Everyone has goals, whether you want to lose weight, earn more money, or end world hunger, we’ve all got them. Unfortunately, failing to achieve a goal is much more common than achieving one. In fact, 92% of people who set new year’s resolutions never achieve them. So how can you become part of the 8% of the population that regularly smash their goals?
The key to achieving your goals is knowing how to set them. A well set goal can give you the focus and motivation to steer your life in whatever direction you choose. However, unless your goal is worthwhile, specific, displayed, timed, and well-planned, your odds of succeeding are little to none.
The 5 Characteristics Of A Goal Set For Success
(Choosing Your Goal)
Setting yourself up for failure or success at achieving your goal starts before you have even set your goal.
Typically you should have an idea of what type of goal you want to set or which part of your life you’re looking to improve. However, the key to setting an achievable goal is ensuring that your goal is based on a high priority in your life. Your goal needs to be important to you and you need to be able to see the clear value in achieving it. Without this motivation behind your goal, your chances of success will be drastically reduced.
Choose a goal that is relevant to your priorities and the direction that you want your life to head in. For example, if your career is your highest priority, choose a goal that allows you to improve that area of your life. Whether you want to start working more overtime each week to improve your performance and show dedication, or you want to secure a better job at another company.
If you’re not sure what goal to set, write down what is important to you and why you even want to set and achieve a goal. Whatever your priorities are, your goal needs to reflect them so that you have a clear reason to want to achieve it. Ask yourself how you would convince a stranger that your goal is worthwhile to provide yourself with the motivation to achieve it.
Throughout the process of choosing your goal, it’s important to remain realistic. Remember that everything around you started off as an idea in someone’s head, so nothing is out of your reach. However, the bigger the goal, the more motivation you will need and the more time you will need to allow to ensure that your goal is achievable.
It is usually easier to start with a smaller, but still challenging goal, rather than a ten year plan. But, with the right preparation, micro-goal setting, and planning, anything is possible. As you start to get in the habit of setting and achieving your goals, your confidence in your abilities will grow and larger goals that used to seem daunting will be within your reach.
(Setting Your Goal)
One essential step in setting yourself up to achieve your goal is to be specific and clear when you’re setting it. Setting a goal that is specific and measurable will make it much easier to track your progression towards it, rather than working towards a vague idea. Making a goal more specific also makes it easier to achieve, as you will have already defined exactly where you want to be and how you are planning to get there.
Take the example of the commonly set goal to start going to the gym and to get fit. The ambiguity of “going to the gym” means that it’s easy to let yourself off with not sticking to a regular schedule as you still started going, which is more than you did before setting your goal. Similarly, the goal of “getting fit” or even losing weight is vague enough that you can let yourself off the hook even if you have only lost a small amount of weight.
Setting vague goals also makes it harder to stay motivated as it’s harder to say how much the steps you are taking (such as going to the gym each week) are helping you achieve your goal of getting fit. This can lead to becoming overwhelmed by your end goal, losing encouragement, and eventually giving up.
Conversely, taking the same goal and making it more specific, for example “I will go to the gym three times a week and be able to run a 10k in six months”, gives you set targets that can be achieved each week, and allows you to measure and visually see your progress over time towards running 10km. This will not only improve your motivation and confidence towards achieving your goal, it will also increase your chances of achieving it.
(Writing It Down)
Physically writing your goal down with pen and paper will also increase your chances of actually achieving your goal. Not only will this allow you to have a physical reminder of the goal you set, studies show that you are much more likely to achieve a goal that you have written down and created a clear plan for.
When writing your goal, the phrasing is important. As mentioned above, it’s important to be specific, however, you should also make sure that your goal is positively phrased. Also, replace the words “want to” or “try to” with “I will”. For example, if your goal is to eat less sugar, instead of “I want to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet”, write “I will be sugar-free for the next three months”. This frames the goal in a positive way, allows you to visualise yourself achieving your goal, and is easily measured rather than the vague goal of “reducing sugar”.
Once you have written down your goal, display it prominently as a daily reminder of what you are working towards. Choose somewhere where you will see it everyday, whether it be on your desk, on a wall, on the mirror, or even your front door. The daily reminder of seeing your goal will help keep you focused and make it difficult to ignore or forget about.
The more detail you go into when you write down your goal, the more likely you will be able to achieve it. Plan everything out, from when you will have achieved your goal, to setting micro goals that can be achieved along the way.
(Setting A Date)
When setting your goal it’s important to set a specific completion date. Rather than saying by next year or in six months, set a specific date on the calendar. This is an important part of setting and achieving your goal as it will help you to accurately break your goal down into steps that need to be completed along the way with their own completion dates.
Additionally, choosing a specific deadline for your goal will allow you to clearly track your progress and give you a specific date to celebrate the success of achieving your goal. When setting the completion date for your goal you will need to find the perfect balance between being realistic, and challenging yourself.
Choosing an unrealistic date to achieve your goal is only going to set you up for failure. Conversely, choosing a date that is far longer than necessary will take away the sense of challenge and urgency which can make you lose focus and fail to achieve your goal.
(Breaking It Down)
Breaking down your main goal into smaller, or micro goals, is an essential step in ensuring your success that is often overlooked. This step is particularly important for big or long-term goals where the finish line may not be in sight from the beginning.
Planning out each step along the way is the key to making a large or long term goal seem achievable, rather than becoming overwhelmed at the enormity of the goal and giving up too soon. Additionally, having micro goals to complete will allow you to see your progress towards your main goal providing the encouragement and confidence you need to achieve it.
Split your main goal down into smaller goals, while ensuring that they are still challenging, and set specific completion dates for each one as you did with your main goal. Each completion date for your smaller goals will act as checkpoints that you can tick off on your way to achieving your main goal.
Taking the earlier example of the goal “I will go to the gym three times a week and be able to run 10km in six months”, there are plenty of smaller goals that you can aim for within that goal. Firstly, attending the gym three times a week can be easily measured by writing out a list of each week in the next six months and checking them off as they pass.
Next, break down the goal of wanting to run a 10k in six months. For example, you could set a micro goal for exactly three months from your completion date to be able to run a 5k. Or you could break it down even further, setting milestones for each month (eg. be able to run 1.7km in one month, 3.4km in two months, … etc. to 10.2km in six months).
This allows you to track your weekly and monthly progress towards your main goal, rather than going to the gym regularly and running without being able to clearly see how you will progress to the 10km run in six months time. With micro goals set, if you fail to meet a milestone you will be able to evaluate what you can change to meet the next one and get back on track, rather than getting to the five month mark and realising you’re way off track to achieving your goal.
Once you have set your micro goals, make sure to physically write down each micro goal you set alongside a checkbox to tick off as you complete each one, as this will allow you to visually see your progress at each step towards the end goal. Add reminders to your phone, in your diary, or wherever you will see them for each micro goal completion date to help keep track of how you are progressing.
Once you have achieved your goal, go back to step one and set another to continue the cycle of consistently smashing your goals!