How To Set Goals That Motivate You
The article below is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
Everyone has an idea of what they’d like to have, do, or be in their lifetime. The problem is, not many people know how to bring those dreams into reality. The key to reaching our fullest potential is learning how to set goals effectively.
Goal setting shouldn’t be a boring process – in fact, it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding activities you’ll ever do. Not sure where to begin? This guide will show you how to set goals that motivate you and put you on a direct route to success.
Why Is It Important To Set Goals?
We have two choices in life: to let life take us where it chooses or to choose where life takes us. Goals are the way we can define where we want to go, like a road map to success. Setting clear goals helps guide our actions toward a specific outcome.
The process of setting effective goals gives us a sense of purpose and possibility and allows us to reach new levels of success. Whether your goal is to own a Ferrari or to improve your overall wellness, the chances are you won’t get there automatically. It often takes careful planning and calculated actions to get the outcome you want.
Professional athletes and highly successful businesspeople are very aware of the power of goal-setting. In fact, it’s one of the key reasons high achievers consistently get impressive results.
Does Setting Goals Really Work?
Well, that all depends. The process of setting and achieving goals only works if you’re absolutely committed to reaching your desired outcome. In other words, the only thing stopping you from getting the results you desire in life… is you. Limiting beliefs and a fear of failure can keep people from even trying.
There has been extensive research on goal-setting that has shown its effectiveness in improving the way we perform both at work and in our personal lives. Why is setting goals so powerful? There are a few reasons:
• Goals give us the motivation to put real effort into what we desire
• Goals direct our energy into specific actions that will lead to our desired outcome
• Goals keep us going when things get difficult
• Goals force us to summon our resources, skills, and knowledge to make something happen
How To Set Effective Goals: Here Are 9 Expert Tips
Ready to see for yourself how powerful goal-setting can be? Here are nine tips that will help you to set goals the way the most successful people in the world do.
1. Find Someone To Hold You Accountable
Research has shown that people are far more likely to achieve their goals if they share them with someone they trust and respect. Find a support person who can act as an accountability partner for you, and check in with them regularly to let them know how you’re progressing towards your goal.
Your “accountability buddy” could be a family member you look up to or a close friend who believes in you. Alternatively, online therapy is a great way to connect with a licensed therapist who can help support you in achieving your goals.
A good accountability partner will encourage you to persist when you come up against roadblocks, cheer you on when you feel unsure of yourself, and act as a sounding board for ideas you may have on how to achieve your goals.
2. Write Down Your Goals
Put pen to paper and write your goals down. A 2015 study found that people who write their goals out on paper were 33% more successful in achieving their goals than those who didn’t write them down.
Why is the act of writing out your goals so powerful? It forces the goal from being a vague notion of something you’d like to do into being a distinct, clear statement of what you intend to do. It allows you to clarify exactly what you want and takes it from being just an idea in your head to existing in the physical world: on a piece of paper that you can touch and see.
Writing down your goals on a sheet of paper or in a notebook makes them easy to access and review any time you need to. This process also helps your brain to store the goals as important information in your long-term memory.
3. Ensure Your Goals Are SMART
For a goal to be truly effective, it should have the attributes of a SMART goal:
Let’s take a look at each of these attributes and what they mean.
Your goal should be clear and exact, with nothing remaining vague about it. If you don’t get specific about what it is you want to achieve, it will be too easy to get off track or demotivated.
How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? Setting a measurable goal means it’s quantifiable, meaning you’ve specified exactly how much money you want in the bank, how much you want to weigh, or how many Grammy awards you want to win.
Setting impossible goals will do nothing but discourage you over time. Effective goals are realistic and attainable. That doesn’t mean making them too easy – the best goals push our abilities but are still within the realm of possibility.
A relevant goal is one that matters to you and aligns with your other goals in life. Make sure that your goal seems worthwhile, that it’s the right time for you to focus on it, and that it fits with your personal values.
Set a target deadline for achieving your goal. If you don’t make a clear timeline, you won’t feel as focused or motivated to reach your goal. A sense of urgency is a good thing, but be sure to allow enough time to complete the necessary steps.
4. Get Clear on Your “Why”
Having a good reason to go after your goals is essential. The more urgent and passionate your reasons are, the more likely you are to do anything it takes to reach your goal. Why do you want to reach these goals?
It can help to imagine what your life would be like if you achieved your goal: what possibilities would it open up for your life, and for reaching further goals? What would it cost you if you failed to achieve your goal? Try to really feel your answers to these questions.
Your goals should feel exciting and even a little scary. If you don’t have a strong enough reason to reach your goal, you might want to come up with a better goal.
5. Break Down Your Goal into Small Steps
Focusing all your attention on the end goal can be overwhelming and put you off entirely. It can help to break down your goal into smaller, more manageable steps. This way, you’ll notice progress more easily and you’ll gain momentum from your sense of achievement.
Breaking your goal down forces you to think about all the details involved in reaching its final achievement. This will encourage careful planning and naturally transition you into taking action. Try working backward: what would be the step just before reaching your goal? What about the step before that?
6. Take Immediate Action
While planning is a good thing, you don’t want to get stuck in planning mode forever. In order to start building momentum from day one, take a step right now toward your goal. Do one thing today that will get you in action, whether it’s making an inquiry phone call or enrolling in a class. Small daily actions will stack up over time to create massive progress.
7. Visualize Your Outcome
This is a tried-and-true technique that star athletes utilize daily. When you visualize the moment when you make the goal or win the match, your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between the visualization and real life.
Don’t just see your ultimate outcome, but try to feel it. What would it feel like to be driving that Ferrari, the wind in your hair? How confident would you feel? How relaxed would you feel? This technique will actually train your brain to be comfortable and familiar with your desired result.
Create a vision board with images that represent your major goals. Put that vision board on the wall above your desk or beside your bed, so that you see it every single day. Reaching your goals starts in your mind and then moves into physical reality, not the other way around.
8. Reward Yourself
Every time you check off one of the sub-goals towards your ultimate goal, make an effort to reward yourself in some way. This will keep you focused on your progress and keep you from getting discouraged.
When we reward ourselves for positive behaviors, we train our brains to repeat them.
There are many ways you can celebrate your small wins. You could take yourself to the movies, buy yourself a cool new outfit, or even have an actual party with friends. You shouldn’t be heartlessly pushing yourself towards your end goal, but enjoying the process along the way.
9. Track Your Progress
Make a set time that you’ll evaluate your progress each week and each month. Taking the time to monitor how you’re doing will give you an opportunity to see exactly how far you’ve come, and also to adjust what you’re doing if you need to. If you’ve hit a roadblock, admit it and adjust your tactics accordingly.
Goal-setting is a way to define what would make us truly fulfilled and the real things we can do to make that happen. Instead of wandering aimlessly through our lives, setting goals lets us take control and direct ourselves toward reaching our true potential.