Nowadays, a lot of goals are either planned to be set (for the procrastinators amongst us, you know who you are), or they have already been set, and patiently waiting to be achieved. Whether these goals are personal or business-related, it doesn’t always seem to be easy to accomplish them in the time you had in mind for them. But, when goals are written down, set clearly, and even combined with (new) habits – you increase the chances of success in life and help your mental focus.
There are many different ways, do’s and don’ts, and a lot of success stories and theories to read on effective goal setting. The concept is no one-size-fits-all roadmap. But, the good news is that we have set up an ultimate guide for you to hold on to, and to customize to your specific personal preferences and goals.
Today, we will guide you along on how to set and achieve your goals in the ultimate guide below. It’s time to reach those milestones, and reach them quickly.
What is goal setting?
The word goal goes way back in time – and was, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, used for the first time back in the early days of 1531. Just as the words ‘persistent’ and ‘loyal’, by the way, which both seem to be incredibly accurate to the term goal setting – but that’s something we’ll delve deeper into later on.
First: the definition of goal setting. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is as follows: ‘the process of deciding what you want to achieve or what you want someone else to achieve over a particular period’. Or, in other words: ‘the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing specific, measurable goals and timeframes’. Seems quite clear. But, how can goal setting be powerful and efficient, and practiced in your daily life?
Is goal-setting effective?
According to several studies, including a 2017 study by business researchers in Singapore, goal setting indeed has a proven, positive impact on the effectiveness of their employees. Think about it: let’s say you are planning a long trip by car. To kick it up a notch, let’s say it is a trip to a different state or even another country. Unless you’re somehow a walking world map, you likely look up the roads to follow and those to avoid before you leave.
Look at it like that: a guided plan with a clear view on your end destination makes the road to it a lot easier than when you are just trying to figure it out along the way – as much as trusting your gut feeling is often a smart thing to do.
There is one extremely important part of setting goals and achieving them, and that is the willingness to accept that it might get hard sometimes. Things will go wrong. But you will learn. Many people want success; but is everyone willing to make the sacrifice – and work hard for it?
Long story short: however you may already get where we are going – goal setting is indeed effective – but also so much more than just writing down what you want to accomplish.
The five steps to goal setting and achieving them
In the 5 easy steps, we have listed below, we’ll get you ready to create the goals in the most effective, and accurate way. But it doesn’t stop there – not only will you know exactly how to state your goals, but you will also have a complete guide on how to achieve them, readjust them, and keep accomplishing your goals in the future. As discussed above, achieving a goal becomes a lot easier with guidelines and a clear vision. It takes two to tango.
Step 1: Write down and level your goals
Start with the bigger picture
To start, we will work backward, and start with the bigger picture: it’s time to use our fantasy a little bit. What would you be, or achieve if anything is possible? What do you really desire in life for yourself? Visualize, perform no-limit thinking, and step out of your comfort zone. Repeatedly performing visualization is highly effective and scientifically proven to contribute to achieving goals and performances. Do you have your perfect vision?
State realistic, but challenging goals
Ok – let’s mold this vision into something that is still challenging, but balanced among your career, business, and/or yourself, and thus realistic. This could be a great 5-year goal. As we are working backward, you will divide this bigger picture into smaller, more accessible and measurable goals, to make it easier for you to reach them.
Cut your bigger goal into smaller pieces
Good steps would be for example 5-year, 3-year, 1-year, 6 months, and 3-month goals. Formulating your goals in this way can take up some time, but using a method such as the SMART-system, saves up a lot of time and creates a clear overview as well. An important tip: write your goals down positive, active terms. Instead of: ‘In 5 years, I want to be …’, Use: ‘In 5 years, I am …’.
Step 2: Find your why and eliminate obstacles
Find what motivates you
Having your goals set out straight is a great feeling and all, but what is the reason you want to achieve these goals? To keep yourself motivated and focused, it’s key to determine your why. What will bring the achievement of this goal to you? Why is it so important to you? What is your motivation for it exactly?
What is your success-theory?
Second: look back before looking forward. Meaning that in the past you have accomplished goals. Maybe without noticing – but you did. What did you do back then, to be where you are now? What works for you? What keeps you going?
An action plan for dealing with obstacles
Once this is all clear, specific, and you have a realistic view, it must have crossed your mind that along the road some obstacles or speed bumps might occur. Determine these, the more details, the better. What will be your theory to avoid these bumps in the future, and what do you do when you do encounter one? How do you keep your focus? Do you miss any skills in your life right now, which you need to accomplish your goals? What can help you to gain or improve these?
Step 3: Make a plan, integrate habits, and set deadlines
Still with us? Good! Time to get to work and plan. When you have followed the above steps carefully, you must have found your why, your measurable goals for the next period and an action plan to deal with obstacles and setbacks. A great way to move closer towards your goals is to integrate habits.
