Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality.
“Everyone needs something to aim for. You can call it a challenge, or you can call it a goal. It is what makes us human. It was challenges that took us from being cavemen to reaching for the stars! Richard Branson
Why Goals Are Vital
The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray. If there’s one thing truly successful people know, it’s that dreaming about success won’t get you anywhere. You must take action. Goal setting is used by top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in all fields.
“High achievers are not ten to twenty times more intelligent than other people; their power comes from the methods, resources and focus they use. By setting clear goals and writing them down, they’ve set their brains to achieve those goals. How it happens is absolutely miraculous and beautiful to observe.” –
Setting goals gives long-term vision and short-term motivation. It focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the very most of your life. By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, you can measure and take pride in the achievement of those goals, and you’ll see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless grind. You will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you have set.
What About the Rest of Us? From the moment we are born most of us enter a highly structured life. For the first few years our parents control everything that we see and do. Then we enter school, which is equally highly regulated and we have clear goals. In the early years we have tests that build to serious exams as you get older. So everything we do is organized and has a clear goal: end of year tests & exams with the overall goal of graduation.
For those who go on to further education or join the Armed Forces or enter a career with a clearly defined path to follow, once more there are lots of rules and regulations and a clear, progressive structure to follow. For the majority of people once they leave school and the doors slam shut behind them, they have now left the “production line” and its rules and goals. Many people simply drift along like a cork on the ocean. Yes you have pressure from your parents to get a decent job, and peer pressure to do well, own a nice car, but “get a decent job” is NOT a plan. Then you get married, get a mortgage, get a car loan, have kids (all the while paying more and more taxes). Many people then simply live from month to month, unable to think too hard about anything more complex than buying shoes for the kids and paying the mortgage this month.
We are aimless, goalless, like a ship without a rudder. We simply go where the tides take us and go with the flow.
There is now some doubt as to whether this survey actually took place or has simply become an urban myth.
However its claimed results were as follows:
83% left with their degrees and had no goals at all.
14% had defined, specific objectives for themselves, but they never wrote them down. This group with goals earned an average of three times the income of the largest group.
The remaining 3% of graduates who had specific goals and wrote them down, earned an average of 10 times what the 83% group did. Even if it is only an urban myth, I believed it, acted upon it. It worked and the principle is definitely true. In a subsequent study by Gail Mathews Ph.D at Dominican University, she found that those who set written, achievable goals AND had to send their goals, action commitments and weekly progress reports to a friend (making themselves accountable) DID achieve almost double those who did not.
The three key ingredients for success were:
- Clear, written goals
- Public commitment-if you don’t tell anyone your goals and the steps you have taken to achieve them its very easy to just drop the idea and go back to our old ways- it’s exactly the same as if you announce to your friends your intention to lose weight, stop smoking etc
- Accountability – those who had to send progress reports to a friend did better than those who had written goals, but no accountability
- Setting goals hones our focus, gives us direction, and makes it far more likely that we’ll actually live the life of our dreams rather than just drift along on whatever whim our circumstances present.
I know it’s been one of the most powerful tools in my life and had I followed this sooner I could have retired at 32 and not 42 years of age! Now, this “write down your goals” stuff all sounds well and good BUT the biggest challenge I initially found was what the heck do I want/write down! I read numerous books on the subject. I got to DVD number 3 from a series of ten, by a veteran “expert” before I fell asleep and was still no wiser, (sorry Bryan!). I researched online and all I got was conflicting ideas and suggestions. My final conclusion was KISS, Keep It simple Stupid.
How to Define Your Goals Yes you can shoot for the moon, then comes the more difficult part of the equation, how are you going to get there? For example say you want to be a millionaire in 5 years time. That’s fine BUT 5 years is a long time and if you are currently broke or simply managing to stay afloat then 5 years is a long way away, and you better have a great idea for how to achieve such a big goal.
The secret is to break your goals down in to small manageable portions. A few years ago I read an incredible book called “Touching the Void”- the Joe Simpson story that I outline in the next article. It is a motivating and brilliant example of how simple goal setting can literally save your life One of the best books on the subject of goal setting and self improvement that I have read recently is “How to be Brilliant”, by Michael Hepple. The author and I disagree on the subject of S.M.A.R.T goals but Michael recommends that you break the year down into 4 x 90 day cycles. 90 days is often quoted as the time period that you need to do something before it becomes a habit.
For example most diets fail within 4 weeks and most gym memberships within eight! Why? Because once the initial willpower has worn off its all too easy to fall back into your old ways. However those who do get beyond the first 4 weeks are statsictally proven to have a high success rate. Things to start thinking about now as you prepare to create your own goals: Think about your life right now. Where are you. What do you like about your life and what would you like to change. Change includes what you want to get rid of as much as what you want to achieve.
- Where do I want to be in 10 years time, 5 years, 1 year.
- How can I get to where I want to be.
- HOW will I get there – what successes have I had in the past that I can replicate and expand and what bad moves can I avoid in the future?
- What do I need to do to get from where I am now to where I want to be?
- Why am I not there already?
- What do I need to do more and less of?
- What is my overall goal, both personal and business or career wise?
- Make at least two lists, one for personal and the other for business.
- WRITE IT ALL DOWN
Your dream might be:
- I will be a millionaire by the time I am aged ……
- I will own my dream home
- I will buy a second home
- I will own a Porsche or Ferrari
- I will travel the world
- And here are 100 more ideas : 100 Things to do before I die
Depending on the length of your list, it’s unlikely that you will be able to accomplish all of them in 12 months, so take the most important things from your list and focus on those things first. In the next few articles I will show you some examples and how to set your goals. In the mean time start jotting down some ideas. I will also show you the plan I made when I decided to semi retire aged 40. It was a two year plan, but it worked brilliantly. For once I was clearly focused. I knew where I was going and how to get there. The best thing was I got there faster than scheduled and made more money.
Author: Marc Walton