How to Set Goals Effectively?

Goal setting is a very powerful strategy for personal and professional success, yet its importance is often neglected. Having goals in life can be very important for various reasons, one of the most important one is that goals help us to become motivated in an effective way. The importance of having goals in life can be outlined by having a look at very successful people, as everyone of them knew exactly what they were aiming at and what their goals were.

Goal Setting Theories and Principles

SMART Goal Setting

One of the most commonly known goal setting theory is the mnemonic S.M.A.R.T that was primarily applied to help employees set their professional goals and for project management until it found its way into personal development and personal goal setting. The mnemonic says that all goals have to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed in order to be phrased in the most effective way. The SMART rule helps you to discover incomplete or faulty phrased goals such as, “I want to become successful” and allows you to rephrase these goals to be more effective such as, “I will increase my sales by 20% within the next year, which will help me to get promoted.”

KISS and DUMB Goal Setting

Besides that it is important to keep your goals simple (Keep It Simple Stup*d) and Doable, Understandable, Manageable and Beneficial. This goal setting theory is especially important when you are pursuing very ambitious goals and objectives that should rather be split into several easier sub-goals. Doing so will allow you to address one sub-goal after another and helps you to maintain your motivation until you achieved your main goal. The second aspect of keeping it simple is to focus on a couple of very important goals rather than having a dozen different aims you want to accomplish at the same time. Doing so will help you to focus on the utmost important objectives and help you to invest more time and energy towards their accomplishment.

Challenge: The Key Principle of Goal Setting

Goals need to stir your emotions in order to motivate you to do whatever it takes to accomplish them; one key factor that allows you to do so is by setting challenging goals. Just imagine how boring it is when you set yourself unchallenging objectives such as, “I want to maintain my income at the same level like the past five years!”, especially when you absolutely know that you will accomplish this goal in any case. However, by increasing the level of challenge you can also increase your motivation to accomplish the given aim, particularly when you know that the achievement of this goal will result in a positive outcome for you, your life and your financial security. Everytime you set a new goal try to make it a challenge that is not that easy to accomplish, but still reachable and realistic. “I want to be the first human being that is able to fly without any tools” might be challenging but is not realistic at all and might even demotivate you as you are not able to reach it.

Commitment: The Second Key Principle of Goal Setting

Commitment is an important factor when it comes to goal setting. Your boss, parents or partner can dictate you the most challenging and well-phrased goals, but unless you feel yourself committed to these goals you will face difficulties to accomplish them. Your parents might expect from you to reach an outstanding GPA but if it’s not your deepest desire to reach this aim you won’t be able to do so. Effective goal setting depends on your commitment and your burning desire to accomplish your very own goals. Inherited goals that society, your family or your friends imposed on you cannot establish this desire, which is why it will become tremendously difficult to reach these goals. Sometimes you have the luxury to ignore imposed goals (from your family), however it is not possible to ignore fixed goals from your boss. In these cases it can be helpful to think about possible rewards you receive as soon as you accomplished these objectives, which will help you to feel committed towards these goals as well.

How to Set a Goal?

It is important that, whenever you set a goal, to take yourself time and to write your goals down. One of the reasons so many new year resolutions fail is that people think about a goal they want to achieve (or something they want to avoid) in the new year, without taking some time to phrase their goals and to write them down. This causes them to forget their goals within short-periods of time and in the end they notice that they weren’t able to accomplish their goal at all. Here is how to set a goal effectively:

#1 Write your goal down

The reason why it is so important to write a goal down is that you will not forget it, which rejects all possible excuses, from “I have forgotten it” to “I had a completely different goal”, etc. The second aspect of writing a goal down is that you will automatically receive a goal list that you can read aloud every once in a while, if possible even once a day.

#2 Phrasing

When you phrase your goal make use of the word “will” instead of “must”, “have to”, “would like” and “might”, as these words are associated with negative constraints, allow excuses or lack intensity.

#3 Planning

Make sure to add short notes on how you intent to accomplish your goal, what task need to be performed and what possible obstacles you might have to face. You can plan on how to reach your goals by creating an action plan or a goal setting worksheet

#4 Ignite the Desire

Desire is an essential emotion when it comes to goal setting as it will maintain your motivation and allow you to do “whatever it takes” until you have accomplished your goal. Just have a look at top achievers like sportsmen and how enthusiastic and encouraged some of them pursue their goals, because they were able to ignite their inner desire to achieve what they want to achieve.

Mistakes to Avoid in Goal Setting

#1 New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s Eve is for most of us the time to look back and to sum up the events of the year. However, New Year’s Eve is also the time where people set themselves new goals and resolutions for the upcoming year, mostly unplanned last minute decisions. Research has shown that approximately 88% of the New Year’s resolutions fail! Goal setting should be considered as a continuous and conscious process that requires some time to set goals in an appropriate way.

#2 Negations

A very common goal phrase often starts with, “I don’t want to …”, which is also often part of an New Year’s resolution like, “I don’t want to smoke in the new year!”. Goals that are phrased with negations are condemned to fail as our brain cannot recognize negations. What our brain will decipher instead is:

“I want to smoke in the new year!”

As you can see, goal setting in combination with negations can be a vicious circle and should be avoided by any means.

The following articles might also interest you:

How to Set Goals Like a Top Achiever
How to Reach Your Goals
Powerful Goal Setting