Goals are a great way to map, plan for, and achieve specific things you want to do. If you do not set goals, you should start right away. Used correctly, efficient goal setting can provide the detail and motivation that you need to be the person you want to be. If you are already using goals, it is important that you set them properly and effectively, so you should still read below.
Make sure it is something you really want. While “Make it to the nationals for 50m Front crawl” may sound like a great goal to have, if you are not entirely dedicated to achieving it, it may not succeed. You need to think about large goals and confirm whether you are willing to sacrifice much time and effort to achieve it. Also, weigh the achievement of your goal to the sacrifices that you will have to make to achieve it. If it’s worth it, Great! If not, reconsider your goal…
Break up your goal into smaller sub-goals. “Lose weight” is probably a very common goal. Unfortunately, it is also a very hard to achieve goal. Looking at a huge feat written on one line in your book could be a little intimidating. Instead, break your goal up into more manageable smaller goals, or create milestones. In the case of “Lose Weight”, three good sub-goals could be: “Only drink 2 soda pops per week”, “Eat more salad” and “Go to the gym 3 times per week.”. Breaking up your goals not only makes your goal list less intimidating, it gives you more motivation to succeed.
Think S.M.A.R.T. When setting goals, a good system to go by is SMART. Writing a blurb for each letter and recording it with your goal could help you focus on your goal in the future. Personally, I use this method and find it very effective down the road. Re-reading it can really set you back on track.
Specific – It is great to have a clear concise title to your goal, but you should also describe it in more detail. For example “Buy a Car” could be described with “Save $20,000, and search for a red Four-door sedan, with leather seats.”
Measurable – Try to write a goal that you can measure numerically. Instead of “Sell more products”, maybe write something like “Increase personal sales by 30%.” A goal can be much more motivating if you can track and record your progress, and see how you are doing.
Achievable/Realistic – Can your goal really be done? Think not only about the goal, but about your personal circumstances. If you are in your 40s and you have back problems, setting a goal to “Run a marathon” may not be the most realistic option, and likely will end in disappointment.
Timely – How much time will you have to put in on a regular basis to achieve this goal? How long from now do you plan to achieve this goal.
Think positive. “Pass next math test” is a much more positive and effective goal than “Don’t fail another math test.” Your brain responds better to positive words. Also, try not to use the word not in your goal, as your brain cannot sub-consciously register not. This is proven scientifically and is a critical point in self-hypnosis (another article entirely). Your mind will register “Quit smoking” much easier than “Do not smoke”.
Categorize your goals. It is generally good to categorize your goals into areas of your life that you would like to improve. This works best if you develop your own categories. Again, creating a visual map of your goals in these categories can be useful, as it can show you where you want to improve most. Personally, I use:
Health & Fitness Family & Relationships Enjoyment & Recreation Social & Friends Financial & Career Educational
Write them down! Probably one of the most important and most ignored step to effective goal setting is to write it down! If you don’t write your goal down, you will not remember it. Writing your goals and reviewing them daily will give your mind sub-conscious cues that what your reading is important, and will help you succeed. If you prefer digital to pen-and-paper, I would suggest visiting www.LifeTango.com. It is a great site that allows you to set goals, as well as invite family or friends to give you motivational support.
Review Goals Daily. Writing your goals and then setting them aside to collect dust wont do much. It is important to review your goals daily, or weekly if you are too busy. When I wake up every morning, I take a look through my goal list as I check my email. Only take 10 seconds to skim it. Think as I brush my teeth what I could do that day to help achieve that goal. Also, when you lay in bed trying to fall asleep, mentally go through your goals and think about 3 things you have done recently that have helped you in one area, and 3 things that you would like to do soon to help you get closer to achieving your goals.
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