Golden Rules of Personal Goal Setting
How many times did you find yourself thinking about the future? Have you thought about what you would like to do in five or ten years? Can you list your priorities and define your main goals for the upcoming year?
And what is more important – do you pay attention to your small daily achievements?
Setting goals and recording every small achievement is the key part of the road to success. Without a good plan, it is easy to lose direction.
When we work on our goals and set them right, they help us regain control of our future. They also tell us if we’re doing well, heading to where we want to be, or if it’s just another dead end.
Goals we set are basically a road map for our lives, helping us stay focused and motivated, always striving for the best opportunities and right options. They exist to boost our experience in every situation along our journey to success.
Now we know that every successful person sets goals, including professional athletes and business people. This gives them not only a long-term vision but also short-term inspiration. Well defined goals help them use the knowledge they have and the experience they’ve earned to organize their lives better by using the mentioned resources the right way.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LONG-TERM AND SHORT-TERM GOALS
The first thing we should all understand before even getting on to goal setting is what types of goals are there.
Some of them are time-limited, while others are quite hard to reach, so we seek more time and help to reach them.
And while they can be shared on many categories, they all fall into short-term goals and long-term goals.
Here’s the difference:
Short-term goals include easier and more attainable goals that will most likely be accomplished soon.
This near-future can mean a week, a month, or even a few months, depending on the complexity of the plan and its realization. This period is relative and depends on our priorities and even other plans we have.
In most cases, short-term goals are limited to 12 months or less.
Whatever seems achievable for you in a 12-month period could be listed here.
For most of us, this contains purchasing something we were saving for, taking a class, trying the sport we like, meeting new people and similar.
On the other side, there are long-term goals which describe what we want to do further in our future. These are more complex and require more time for planning.
They are often easy reached once they’re broken into smaller parts which can be listed in short-term goals.
The name says it all – it takes more effort to reach these, and by the time we do, many of us lose hope and give up on the very end of the road.
Based on what we previously said, the long-term goals are obviously those who take 12 months or more to accomplish.
This category includes graduation, development of new business, saving for retirement, etc.
Now it’s easier to understand why it takes so much time to accomplish these.
In extreme cases, a long-term goal can be completed after a series of short-term and long-term goals. It can take up to 10 years to reach them.
For instance, people who decide to become doctors, first have to finish college, medical school and then a medical residency.
It’s clear that each of them takes at least four years to finish, which exceeds the 10 years we spoke about.
We see that long term goals can be quite hard to complete, especially without a good plan, motivation, and support.
The best advice we’ve seen so far says: “Look long-term, but live short-term”.
Many of us enjoy dreaming of the things we want to have, but who can focus on the present moment and do what’s necessary to reach the final goal?
The one time we actually have and are able to use is happening right now, so it takes immediate action to obtain any goal we set for the future.
Only today gives you the opportunity to change things so they can take the direction you want.
The real work doesn’t happen on the day we set our goal for, it happens in the present-day so plan it wisely.
SET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT
It’s always easier said than done. In reality, most people get confused when speaking about their goals in life.
We all list the things we currently crave for or those that seem quite impossible, forgetting what’s more important at the moment.
This is why we have to work on choosing the right goals for our further development and future success.
Some of them are currently more important than others, and it’s best to find a good balance between the thing you need and the things you always wanted.
The key part of choosing goals is to aim not too high and not too low.
In other words, we must cover every key area in our lives and to set goals in all of these categories.
To make it easier, we’ve listed some of the areas that could be considered in goal setting.
- Family (Do you want to fix a relationship with someone? Do you wish to become a parent? Do you want to help the ones close to you achieve their own goals?)
- Finance (How much would you like to earn by doing what you love? Can you save for a new car?)
- Education (Which skills are necessary for what you want to achieve? Are there any skills you always wanted to learn? What additional knowledge would help you do your dream job better?)
- Career (What do want to do in the future? What level would you like to reach by the next year?)
- Attitude (Is there something in your behavior that keeps holding you back, but can be fixed? Is there something you hate about your attitude but don’t work on it just enough?)
- Physical Health (Is your health the priority to you? Is there any physical skill that interests you? Do you wish to improve your athletic skills or even appearance? Do you want to lose weight? Is your diet good? Do you get enough sleep? Do you have some detrimental addictions?)
- Contribution (Do you want to volunteer? Do you wish to give a contribution and make the world a better place? How would you do that? What is your purpose here?)
