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Goal Setting 101 - The Ultimate Guide

Man walking toward his goals @aktor_pro

Life is the only one shot you have to exist in the whole history of this universe. There is an infinity before you and an infinity after you. The importance of the time you have and how you are spending it cannot be stressed enough. Are you spending it the right way? Do you know your true calling? Do you know what you really want? And if you do, are you doing something to get closer to it, or are you just wandering through existence going wherever life takes you? This is where goals come in and why it’s crucial to have them.

What are goals?

Goals are specific, quantifiable, and time-restricted objectives that help us define what we want and keep us propelled and motivated to move towards our desired future. Goals are the oxygen to our dreams and what pushes us forward towards the life we want.

Goals can be different for different people because, for everyone, success could mean a different thing.

For some people, the definition of a successful life is having financial freedom and a flexible work schedule, while for some, it might be doing what they are passionate about. For others, it could mean personal fulfillment and peace etc. Success isn’t necessarily about being rich or winning accolades or doing what others demand of you; it could be anything you think your life needs for you to be happy and content. 

Whatever success means according to your mindset, you can only achieve it by setting reasonable and practical goals. Because whatever you want in life requires something valuable in return, such as your time, your effort, and all the struggles you go through to achieve that thing.

Goals help you define your individual version of success and what things are valuable enough to give your time, effort, and struggles to and in what way, so you can finally accomplish what you desire. It is also important to know that setting goals that don’t belong to your personal idea of success will only demotivate you and create a fuss in your life. So, only set those goals for what you truly want and are willing to give time and effort to achieve them.

Why is setting goals so important?

Hard work means nothing if you are working without a plan because you will face obstacles, interruptions, criticisms, risks, and second-guesses in your journey that can detract and demotivate you. 

Goals give you a direction for your journey and motivate you to hang in there when the times get tough and provide the strategies to help you overcome the obstacles in your way.

Below are some highlights of why goal setting is important 

Goals provide hope

Goals inspire and motivate you. Even if you are currently in a bad spot, goals act as a beacon and provide you the willingness to keep putting in the effort and moving forward. A well-defined goal helps you see how beautiful life could be once you attain what you desire. It enables you to pick yourself and put in effort again and again until you reach your destination. Goals help you avoid falling into traps of despair and pessimism and help you stay motivated.

Goals give you focus. 

When we don’t know what we want, we waste much of our time and energy doing random things that lead us nowhere. This could be focusing on the wrong profession, putting effort into a bad relationship, or spending life in a way that does not sit right with you. Goals help you take a step back and realize what truly matters so you can focus only on the right things. This way, you channel your energy in the right direction without distractions or confusion. 

Goals provide meaning to life.

Goals provide us with a sense of direction and what things we should prioritize and spend our time on. When we achieve these goals, we get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that adds to our joy and gives our life meaning. Goals give us a strong ‘why’ and ‘how’ to live our life. They help us spend our time doing things that provide us happiness and make life seem worth living. Having no goals and nothing to look forward to can make life meaningless and even depressing. Therefore, having goals not only helps us live better but also provides meaning to our lives.

Goals give you a way to measure your progress.

Goals give you a timeline to achieve your objective. During that time, you put several checkpoints where you can stop and measure how much you have progressed. These checkpoints not only help you see your improvements but also provide confidence to keep moving forward. In this way, achieving your milestones helps you believe that you are progressing, thus further fueling your determination and effort. 

Goals help you become the best version of yourself.

Goals help you use your best potential in the best direction. This process might test your limits, but it eventually improves you so you can get closer to your dreams. A reasonable and practical goal will motivate you to put your best forward. It will encourage you to leave your comfort and improve in the areas where you lack. This helps you grow both personally and professionally.


A complete guide to setting your goals

Here are some golden rules that will help you set your goals and live your life the way you want.

Identify what really matters.

