Goal setting techniques are used by top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in all fields. They give you long-term vision and short-term motivation. They focus your acquisition of knowledge, and help 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. You can see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless grind. By setting goals, you will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your ability and competence in achieving the goals that you have set.
Starting to Set Personal Goals
Goals are set on a number of different levels: First you create your “big picture” of what you want to do with your life, and decide what large-scale goals you want to achieve. Second, you break these down into the smaller and smaller targets that you must hit to reach your lifetime goals. Finally, once you have your plan, you start working to achieve it.
This is why we start the process of goal setting by looking at your Lifetime Goals, and work down to the things you can do today to start moving towards them.
Your Lifetime Goals
The first step in setting personal goals is to consider what you want to achieve in your lifetime (or by a time at least, say, 10 years in the future), as setting Lifetime Goals gives you the overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision making.
To give a broad, balanced coverage of all important areas in your life, try to set goals in some of these categories (or in categories of your own, where these are important to you):
Career: What level do you want to reach in your career?
Financial: How much do you want to earn by what stage?
Education: Is there any knowledge you want to acquire in particular? What information and skills will you need to achieve other goals?
Family: Do you want to be a parent? If so, how are you going to be a good parent?
Artistic: Do you want to achieve any artistic goals? If so, what?
Attitude: Is any part of your mindset holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem.
Physical: Are there any athletic goals you want to achieve, or do you want good health deep into old age? What steps are you going to take to achieve this?
Pleasure: How do you want to enjoy yourself? – You should ensure that some of your life is for you!
Social Contribution: Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?
Starting to Achieve Your Lifetime Goals: Once you have set your lifetime goals, set a 5-year plan of smaller goals that you should complete if you are to reach your lifetime plan. Then set a 1-year plan, 6-month plan, and a 1-month plan of progressively smaller goals that you should reach to achieve your lifetime goals. Each of these should be based on the previous plan.
Staying on Course: Once you have decided your first set of plans, keep the process going by reviewing and updating your to-do list on a daily basis. Periodically review the longer term plans, and modify them to reflect your changing priorities and experience. (A good way of doing this is to schedule regular, repeating reviews on a computer-based diary.)
Goal Setting Tips
The following broad guidelines will help you to set effective goals:
- State each goal as a positive statement: Express your goals positively – ‘Execute this technique well’ is a much better goal than ‘Don’t make this stupid mistake.’
- Be precise: Set a precise goal, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.
- Set priorities: When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.
- Write goals down: This crystallizes them and gives them more force.
- Keep operational goals small: Keep the low-level goals you are working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward.
- Set performance goals, not outcome goals: You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control! In business, these could be bad business environments or unexpected effects of government policy. In sport, these reasons could include poor judging, bad weather, injury, or just plain bad luck. If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them.
- Set realistic goals: It is important to set goals that you can achieve. All sorts of people (employers, parents, media, society) can set unrealistic goals for you. They will often do this in ignorance of your own desires and ambitions. Alternatively you may set goals that are too high, because you may not appreciate either the obstacles in the way or understand quite how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.