These are just basics from which you could find at least one goal to pursue.
Choose what best reflect who you are and who you want to be.
From all that you’ve chosen, underline and focus on the most important ones first.
Learn how to choose priorities, or even list your goals in the descending order.
Separating all goals into three categories is advised:
- Must do – these goals are of the highest priority and they are the key elements of your success or happiness.
- Should do – these goals aren’t essential for your career or your private life, but it would help to have them completed.
- Nice to do – these have the lowest priority and represent pleasure (everything you would love to do or have in the future but it’s absolutely not necessary and won’t affect your current life).
FOCUS BOTH ON YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
People tend to think that sorting out weaknesses is way harder than simply working on the strong sides because they take the same effort but give a much greater return.
But they fail when surrounded by people who can do something far better than them.
There is no reason to only improve your solid knowledge, good skills, and positive sides while ignoring the rest you cannot do that well. Ignoring weaknesses won’t make them disappear. We all have them and we always will.
But once you determine the weak sides, you’ll be able to separate them from the rest and spare some time to work on them as well.
A plan for improvement should be made for the weaknesses as much as it’s needed for our strengths.
Nowadays, we need countless skills to finish something on our own.
With a lack of knowledge and skills in some areas, we’ll always need someone else to do our job or fix our issue.
Not identifying what we can’t do limits our possibilities to only those we’re comfortable with.
Instead of ignoring weaknesses, we can work on minimizing them while keeping the focus on our strengths and good sides. In everything we can’t do, there is a place for improvements.
However, accept that no matter how hard you try, there will always be something you’re bad at, something that should be left for others to do if it’s not beneficial for you. Identify these things and keep them in mind.
The weaknesses don’t have to be your enemies if you keep track of them.
SMART GOAL-SETTING RULE
After you decide what goals you want to pursue, it’s time to work out the strategy on how to achieve it. Does your plan include everything it needs to be realistic and achievable?
Let’s check it!
The best way to evaluate your goals’ progress and make sure they’re well set is to follow the SMART goal-setting rule.
It has many variations, but it mostly stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.
In order to be able to follow a certain direction all along, your goals must be as specific and defined as possible. Clear goals provide a path to follow, so you never forget where you’re heading to. Explain to yourself where you see yourself in the future and how do you want to get there.
In fact, the American Psychological Association had research on this topic, which showed that setting specific goals increased the performance for up to 90% of the time for companies they studied.
If you can’t measure progress, you can’t track it. You won’t be able to track your daily achievements as well. You could add reasonable deadlines, dates and amounts, all according to your possibilities.
The goal’s progress will be more measurable if you can visualize the success within the time frame you’ve set.
For instance, if you plan to start saving for a new car, don’t just say “I am saving money, so I can get a car”. Search for the possible offers and decide which one is close to your potential budget.
Once you know how much you’ll need, be ready to separate the determined amount every month until you reach the desired amount.
This basically means to be honest with yourself. In one of the previous chapters, we wrote about recognizing your weaknesses and accepting them as a part of your personality.
That should help you understand which goals are hopeless in your case and could be skipped at the moment.
If you accept every desire you have and turn it into a short-term goal, you’ll most probably end up demoralized and demotivated.
It is absolutely impossible to complete everything you set, especially if you lack the needed skills. Set manageable goals that you can pursue with lots of confidence and motivation.
However, you won’t get satisfied by reaching goals that were too easy to achieve. It brings no joy to get something with less or no effort at all.
Make yourself a good challenge, but keep it on your level. Make a good balance.
All goals should be aligned with the direction of your life or the direction you want your life to have.
This will keep your focus in one place, making it easier for you to track on-going events and changes.
Coordinate the plans with your career path and other important plans.
This means that the deadlines you set should help you feel the urgency without being too tight. A key part? A goal must be achievable within the time frame you set. If it seems too close, consider expanding it or breaking the plan into smaller steps and smaller goals.
WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS
The importance of being able to measure things and processes is present in every area of life.
In fact, it’s not just enough to define and understand, it’s also important to record the results. Good intentions and wishes never achieved anything.
For all of you who do your best and still don’t understand why your plans don’t seem to work out, we’ll discuss the importance of writing down your plans and goals.
One psychology professor at the Dominican University in California led the research with 270 participants, trying to determine if putting goals on paper helps with goal-setting.
The results were incredible – they suggest that we’re around 40% more likely to complete our goal if we write them somewhere.