Do you often aim for lofty goals and then later find yourself unmotivated? You keep pushing yourself to move forward, but it feels more like a burden. From the outside, they seem like the right thing, but from the inside, for some reason, you don’t feel like doing it. If this sounds like something you experience, then it’s not about procrastinating or motivation. It’s all about setting the right goal that aligns with your inner self.

The thing about setting vague goals is that they are often chosen without a clear purpose in mind. The right thing for the long run is to set goals that are clearly in sync with your passion.

The appropriate goals are those that will give your life meaning. For these goals, you will always find inner motivation. These goals are not specifically what society demands. Instead, these are what make you feel satisfied with life. Your goals could align with the demands of others, but they don’t specifically have to please others. With the right priorities in mind, you will not get sidetracked as easily as you get with superficial goals. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between what only impresses you versus what you truly desire. 

Set S-M-A-R-T goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Using this acronym will work best if you go through the process by writing things down instead of just thinking about them. Writing your thoughts and passions will help you make the most accurate observations.

Writing SMART goals will increase your chances of success by a significant margin. Let’s see how writing SMART goals works.

Specific

Your goals should be clear and concise. If they are not specific, you won’t be able to put effort into it or stay genuinely motivated. Therefore, it’s crucial to know what you exactly want. Ask yourself the following ‘W’ questions. 

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?
  • Who is involved in this goal? 

You can also ask yourself more questions to completely clear on what you truly desire.

Measurable

The smart goal must be measurable. This means that some indicators must tell you that you have made progress and are moving closer to your ideal. These metrics will determine whether you are fulfilling the requirements or not.

Instead of just focusing on the end goal, you look at the process. You also determine some milestones along the way that clarifies that you have accomplished some progress. During the procedure, you can ask yourself questions such as:

  1. How much or many?
  2. How much progress have I made?
  3. What is the indicator of my progress?

Achievable

Your goal should not be an ideal extreme. It should be challenging, but it should not be unrealistically high. It should be such that with time and practice, you can attain it. Ask yourself how to set this goal so it is not too difficult to achieve? There must be a proper boundary that indicates that you have acquired your goal.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do I have the resources, ambition, and capability to achieve it?
  2. Have others like me been successful at something like this?

Relevant

How does this goal align with the broader perspective? Why is getting this result important for me? Is it relevant to my profession and what I want to do in my life? Do you really want to run a multinational company? Will this goal really achieve the objective I have in mind?

Time-bound

Your goal should not lack realistic timing. If you don’t set a specific timeframe in which you want to see the attainment of this goal, then it’s not going to work.

 

Break your overall objective into smaller steps and set a proper time for each of these objectives. What can be done in this time period? Also, restricting your goal to a certain time will give you a kind of urgency thus keeping you motivated.

Get an accountability system.

Even when we are motivated, we can still get distracted and drop our goals somewhere along the way. How to set goals then? Don’t only be attentive yourself, but have someone or something else that keeps track of your progress. 

It could be your wife, business partner, friends, or anyone. When people know you started something, it can help you stay committed. For example, if you plan to lose weight, tell your friends that you will have lost 40 pounds by this time. Such commitments give you an extra push to get back on the wagon and keep working.

Anticipate Failures

Your goals and plans could be perfect. But life is never a straight road. Sometimes you will win, and sometimes you will learn. The best way to tackle this is to make a list in advance. That list should include as many roadblocks as you can imagine—financial problems, relationship issues, time management, etc. 

Most importantly, be mentally prepared that the achievement of your dream will be truly ecstatic. But, the journey can have big highs and lows. No matter how long it takes, stay committed to your goals, and anticipate some unexpected blows on the way. But, always keep your eyes on the prize and keep moving forward.

Conclusion

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” — Orison Swett Marden.

Every success starts with a clear goal in mind. Goal setting takes consideration, time, and effort to develop your path through life. But, once you know what you truly desire and have clear aims, only then can you turn your dreams into reality and change your life in a truly meaningful way.