Is reaching goals important to you? Or, are you more of a free rover? Though the path is your own to choose, you should know that not all of them lead to the top. Multiple success stories have proven this, along with two frequently cited studies on the importance of goal setting.
In 1979, interviewers asked the Harvard MBA Programme, how many of them set goals? They found 84% of them set no goals at all, 13% of them set goals but they weren’t committed on paper and only 3% of them set goals that were committed on paper and had planned to accomplish them.
In 1989, they interviewed the same individuals again, they found that 13% of those who set goals but weren’t committed on paper were making twice as much as the 84% who had never set goal.
The 3% who set goals and committed on paper and had the plan to accomplish them were making more money than the 97% put together.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” ~ Jim Rohn
On the other side, the gain in having one is simply too great to miss out on. Here’s why all front-runners are goal-setters, and what you can learn from them.
Why Is It Important to Set Goals?
Contrary to the popular belief, goal setting was not invented by self-help books and life coaches. People have envisioned their desired results from the dawn of time, and it’s only natural that they still do.
It’s a shortcut to success, a propeller to our dreams, and a definite action plan that allows us to accomplish great things.
Be they big or small, objectives are a way for you to design your future, instead of leaving it all up to chance. You are the only tailor of your destiny, after all, and you should always remember to measure twice before you cut. The brilliant thing about goals is that they help you achieve your highest potential, but that’s not all they can do.A goal properly set is halfway reached. - Zig Ziglar
First, Goals Give You Control
Many people, hard-workers, and idlers alike walk through life without any general notion of who they are or what they want to become. As terrifying as this may sound, it can happen to each and every one of us, including you. But, if you envision clear goals, you’re being proactive about it. It’s up to you, then, to take control and work towards your aim. I see a lot of people who want work-life balance from their jobs and yet they don’t set appropriate step to get there.
Then, They Give You Focus
You won’t have many chances, though. Since life is short, how you choose to spend your time and channel your energy makes all the difference. Our talents and abilities are what defines us, but they are of little purpose if wasted on random choices. Goals give you direction in life and narrow your focus so that everything you imagine can be realized.
But, They Also Keep You Motivated
Living up to your own expectations is never easy, and there will be times when you lack the motivation to keep pushing. That’s another obstacle that goal setting can help you overcome – when it becomes too hard to endure, it’s nice to have something to look forward to and get excited about.
Goals Transform Insurmountable Mountains into Walkable Hills
You should never hesitate to shoot for the moon, at least as long as you understand that you can’t get there overnight. Far-fetched goals ask for elaborate plans, but they also allow you to break down your aspirations into smaller, more achievable stepping stones.
They Allow You to Measure Your Progress
Being a fixed endpoint and a benchmark to compare with, a clearly set objective gives you a chance to stay on top of your progress, every step of the way. Not only is every milestone a step closer to the goal, but it is also a tiny victory that motivates you to keep calm and carry on.
Goals Help You Discover Who You Are
Goal setting is all about thinking ahead, which not many of us can say we do. Sure, we all have our little plans about how happy and fulfilled we want to be, but what do these notions actually mean for you as an individual? Do they represent love, health, money, recognition, or something else entirely?
The only way to find out is to set an objective, succeed or fail while reaching it, and then adjust and improve. While doing so, you’re able to learn and grow from your mistakes. And, that’s the real importance of goal setting for you – it helps you achieve maximum results, but also discover which results you want to achieve, and at what cost.
And, They Help Us Live Life to the Fullest
Finally, goals give you a healthy sense of urgency. It’s not that you have to reach the desired results immediately, but that you need to stay committed and productive in the process. There’s something about deadlines that makes you cherish your spare time more, living it to the fullest instead of wasting it away.
Use Your Imagination to Give Your Life Colorful Dimension
Turn around and describe the first go-getter you see. Commonly perceived as people of high ambition and great self-organizational skills, they are sometimes dismissed as overly calculated.
In comparison to creative types who believe that true life happens while you’re busy making plans, achievers seem stiff, uninteresting and unspontaneous.
Take a closer look and try again. You’ll discover that many of these people’s aspirations are delicious pies in the sky. They dream about the same crazy, unrealistic things as the rest of us do, but they don’t like being told that their dreams are unachievable.
Rather than wishful thinking, they choose the action.
The purpose of goal setting isn’t to keep you grounded. On the contrary! Goal setting encourages you to tap into your imagination and think about all the different things you could achieve, even those you’ve thought impossible.
As long as you work hard, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish!
Key Aspects of Goal Setting
So, now that you know how paramount the importance of goal setting actually is, it’s time to start doing it right.
Penning it down isn’t enough, though – you need to figure out how to bring your mission to a successful conclusion too.
Let your goals serve as a road map in which each action will be a turning point. Here’s how.
Evaluation and Reflection
Like everything else in life, goal setting begins with introspection. Clear out your schedule, pour a cup of tea and have a little tête-à-tête with yourself.
List a number of things you’d like to get done – they can be seemingly insignificant daily goals or long-term objectives – and start thinking about why, how and when you should make them happen.
Both planning and execution require some honesty. You’ll need to evaluate your limits and goals each step of the way, or you might end up realizing you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
That’s why you should always keep an open dialogue with yourself, track your accomplishments and reflect on what you’ve done and whether or not there was a better way of doing it.
