How To Set Goals

December 27, 2015

by Ravi Raman

The year ahead stands before us as a fresh chapter in a book, just waiting to be written. We can create that story by writing our goals. It is the process by which we can take the invisible and make it visible.

Setting goals is not difficult. Why then, do so many goals go unfinished? Goals that are not compelling and appropriate do not get completed.

Goals need to have a clear purpose and be intrinsically motivating. They need to be created based on what you want, not what you think might be nice to have. They also must not compete or be so numerous as to create overwhelm.

Before starting this goal setting process, pay attention to the following instructions to increase your chances of achieving what you set out to do:

The “Why” matters more than the “How.”

Don’t let your brain nix potentially fulfilling goals because you do not know how you will accomplish them. Ultimately, none of us have complete control over how anything in this world works, so don’t try to make guesses. Let’s take the example of an aspiring marathoner. Let’s say that you have a goal to run your first marathon, but have never run over a mile in your life. Setting a goal to finish a marathon does not require that you have all the steps figured out between now and the day of your race. What matters, is that your purpose is incredibly high. With a compelling purpose, you will find a way!

Make powerful goals

Don’t set small goals! Weak goals fail. Back to the marathon runner example, let’s say you want to run a marathon, but since that seems like too far, you comprise and commit to run 5K some day on the roads near your house nonstop. Is that enough to keep you motivated? Will it get you up early on the weekends with excitement to go train? Is it something you would be proud of accomplishing? Whatever your goal is, it is OK to dream big, it is these big ideas that get us excited.

Be specific

Ambiguity is a fact of life, but it is also a source of incredible fear. Uncertainty can paralyze you before you even start. The more specific you can be in shaping your goals, the better chance you have of achieving them. Being specific helps your brain realize that the goal is not just a dream, but a real and tangible thing. For example, instead of saying, “I want to make more money next year than last year,” get specific. Figure out exactly how much you want, down to the penny. Don’t worry about how this will happen, or whether the number is too big. Just get specific.

Use peer pressure to your advantage

Humans are social animals, and much of our behavior strives to both serve and gain acceptance from our peer group. Use this fact to your advantage. Once you are committed to achieving something, identify someone who can help you be accountable. Make sure that this person is someone you trust and will be supportive in your goal. You are far more likely to follow-through on a goal when you have at least one other person keeping you accountable. You also never know who in your peer group might have some insights that could help you achieve whatever it is you are after. Just avoid the common mistake of telling too many people about your goal. This can backfire by leaving you feeling like you’ve already accomplished something whereas in reality the hard word is yet to be done. A coach can serve as an ideal accountability partner.

Reference your goals daily

Put your objectives in a place that is highly visible. Ideally, you should reference them on a regular basis. Place them on a sheet of paper next to your bathroom mirror. Put them on a poster and hang them in your bedroom (or even better, living room). Out of sight means out of mind. Keep your goals in a place where you are forced to look at them. Reading them is best, but just glancing at them will jog your memory and get your sub-conscious engaged to help you achieve what you want.

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