The Art of Goal Setting

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Goal setting is a vital component of personal growth and development. It is the process of identifying what you want to achieve and creating a plan to make it happen.

When applied properly, goal setting is actually a tool in itself that greatly increases your chances of making your dreams a reality. When you set goals, you not only trigger new behaviors and attitudes, but also guide your focus and maintain momentum.

As you start this process, consider what you want to achieve and determine the necessary steps to reach the goals you’ve set. Once you have a clear plan, you’ll be equipped to live your life on your terms and have the confidence to reach even higher in the future.

The Importance of Goal Setting

Identifying and achieving a goal is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life, even if it seems small at first.

If you enjoy reading about success and accomplishment as much as I do, you’ll find a common thread among successful people is that they all set goals and work extremely hard to make them a reality.

Contrary to popular belief, goal setting isn’t simply about imagining what you want to achieve. It’s about defining what you want and making a realistic plan to attain it. Going through this process may seem challenging at first, but the process itself brings huge benefits. So why should you set goals?

Goals Propel You Forward

Establishing targets helps you align your priorities and promotes a sense of self-mastery. It’s difficult to manage what you don’t measure, and you can’t improve something that you don’t manage effectively.

Having goals that you can focus on and visualize helps you connect with your inner desires, and gives you the motivational energy you need to work towards them, even when your focus starts to wane.

The act of working toward a specific outcome also creates a feedback loop. Once you’ve reached your goal, there’s nothing left to do but set another one! Maybe even a bigger one. The confidence you’ll get will keep building on itself and you’ll find yourself thinking bigger and doing more.

They Make Tasks Seem Achievable

Breaking activities into smaller steps turns intimidating ideas into smaller, more achievable stepping stones. Planning towards smaller goals not only makes it easier to formulate a definite plan of action that we can start working on right away, but research has shown that hitting smaller milestones provides real motivation and greater contentment.

You can take this lesson and apply it to your own life. Take the mountains you need to climb and break them up into smaller hills that seem less daunting. You’ll be happier and more motivated to start working towards that next milestone and less likely to lose focus or give up before you reach your objectives.

They Help You Believe in Yourself

Setting personal goals is a way to fuel and leverage your ambition. Goal setting isn’t just about creating a plan for your life and holding yourself accountable, its also about giving us the inspiration necessary to aim for things we never thought possible.

Do you want to accomplish something that many people dream about, but few people ever actually accomplish? When you take the time to set goals, you ensure that your life is geared towards getting the most out of every moment.

As see yourself slowly making progress, your dreams and aspirations become more and more realistic, and not just vague notions in your imagination. If you’ve broken a goal into small steps like we just suggested, imagine looking at a list with most of them crossed off and knowing you’re close!

Once that final line is crossed and you did what you set out to do, you’ll know you can do it again.

You Hold Yourself Accountable

If you don’t write down concrete goals and give yourself a timeline for achievement, how can you look back and re-evaluate your path if you fail?

The step of failing, then figuring out why and how to be better, is one of the most important reasons to set goals in the first place.

There’s something extremely humbling about looking back on a goal you set for yourself and realizing that you were supposed to accomplish more than you actually did. It’s a concrete sign that whatever you’re doing isn’t working, and you need to make real changes if you want to get where you want to be.

Refine Your Desires with Goals

If you don’t have goals and aspirations, how do you find out what you truly want? There are certainly times when we realize our ambitions don’t reflect what we really want.

Sometimes we think we need more money, when really we need a change of environment, or someone to love. Sometimes we think we want more free time, but what we really want is work that we are truly passionate about. Sometimes we think we want to be alone, but really we need to be around more positive people.

If you wander through life with vague notions of “success” and “accomplishment,” you might never discover that buying a new BMW isn’t what will bring you true happiness, or that landing a promotion at work will make you miserable because you’ll lose time with your family.

Asking ourselves what we really want and re-assessing our desires brings the benefit of introspection and self-discovery.