Review and change old habits
Abstractly speaking: let’s say your goal is to have saved a certain amount of money in 2 months. Review your habits, and expenses: do you treat yourself to an (unnecessary) coffee on the way to work? Change that habit: make your coffee at home. Put the money you would otherwise spend, aside.
Another example: is one of your goals to run a marathon? Integrate weekly or even daily runs as a habit into your routine, with a clear action plan and a build-up. Persistence is key.
Make sure to determine deadlines for yourself when you create your plan. Time management is everything.
Step 4: Measure and track your goals
Measure your development
Aside from achieving the goals, you have set, measuring your improvement is a great way to keep yourself motivated and on-focus. In this way, you will be able to see if you have improved along the road. Especially for ‘bigger goals’, tracking your progress will help to get clear insights on whether you are on track, if you need to pull a little harder, or, in the best case: if you are ahead of your achievement.
Look back and compare
Remember that we started with working backward? This theory can be applied to measuring your goals as well. Look back, and compare your current state to what it was when you started. Are you living by the habits you have set for yourself to achieve your goals? What did this action bring you until now? For example: ‘Over the last month, I succeeded in running 3 times a week instead of 1’.
Track and keep up with your goals
Before you can measure your improvement, it is key to track your goals. And keep tracking them always. Write them down. Read them. Reflect. Rewrite them. Use an old-fashioned paper calendar, a mobile app, or anything that suits you and your life well enough to list them.
Top tip: another great way to keep yourself on track and stay motivated for the future, is to team up with a loyal accountability partner. You will automatically increase your chances of success. And who doesn’t love to have someone that cheers you on in times of success, and whom you can cheer on when they do?
Step 5: Reward yourself and modify your objectives
Give yourself some credit
The moment has finally come: you reached a milestone. Or maybe even more than one. As we discussed above, tracking and measuring can be a great motivation to maintain. Aside from that, there is one even more effective way to stay motivated: rewarding yourself. State rewards for yourself that you will unlock at specific achievement to have something to look forward to. And to keep the good things going with a fresh dose of motivation!
Keep it going and rewrite your goals
Lastly, always keep looking forward, modify, and rewrite your goals. Whenever it may not be all running smoothly, review and read your goals out loud: are they realistic? Do you need more time? Once you did accomplish them, in what way can you modify them to keep moving forward – or how can they serve as a solid base for new goals?
How to set and achieve your goals (video)
Here is a video that will help you setting and achieve your goals
The 3 types of goals
When it comes down to goals, there are three types. And the good thing is: they all contribute to each other. To explain this, we have listed them below with an example.
Process goals can be described as small changes in your behavior which leads you to achieve an outcome goal. This might sound similar to habits, as they are small changes in ordinary behavior as well. For example: your outcome goal is to write a book within 2 months and sell 100 copies in the first month.
An appropriate and fitting process goal (or habit) to help you achieve this, could be to write 1000 words every day. A great benefit of process goals is that they are entirely in our control.
Could also be described as the standards you create for yourself when – in this case – writing the book. Of course, jotting down 1000 words is a good start, but to finish the book, it can not just be random words or poorly constructed sentences. Performance goals work together with your process goals: to finish my book in two months, I will isolate myself to be completely concentrated to write 1000 words a day (with correct spelling).
As well as the process goals, performance goals are also in our control.
As much as both performance goals and process goals contribute to the outcome of your goals, is this last type the one where we have less influence on. How well-written and professional your book may be, there might be outer factors that have an impact on not selling 100 copies of it. Such as an online buyer getting distracted during the checkout and not completing the order.
This explanation doesn’t mean that you will not reach your goals. It is just a friendly reminder that many factors are lying within your control, while some are out of your control as well. Don’t give up – but don’t be too hard on yourself, and stay realistic and operate with persistence. A little motivation to keep in mind: according to best selling author Brian Tracy in his book ‘GOALS!’: 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results (also known as the Pareto Principle).
As far as we’re concerned, there are four important lessons to set goals and achieve them with success. As follows:
#1: Don’t be afraid to use your imagination
Using visualization is a very effective and strong tool to find out what you really want in life, so don’t cut yourself short on this! Continually visualizing what your ideal life would look like, helps your mind to subconsciously act on it.
#2: Goal setting is effective when they are set clear
The keywords to mind with goal setting are clarity, challenge, and realism. Once you have a clear path to your objectives with matching guidelines, you are already two steps ahead. Because half begun is well done.
Consistency is key: when integrating habits or process goals, you are more likely to achieve your goals in the future, as you are changing your lifestyle. Find the tools you need to assist you on your journey and management, such as a habit or goal tracker, an accountability partner, and fitting rewards. Measure your improvement: because even if you don’t accomplish your goal in the end, you have made a hell of progress.
#4: Celebrate success and never give up
It can be tempting to keep on going without reflecting on what you have accomplished. Don’t forget to look back to see what both small or big goals you have achieved. Never give up!
Do you create goals for yourself? Share your thoughts or questions with us below!