Breaking these big goals into chunks of smaller goals and milestones will make them more doable. So even if you’re taking baby steps towards your goal, you’re moving in the right direction.
6. Hit one goal at a time.
I did mention earlier to choose 5 goals, one for each area of your life. However, when it comes to taking action to hit these goals, tackle only one goal at a time. That way, you can stay laser-focused on what it is you want to achieve and concentrated in taking the steps you need to take.
7. Create a vision board.
Our brains process images 600,000 times faster than words. They also do a much better job in evoking emotions. That’s the reason why we prefer receiving graphs and charts when we do our presentations at work or post a photo of that excellent dinner you had with your friends than just describing it.
Creating a vision board is an excellent way of breathing life to your goals. I recently interviewed with KeeKee Williams, Founder of B.O.S.S. Lady Consulting where she shared the benefits of creating a vision board as part of your goal setting and how to create one. So be sure to check it out.
8. Create an action plan.
Now that you know what goals to reach, it’s time to list down the action steps that you’ll need to take and write these down as part of your to-do list in order of importance.
Just like in setting your goals, make sure that you write these steps by starting it off with a verb to prompt your brain to take action. Also, make this very specific. Ideally, each you should be able to complete one action step anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours each day. That way, these steps won’t overwhelm you.
When I wrote my book, 5 Steps to Becoming Your Best Self: Stop Beating Yourself Up, Improve the Quality of Your Life and Be your Best Self, I didn’t write the book, convert it to a PDF and uploaded it to Amazon in one go. Instead, I broke it down into the following actionable steps:
- Write 500 words each day
- Proofread and edit the text
- Design the layout
- Choose and add the images
- Designed the cover
- Upload the ebook to Amazon
As a result, I was able to complete my book in less than 2 short weeks!
9. Reward yourself for each milestone achieved.
Best-selling author and coach Tony Robbins said that there are two reasons behind why we take action: to avoid pain or to gain pleasure.
While either reason will deliver the same result, we are more easily driven by pleasure. Even though the pleasurable feeling is only momentarily, it’s enough to keep us pressing forward despite the challenges that lie ahead.
Unfortunately, it’s that same desire for pleasure that can steer us away from us reaching our goals. That’s the reason why it can be such a struggle to say no to a luscious cake oozing with rich, dark chocolate while you’re on a diet or to go through your Facebook account instead of finishing up that report you need to submit to your boss.
Given that, take time to reward yourself each time that you hit a set milestone or short-term goal. Just be sure that the reward is proportioned to the effort you’ve put into the milestone or short-term goal.
For example, if you’ve been able to hit your goal of going to the gym to exercise and stick to your diet this week, treat yourself for a luxurious day in the spa with your friends. On the other hand, if you hit your sales target this month before the deadline you were given, why not take a weekend off to relax and unwind.
10. Take time to evaluate your goals.
If there are not many people that take the time to set their goals, the number of people that make the time to review and evaluate their goals is even less.
Setting time to review and evaluate your goals helps you to track your progress. It also enables you to make some adjustments because of unavoidable and uncontrollable circumstances.
For instance, you included going to the gym 3x a week as one of your action steps. However, you tore and was told by your doctor that you couldn’t go to the gym for a couple of months. Of course, you didn’t want this to happen. However, now it’s here. You need to come up with alternatives so that you can keep your momentum going.
I usually take a few minutes of the day every Sunday to review and evaluate my goals. That way, I know which action steps to add to my to-do list for the coming week.
In this guide, I’ve shared with you why goal setting is essential as well as tips on how to properly set your goals.
There’s one more thing that you need, and that is to BELIEVE! You may be sold to how achieving these goals will change your career, your relationships, and your life for the better. You may even have a very detailed action plan to take you through the journey. However, if you doubt yourself, your skills, and your capabilities, none of this would work.
The next step
Goal setting is just the first step. Going through the process and hitting these goals is a different story altogether.
In this guide, I’ve already shared to you some tips to help you get started. As you go through your journey and you begin encountering challenges and roadblocks along the way, having a professional executive coach to cheer you on and keep you focused on the right path can increase your chances of succeeding.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s one goal that you want to achieve this coming year? What are the steps you’re going to take to make this happen? Share these in the comments below.