Setting Smarter Goals

When it comes to setting goals, it’s essential to develop a strategy that both challenges and motivates you. SMART goals achieve both objectives by focusing on aspects that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Specific goals make it easier for you to focus and work towards a clear target. Consider the who, what, when, where, and why of what you want to achieve to clearly define what you want to accomplish.

Measurable goals help you quantify your progress and make adjustments. Identify metrics to track and evaluate, such as numbers, percentages, or other measurable indicators. This will provide a concrete way to assess your accomplishments.

SMART Goals - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely
Do you set SMART Goals to achieve success?

Attainable goals ensure your objectives are realistic. While it’s essential to aim high, it’s equally important to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment with impossible targets. There is always a time and place for big dreaming, but the focus here is putting your dreams into action.

Relevant goals ensure that your efforts contribute to your overall objectives and match your values. Take the time to understand how your goal aligns with your long-term aspirations. This will keep you motivated and focused on what truly matters.

Time-bound goals help you create a sense of urgency and commit to deadlines. Establish specific timelines, including milestones that will keep you accountable. Knowing the time constraints will help you prioritize tasks and allocate the resources needed to achieve your goals.

Keep these SMART components in mind when setting goals, and you’ll be well on your way. If you need help getting started, we recommend using a SMART Goals Worksheet to keep yourself on track.

Steps in Goal Setting

Setting goals effectively is crucial to achieving success in both your personal and professional life. Follow these steps to create attainable goals and increase your chances of success:

1. Evaluate your passions and values: Consider your interests, motivations, and values when setting your goals. Goals that align with your passions have a higher chance of being achieved because you’ll be more motivated to work towards them.

2. Be Specific and Measurable: Your goals should be precise and easy to measure. It helps to clearly define what you want to achieve and the criteria for success. For example, instead of having a vague idea like “become healthy,” set a specific mission like “lose 10 pounds in 3 months.”

3. Break them into smaller, achievable tasks: Splitting your larger tasks into smaller sub-tasks makes them more manageable and less overwhelming. Then you can tackle each task individually and track your progress.

4. Set deadlines: Deadlines are important as they create a sense of urgency. By setting a deadline, you commit to a timeframe and increase your accountability to reach the goal.

5. Plan and prepare: Before you begin working, it’s important to create a solid plan that outlines the steps you’ll take. Planning can help you identify potential obstacles and devise solutions to tackle them in advance.

6. Implement regular feedback: Keep track of your progress and give yourself timely feedback. Doing so ensures that you’re on track and allows you to identify areas for improvement or reassess your strategies if needed.

7. Stay flexible: Sometimes, circumstances may change, and your expectations may need to adjust accordingly. Maintain a flexible mindset and be prepared to update your goals to reflect your current situation.

In today’s fast-paced world, distractions are everywhere. To stay focused on your goals, establish a routine, and set specific times for working on them. Minimize distractions by creating a dedicated workspace and limiting the use of devices or apps that aren’t essential to your tasks.

Following these steps will increase your chances of success, fight the tendency to procrastinate, and improve your ability to plan and achieve more.

Maximize Success with Goals

Contrary to popular belief, goal setting isn’t simply about imagining what you want to achieve. When applied properly, it’s a tool that can greatly increase your chances of making your dreams a reality.

Setting specific, achievable, and measurable objectives is essential in maximizing success. Goal setting not only helps you clarify your objectives but also serves as a roadmap for personal growth.

Goal setting theory suggests that this process encourages the search for new strategies to aid success. By exploring various methods and that test your abilities, you enhance your skills, efficacy, and confidence.

The next step is connecting your goals to a “why.” Understanding the driving force behind your actions allows you to stay committed and clearly helps define what you want. For example, if your aim is to lose weight, your “why” might be to improve your overall health and well-being.

Set Goals Like Tim Ferriss

In the 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss describes how he went from working 100+ hours a week on his online supplements business, to turning it into a passive income stream that funded his travels and hobbies. He accomplished this by creating what he calls a “dreamline” for his ideal lifestyle.

