One of my big focuses is on the power of goal setting. It is the subject of a software project I am working on designed to teach the subject. I personally believe goal setting to be an incredibly powerful technique to personal development. Too few people properly set goals and there is no excuse. Goal setting is a relatively easy skill and I have found it to give me at least triple to results compared to similar situations when I did not use the goal setting process.
While I have seen many goal setting systems, from complex to basic, I feel I have distilled the key qualities for goal setting.
The first is written. If a goal is not written, then for all practical purposes it is worthless. Writing goals puts yourself on the line, allowing you to shift your focus on it. If the goal is entirely in your head, then it is easily dismissed when things get tough.
The second property is objectivity. A goal must be objective. Any goals you set must be as objective as possible. Subjective goals like “Eat healthy foods” are worthless as well. A goal of any measure of challenge will require you to push yourself to finish it. If your goal is subjective then it is too easy to “cheat”. Just like a lawyer doesn’t include subjective terms in a contract, you shouldn’t in your goal.
The third property is a deadline. The only time your goals shouldn’t have a deadline is when they are a behavioral or habit goal. Otherwise it must have a deadline to create that sense of urgency needed to achieve with it. So if your goal is to lose x amount of weight, then you also need to set a deadline for when you will achieve it by.
I have seen other properties included in this list, but these are the basic three. Quite frankly, if it is missing one of these components it simply isn’t a goal, with the only exception being habitual or behavioral goals which are intended to be continuous and do not need a deadline.
The next step in setting a goal is to make a comprehensive explanation of why you want to achieve the goal in the first place. The success or failure of your goal is dependent on having a strong enough set of whys. By fully exploring all of the reasons you want to achieve the goal, you can improve the focusing power of goals.
After you have a list of all the reasons why you are committed to a particular goal, the next step is to formulate a strategy for achieving it. Some goals are rather simplistic, so a simple plan will likely hold you throughout the process. Some goals will require a complicated plan and there is a good chance that plan will need to be revised. The purpose of the strategy and plan is to get you to take action towards your goal. So if you need to change the strategy mid-goal, go right ahead.
Finally, once you have your objective, written goal with a deadline, along with your whys and strategy, you now need to take action to achieve your goal. Action is the most important step, as the past steps have been done only to ensure continuous action. So once you’ve set a goal, begin working on it immediately.
There are many techniques that can improve the efficiency of this process. I’ve found many techniques that were very helpful, and others that didn’t do much at all. This, however, is the core process to setting a goal.
Try using this process to set goals. If you are already setting goals with a different system take a look at how it relates to this one. I think you will find that virtually all effective goal setting systems use these steps. In my next blog entry I will go further and explain how I used this process to set a goal for myself.