“If you want to be happy, set goals that command your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”—Andrew Carnegie
Goals are specific, close-ended quantifiable objectives with a fixed time frame for achieving them. Hence, the results have a strong correlation to the level of efforts to achieve them. Goals can be broken down into smaller and short terms objectives, which then become checkpoints for making sure that you are on the right track.
Setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, helps guides your focus and helps you sustain momentum in life.
Goals also help align your focus and promotes a sense of self-mastery. In the end, you can’t manage what you don’t measure and you can’t improve upon something that you don’t properly manage.
What are the Benefits of Goal Setting?
Goals not only affect behavior, but they also help mobilize energy which leads to a higher effort overall. Higher effort leads to an increase in persistent effort.
Goals help motivate us to develop strategies that will enable us to perform at the required goal level.
Accomplishing the goal can either lead to satisfaction and further motivation or frustration and lower motivation if the goal is not accomplished.
How Can Goal Setting Improve Performance?
Goal setting theory is based upon the simplest of introspective observations, specifically, that conscious human behavior is purposeful.
This behavior is regulated by one’s goals. The directedness of those goals characterizes the actions of all living organisms including things like plants.
Goal-setting theory, states that the simplest and most direct motivational explanation on why some people perform better than others is because they have different performance goals.
Two attributes have been studied in relation to performance:
In regard to content, the two aspects that have been focused on include specificity and difficulty. Goal content can range from vague to very specific as well as difficult or not as difficult.
Difficulty depends upon the relationship someone has to the task. The same task or goal can be easy for one person, and more challenging for the next, so it’s all relative.
On average, the higher the absolute level is of a goal, the more difficult it is to achieve. According to research, there have been more than 400 studies that have examined the relationship of goal attributes to task performance.
It has been consistently found that performance is a linear function of a goal’s difficulty. Given an adequate level of ability and commitment, the harder a goal, the higher the performance.
What the researchers discovered was that people normally adjust their level of effort to the difficulty of the goal. As a result, they try harder for difficult goals when compared to easier goals.
The principle of goal-directed action is not restricted to conscious action.
Goal-directed action is defined by three attributes:
Self-generation refers to the source of energy integral to the organism. Value-significance refers to the idea that the actions not only make it possible but necessary to the organism’s survival. Goal-causation means the resulting action is caused by a goal.
While we can see that all living organisms experience some kind of goal-related action, humans are the only organisms that possess a higher form of consciousness, at least according to what we know at this point in time.
When humans take purposeful action, they set goals in order to achieve them.
How Goal Setting Motivates Individuals
“Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.”—Jim Rohn
Research tells us that goal setting is important on both an individual and a group basis. Locke and Latham have also shown us that there is an important relationship between goals and performance.
Locke and Latham’s research supports the idea that the most effective performance seems to be the result of goals being both specific and challenging. When goals are used to evaluate performance and linked to feedback on results, they create a sense of commitment and acceptance.
The researchers also found that the motivational impact of goals may be affected by ability and self-efficacy, or one’s belief that they can achieve something.
It was also found that deadlines helped improve the effectiveness of a goal and a learning goal orientation leads to higher performance when compared to a performance goal orientation.
Learning to Set Goals
“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. ”—Norman Vincent Peale
Learning to set goals can transform your life forever. There is power in reaching out into the future, designing something to the best of your ability, refining it as you go, tearing it up periodically if you want to, setting a whole new list. It’s your life. It’s your future.
Components of Powerful Goals
The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes you do to accomplish it. This will always be a far greater value than what you get. That is why goals are so powerful. They are part of the fabric that makes up our lives.
Goal setting is powerful because it provides focus, shapes our dreams, and gives us the ability to home in on the exact actions we need to take in order to get everything in life we desire. Goals cause us to stretch and grow in ways we never have before. In order to reach our goals, we must become better—we must change and grow.
Powerful goals have three components:
- Goals must be inspiring.
- They must be believable.
- They must be goals you can act on.
Life is designed in such a way that we look long term and live short term. We dream for the future and live in the present. Unfortunately, the present can produce many hard obstacles. Fortunately, the more powerful our goals (because they are inspiring and believable), the more we will be able to act on them in the short term and guarantee that they will actually come to pass.