Tim Ferriss "greatness is setting ambition goals" quote.
Are you being ambitious like Tim Ferriss suggests?

A “dreamline” is essentially a list of things you want to acquire and/or accomplish, without concern for how exactly you will accomplish it. It’s about setting fixed deadlines for creating our dream lifestyle, rather than using a vague notion of “the future” to indefinitely defer what we truly want from life.

The idea is to not limit yourself to your preconceived notions of what is or isn’t possible, but to design an ideal lifestyle for yourself, figure out how much money you’ll need to achieve that lifestyle, and then create income streams to support it.

The key takeaway is not to let our preconceived notions of what is and what isn’t possible dictate our goals. Much too often, people set goals based on what they think is realistic, rather than challenging themselves. Check out The Tim Ferriss Blog for more great info.

The other point is to set both a short-term and long-term objectives. You can write down a specific tasks with specific deadlines, but if those deadlines are months or years from now, how do we measure progress in the meantime? Create short-term goals you can start working on now, and always give yourself less time than you think you’ll need to accomplish them.

Set Goals Like Napoleon Hill

Before The Secret convinced a generation that you could make your fat credit card bill disappear by sending positive vibes into the universe, there was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Think And Grow Rich is The Secret for people who want to go out and make things happen for themselves, but just need a push in the right direction. The fact that it was written during the Great Depression doesn’t make it any less relevant today. If anything, anyone reading it today will feel like it was tailored specifically for this point in history, despite a few archaic references.

But who was Napoleon Hill, and what exactly qualifies him to teach us about goals? Napoleon Hill spent a quarter decade interviewing the 500 richest men in America of his generation, distilling all of that wisdom into this seminal work. Some of these men included Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Charles Schwab.

In fact, it was Andrew Carnegie – one of the richest men of all time – who suggested that Hill write a book and share his accumulated wisdom with the world.

While I highly recommend reading the book, the process of goal setting taught in Think and Grow Rich teaches you to develop a “chief aim” by doing the following:

  1. Determine exactly how much money you desire – don’t be vague.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to do in order to earn the money you desire. What value are you going to offer to meet your objective? Remember, there is no free lunch.
  3. Establish an exact date for when you plan to possess the amount of money you desire.
  4. Establish a definite plan for achieving your desire, and start right this moment, whether or not you feel you’re ready.
  5. Write out a clear statement of how much money you are going to acquire (the amount from step 1), what you intend to do in exchange for the money (the value from step 2), the date you’ll acquire it by (the date from step 3), and your specific, actionable plan for reaching the desired monetary goal (the plan from step 4).
  6. Twice daily, read your written statement out loud to yourself. Do it once in the morning, and once at night. While you read the statement, visualize yourself executing on your plan and visualize the money in your possession.

The goal setting principles above fit into a larger framework of what Hill calls creating “burning desire to win.” While Hill focuses financial goals (the book is called Think and Grow Rich after all), the same principles apply to any other goals you set.

Start Achieving Today

Now that you know how and why you should set goals, start using these techniques to accomplish your personal goals, too.

Whether we’re talking about the great depression, or the modern internet era of remote working and the digital nomad, it looks like there are certain elements that remain universal truths when it comes to setting goals:

  1. Don’t let your pre-conceived notions of what is and isn’t possible define your goals. Rather, describe what you want to achieve, and work backwards from that to create a plan to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).
  2. SMART goal setting involves a plan of action, starting today.
  3. Be specific and exact in nature. They should state exactly what you want.
  4. State a specific timeframe for accomplishment.
  5. Goals should be written down so they’re concrete and visual.
  6. Re-visit your list daily and stay focused on them.

Have you used these techniques to make big progress in your own life? Do you have your own process for setting and achieving your goals? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's lead editor and content writer, and has collected and shared inspiring quotes and stories since 2005. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.