Do you set yourself specific, meaningful goals or do you sit back and hope the achievements will just come your way?
It's a bit of a no-brainer question, isn't it? But the thing is, many people do not know how to set effective goals. In fact, they don't even understand why it is so important.
If this is you, or if you just want some extra goal-setting tips, you've come to the right place.
What's the Point of Setting Personal Goals?
You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal.
~ Zig Ziglar ~
We all know why a business or company sets goals or targets — to help staff and team members maintain their focus on the job and give them something to aim for. Often, the goal that is set will identify an area that needs to improve; sometimes a goal may be set mainly to motivate staff.
Personal goals have similar functions. Here are seven reasons why it's important for people of all ages to learn how to set personal goals.
- Be in control of your life
- Achieve maximum results
- Maintain focus
- Create personal accountability
- Achieve your potential
- Get the best out of life.
Having personal goals and acting on them is the difference between living a passive life and having the ability to create the life you want. Without these goals, our mental health may suffer and we fail to grow and progress through the lack of personal and professional accomplishments.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have personal goals because you know what career path you want to follow after you leave school. Maybe your 'goal' is to work in the education sector, or run your own company, or perhaps you want to be a lawyer or a doctor?
Sure, knowing what you want to be is a goal of sorts but if you don't know how to get there, if you can't create specific, short term goals that focus on the end prize, you probably won't manage the success you desire. And who says you won't change your mind anyway?
To create and manage your goals, you need to have a range of experience in all sorts of different areas. That's what kids seek. Without realising it, they are building experience through playing, experimenting and imagining. As children, we learn what we love to do and what we are 'good' at and these things are the foundations for our goals later in life.
Are There Different Types of Goals?
As humans, we have a tendency to categorise everything in life — food groups, education sectors, book genres — and goals are no different.
Broadly speaking, each of our personal goals falls into one of seven categories:
- personal development
- physical and mental health.
At any one time, we may not necessarily work on goals in every category, although some may overlap or cover two or more categories at the same time. As students, our goals are likely to centre around education and, depending on the current level of your education, may also focus heavily on your career.
For many people, a goal represents something massive; a huge achievement. But not every goal is huge. In fact, if they were, we'd probably never achieve full success with any of them.
Within each category, goals can be further broken down into four main goal types according to time.
Type 1: Lifetime goals
A lifetime goal can take anywhere from a year to an entire lifetime to achieve. To set a lifetime goal, we need to picture our future selves in terms of what we want to be doing and who we want to become. Examples of a life goal include: having a family, running your own business or qualifying for an elite sports team.
Type 2: Long term goals
This type of goal is your serious working goal with a specific time limit — usually five to ten years.
Bill Gates is quoted as saying:
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
It serves us well to keep this in mind when we set our long term goals. Examples include: learning a foreign language to native proficiency, earning a PhD or turning your passion into a career.
Type 3: Short term goals
A short term goal is not always 'short' and can take anywhere from a week to a month, or six months to a year to achieve.
Usually, a short term goal is one of many people use to achieve their long term goal; they enable people to focus on following the necessary steps leading to achievement and success. Examples include: incorporating more time in the library into your schedule, spending less time on social media or writing a journal entry every day.
Type 4: Stepping stone goals
Think of these goals as the little steps or actions by which you reach and achieve your short term or long term goals.
Examples include: taking a writing class with a focus on grammar, taking a break from one social media platform or allocating time to work on setting up your schedule.
Now you understand the different goal types and categories, how do you go about making sure you're setting effective goals that will lead to your desired achievements?
What Do Effective Goals Include?
There are a variety of opinions (and templates) regarding different 'must-have' elements in your goals if you want them to be a success.
Possibly the most well known, certainly in the education sector, is the SMART goal.
SMART is an acronym used to help people improve their goal writing, plan their goals and ensure they are including all the important characteristics when they are writing their goals.
In a nutshell, the letters in SMART refer to: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed.
It takes a bit of practice but eventually you will be able to read your goal and know if you are missing any of the SMART elements. In the interim, just ask yourself the following questions, adjusting your goal slightly if your answer to any of the questions is "No".
- Is my goal clearly defined and does it show me where I will end up once I achieve it? (Specific)
- Does my goal include precise amounts or specific dates and times? (Measurable)
- Am I confident I can achieve my goal? (Attainable)
- Is my goal meaningful and related to my future dream or hope? (Relevant)
- Does my goal have a deadline? (Timed)
At the start of the school year, many teachers work with their students to plan their SMART goals for the term, semester or year. However, there is no reason students who understand the acronym can't start writing their SMART goals before they head back to school.
While we have emphasised how important goal-setting is, there is absolutely no point in having a fist-full of goals if they are poorly constructed and don't contain all the SMART characteristics.
Setting Goals that Result in Achievements
First thing — although the temptation may be great, resist setting goals that are too easy to achieve. It's hardly an accomplishment if you 'achieve' a goal you were already achieving before you started. There needs to be a balance between a goal being doable and challenging.
Too easy and too hard are both de-motivators when it comes to working for what we want to accomplish.
When it comes to achieving success, we have five tips for setting goals that result in achievements.
Our tips #1: motivation
It is essential that you personally feel motivated by the goals you set yourself. If you're not motivated and excited about achieving something great, you won't.
Our tips #2: SMART
We can't say this enough: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timed.
Our tips #3: in writing
Plan your goal then put it in writing and have it where you can see it every day. Physically writing something down makes it tangible and real. You remember it more easily. And, writing something down holds you accountable.
Our tips #4: action plan
Make a list of the individual steps that you need to take from the start to the achievement. Write them down. Cross them off as you progress.
Our tips #5: stick to it
Yes — achieving well-set goals is hard work. Don't give up. Find little things to motivate you along the way. Revise your goals regularly. Congratulate yourself for persevering. Build in regular affirmations — I am committed to achieving; I deserve my success; I improve and make progress every day. Find ways to acknowledge and reward your efforts.
Have a plan.
You've got this!
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