Most people think they’re clear on what they want to accomplish, but when they’re being asked to list their plans, they can only remember the essential ones and most probably miss the rest of them. How many goals can you list on your own?
Besides helping us remember, written goals play a key part in motivating us to finish what we start. The time spent on writing can be fun and inspiring and can be used to make a good strategy or even go through different strategies.
Writing down will force you to ask questions about your plan’s functionality, see if it can work for you, list pros and cons, and make additional changes as you progress. There are different ways to write your goals. Find the one that suits you the best.
Besides goals, a good technique contains reasons why it’s valuable to you and worth the effort. Some people decide to re-write their ideas each day to stay motivated, while others break one plan into individual parts.
These steps are useful if you lack self-esteem and can’t stand waiting for so long to see the results. By doing this, you’ll have more than one main goal, which automatically means more than one success to celebrate.
To simplify, here are the main reasons why you should start writing down all your ideas, plans and goals:
- You’ll have a reminder. Being able to see what you are working hard to achieve will keep reminding you not to give up. Use this ability to stay on your main course and have your goal on your mind until you reach it. When we have something to keep telling us what to do, it’s less likely we’ll forget it.
- You’ll be able to bring the vision into reality. Yes, we all have visions for our lives, but most of them fade as time passes if we don’t write and commit to reaching them.
- It’ll help you track the progress. The interesting part about goal-setting is actually the one where you track improvements and progress. There is nothing better than keeping a diary of all past mistakes that could have been avoided or achievements that you’re proud of.
- You’ll be able to find new opportunities. There are many opportunities along our way to success and not all of them are the right ones. Some choices will turn out to be bad and serve as a distraction from the main course. If you keep track of every opportunity that comes your way, you’ll be able to sort them out and see which ones made a mess.
From a different perspective:
According to this article, writing down plans happens on two levels; the first one is named external storage, and the second one is encoding.
External storage is basically a place where we put our ideas – storage which keeps our thoughts together. In this case, it could be a notebook or a computer. But as much as we support new technologies, the good old paper is our recommendation.
If you want to stay organized and inspired, sticky notes are your best friend. Stick them on your desk, the computer, refrigerator, doors, and shelves – wherever it’s close to you.
Make sure that these paper pieces annoy you enough to take a look at what is written on them once in a while.
People tend to remember things they see often and that are visually attractive or irritating. Unconsciously, you will remember what you’ve been looking at every day.
But when it comes to the other part of writing down goals, encoding, it represents a lot deeper phenomenon. From a scientific perspective, it’s a biological process where our perception organs send signals to our brain for analysis.
That part of the brain decides what will get stored in the long-term memory and what will simply fade away. The information we write down, our brain repeats multiple times so it considers that important and stores it in our memory.
PAIR GOALS WITH ACTIONS
There’s a long way from idea to realization, and while the crucial part was discussed today, there is another one saying that making plans is only one piece of the puzzle.
The rest includes acting on the plan we’ve set already.
Why is it so important?
Simply having a plan is not valuable when you take no action to pursue it.
You could have the best preparation and still not reach your goal because creating a plan doesn’t mean it’ll work.
Maybe you’ll realize it’s not your thing when you first start working it out.
For start, we should get rid of that ridiculous “I’m starting tomorrow” mentality.
You can’t delay everything.
Or at least you can’t delay it forever. You’ll eventually get to the point when there will be no more time for planning, only for action.
If you’re having troubles with too much planning and not so much executing, check these steps for overcoming this blockage:
- Check-in from time to time to be sure your goal is still worth working for. Ask yourself if it still matters. Circumstances often change unexpectedly and what seemed to be meaningful earlier doesn’t have to be the same right now.
- Make a reminder of why you are fighting for your goal and why do you need that success in your life.
- Recommit to your plan every new day.
- Create smaller daily steps that’ll help you move toward the goal you’ve chosen.
- Schedule these daily steps on your calendar. It’s not enough to just squeeze them in your schedule – take some time every day special for that.
- Start your day with the hardest or biggest task. Mornings are hard, but it’s harder doing late at night things you’ve been delaying for the whole day. Don’t be lazy.
- Tell someone what you’re going to do. Some people claim that this commits you mentally to do what you said you would. Speak to those who you trust the most, but don’t say too much. Their reaction could disappoint you. Also, you’ll get embarrassed if you don’t finish what you promised.
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