Setting Powerful Goals
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”—Pablo Picasso
So, what are the key aspects to learn and remember when studying and writing our goals? Here’s a closer look at goal setting and how you can make it forceful and practical:
1. Evaluation and Reflection
The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we will get there is to first know where we are right now and what our current level of satisfaction is. With our focus on goal setting, the first order of business is for each of us to set aside some serious time for evaluation and reflection.
2. Dreams and Goals
What are your dreams and goals? Not related to the past or what you think you can get, but what you want. Have you ever really sat down, thought through your life values and decided what you really want? This isn’t what someone else says you should have or what culture tells us successful people do or have. These are the dreams and goals born out of your own heart and mind, goals unique to you and that come from who you were created to be and gifted to become.
The word accountable means to give an account. When someone knows what your goals are, they help hold you accountable. Whether it is someone else trying to reach the same goal with you or just someone you can give the basic idea to, having an accountability partner will give you another added boost to accomplishing your goals.
4. Setting SMART Goals
SMART means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
- Specific: Don’t be vague. Exactly what do you want?
- Measurable: Quantify your goal. How will you know if you’ve achieved it or not?
- Achievable: Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish at this point in your life while taking into consideration your current responsibilities.
- Realistic: It’s got to be doable, real and practical.
- Time-Bound: Associate a time frame with each goal. When should you complete the goal?
Examples of S.M.A.R.T. Goals
This system is sure to provide structure and accountability in your professional, academic, or personal life. Let’s take a look at a few examples that might help you build out your own goal-setting system.
1. Sample of a Professional S.M.A.R.T. Goal
Overall Goal: I want to run my own consulting business.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal: Within one month, I will land my first client after organizing a sensible plan for sending out pitches.
- Specific: Using my network, I will seek out companies in need of my consulting services.
- Measurable: I will pitch my first three clients within two weeks, aiming to pitch five per week thereafter.
- Achievable: I will competently outline what I can do for businesses, I will perfect my pitch, and work on my portfolio.
- Relevant: Knowing this is something I’m good at, I will utilize my contacts and remain focused on my dream to do work I enjoy.
- Time-Bound: I will start pitching clients immediately; within a month, I will have my first paying client.
2. Sample of an Academic S.M.A.R.T. Goal
Overall Goal: I want to be a better student.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal: I will target my lowest class average in order to raise my overall GPA.
- Specific: I want to improve my overall GPA so I can apply for new scholarships next semester.
- Measurable: I will earn at least a B in all my exams exam.
- Achievable: I will meet with a math tutor every week to help me focus on my weak spots.
- Relevant: I will reduce my participation in extra-curricular activities next semester.
- Time-Bound: I still have six weeks until midterms. This leaves me plenty of time to meet with a tutor and decide if any additional steps are necessary.
3. Sample of a Personal S.M.A.R.T. Goal
Overall Goal: I want to lose weight and be in better health.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal: I will focus on my food habits, and I will begin to lead a healthier lifestyle.
- Specific: I will cut down on junk food as a first step toward overall good health.
- Measurable: By December, I will only have organic foods and healthy snacks in my pantry.
- Achievable: I will see a nutritionist to design a healthy eating plan.
- Relevant: This will cure some of my nagging ailments e.g. fatigue, lower back pain.
- Time-Bound: In September I will change my eating habits. In October I will start walking more. By the holidays, I’ll be able to indulge a little without ruining my new healthy habits.
Did you notice all the instances of “I will” in the above examples? Keep telling yourself that you will do this, that you can do this, not just that you’d like to. You started achieving your goal the minute you wrote S.M.A.R.T. on that fresh sheet of paper.
It’s true that stress doesn’t always leave room for motivation. However, if we chip away at small projects, little by little, following S.M.A.R.T. goals, we will start to see positive changes emerge. The simple act of checking things off our goal sheets is profoundly rewarding. That small act can have a domino effect down a whole stream of other activities.
Stay on the Right Track
Writing down measurable goals and objectives help you stay on track and stay encouraged. Dream as big as you’d like. Just make sure you start with specific and measurable milestones that are achievable and relevant. Making your goals time-based means you just might get there this time and watch your plans finally take shape.
“The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.”—Seth Godin
For this and much more Information relating to employability skills, employment opportunities, career advancement and entrepreneurship development; Join our Telegram and WhatsApp groups, and also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.