Dreams and Goals
Another importance of goal setting is that it helps us believe in ourselves more than we think we deserve. If you are a complete stranger to this process, just imagine the way you would feel after having reached a written goal for the first time.
It’s an incredible self-esteem boost, even for those insecure enough to think of accomplishments as pipe dreams.
But still, be careful with the goals you set for yourself. It takes some time to get proficient at appointing deadlines and actually sticking to them, and until you’ve mastered the basics of self-control, staying modest might be a good idea.
Start small and climb gradually.
The big question here is could any of us accomplish everything. You should always trust that you can, but don’t underestimate the scope of certain objectives. If you decide to go for your dreams, you’ll have to stay driven, committed and determined.
Exactly because that doesn’t always happen (and that’s why some goals are deemed unachievable in the first place), smart goal-setters have developed a framework for picking and reaching objectives.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable and realistic goals, and also the time needed for attaining success – all of which you have to ace in order to do this effectively.
Another thing you should learn is that productive goal setting should hold you accountable for giving up on your dreams.
It may sound scary, but it is why it works! Though this insanely beneficial technique can skyrocket you straight to the top, it requires a certain level of responsibility.
Great goal-setters never fear introspection or self-questioning. And, since constant improvement is crucial for success, you shouldn’t either.
In case you fail (and you will, so don’t worry about it), be quick to ask yourself “Why didn’t this work?”, “How can I make it better the next time around”, and most importantly, “Was it all out of my reach, or am I responsible for backsliding?”
How to Set SMART Goals
Setting goals is the first step into turning the invisible into the visible. - Tony Robbins
At last, you arrive at the final chapter. It’s also the highest level of effective goal setting, so listen up. SMART goals is a world-renowned technique with a great number of business leaders and accomplished visionaries who are happy to pass it on, and the only thing you need to do is to follow their example.
We’ve mentioned earlier how every person has some vague notion about what they want to do with their life, while only a handful understand what they really aspire to. These are the ones who realize the importance of setting specific goals – being clearly defined, such goals tell you exactly what you need to do.
That said, be as precise as possible. Don’t just say you want to become a rock musician, but think about it in terms of both short-term and long-term probability. If you want to be the number one, can you immediately shoot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or do you need to apply for a demo test first?
You can either start really small and make the local scene your first objective or opt for a big one and break it down into actionable steps. Either way, a viable plan asks for a specific goal. Anything else would mean that you’d have to rely on a blind guess.
Because some goals are harder to achieve than others, it’s always smart to stay within a measurable scope. Don’t let this discourage you – you don’t necessarily have to be good with numbers in order to gauge the milestones you’ve completed and the things that are yet to be done.
What setting measurable goals really means is to divide an objective into assessable increments, quantify the steps, and stay on top of the progress. To return to the previous example, you need to know how many rock and roll fans it takes to become a local star, and how many to scoop the international acclaim.
Believe it or not, these numbers will tell you everything you need to know about how to market your music, what numbers to dial, and how long each of the steps should last. The same goes for any imaginable goal, be that a master’s degree, a business promotion, or getting lean for the summer.
Again, let’s talk about possibilities. Though SMART insists on attainable goals, who are we really to say what is attainable and what is not? In fact, the only factor that determines that is the time! As long as you are serious about doing something and realistic about how long that would take, the world is your oyster.
You could not expect to become the next John Lennon in a year, let alone a month, but you could give yourself some time and work as hard as you possibly can. With that in mind, it might do you good to practice being less insecure and more patient, persistent, and optimistic.
However, long-term goals have a nasty habit of tricking us. When the endpoint is too far-off, you might stray away somewhere in the middle, or worse, become frustrated and lose motivation and interest. That’s why most people prefer not to choose challenging goals – those who are not are the ones who we call realistic.
Unlike challenging tasks, realistic goals are achievable with the skill-set and the willpower that you currently possess. If you decide to face your limits and pick a challenging one, you’ll certainly need to change your attitude, work on your confidence, and develop an ability or two more.
Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t, not even yourself. In case you’re absolutely certain that this is your peak, we guess that’s okay too. As long as you’re not underestimating what you’re capable of, no one can say that your goals are too small, just the same as there isn’t such a thing as unrealistic dreams.
We should always be respectful of the time we’re given, which is simultaneously the last element of SMART goal setting. If you think you still have plenty of it, think twice! This isn’t a fatalistic warning, of course, but a simple reminder of how quick we are to waste our time on things that don’t truly matter.
The people who haven’t procrastinated a day in their entire life are extremely rare if there are such people at all. Besides, the entire point of goal setting is to beat this unhealthy habit by establishing productive hours and sticking to them. Deadlines are helpful for the same reason, so don’t take them as unnecessary pressure.
Ultimately, it’s the time frame that determines whether a goal you’ve set for yourself is achievable or not. Besides keeping you focused, it also gives you a benchmark to measure your progress by. There’s a great possibility you’ll fail if you assume that you don’t need one, so at least give it a try.
Clear Your Mind of Can’tThis one step – choosing a goal and sticking to it – changes everything. - Scott Reed
We’ve gushed so much about the importance of goal setting that we forgot to mention that it is also a lot of fun. It goes without saying that you’ll have to find a middle ground between being driven and taking it way too seriously since the latter can lead to pressure and frustration.
Stay determined, but positive – with the right attitude, some self-control, and a smart plan, everyone can accomplish amazing things!