Did you know there are currently 9,996 results for goal setting on Amazon right now? Crazy, right? By now, goal setting should be something we understand. Every motivational speaker has taught us that the first step to success is setting goals. The process is almost always the same. Figure out what you want, write down your goals and get after it.
But if goal setting is that simple, why do we need almost ten thousand different ways to tell us how to do it? Isn’t there one right way? Fortunately, the world is filled with scientists who don’t really believe in positive self-talk. In fact, they are so skeptical, they performed scientific experiments to figure out whether goal setting works, and how to improve it.
Before you panic, the findings were good. It turns out, if you are setting goals, you are setting yourself up for success. However, we should be interested in that second part. How can we use science to improve the way we set goals?
It turns out there are 3 different areas we can apply the science of goal setting to improve our effectiveness:
1. Setting Intentions
What many of us class as goals are actually intentions. We would like something to happen, but never develop these ideas into fully fledged goals. To create goals, we need to come up with a more defined approach to achieving them. However, the starting point is always intentions.
Understanding how intentions are formed helps you understand why you might be deciding the goals you set for yourself. There are three elements that contribute to intentions:
1. Values – What is important to you will influence your goals. If health is important to you, setting a goal to run a marathon wouldn’t be a surprise. Winning a cheesecake eating competition might be more surprising as it is incongruent with your values. Goals aligned with our values are more likely to be followed up, especially long-term. Goals that fall short of accomplishment often just aren’t that important to us, and at the first sign of resistance, we tend to get frustrated or give up. Clarity around your values will help you identify great goals.
2. Peer Network – The people whose opinions you value will directly impact the challenges you set. If you grew up surrounded by businesspeople, you are far more likely to have them encouraging you to be entrepreneurial. You don’t have to go through with it, but sometimes, peer pressure can be extremely useful. Unfortunately, peer pressure can work in the opposite direction as well. Your friends are all broke? Every relationship in your family ended in divorce? This shouldn’t stop you setting the right goals for yourself, but maybe you also need to think about creating a more supportive peer network.
3. Self Belief – How much do you think you can earn this year? How many more clients could you attract to your business next month? Your self-belief will affect how high you aim your sights. Aim high, but believe in yourself to accomplish these dreams by conditioning and working on your self-efficacy levels. Roger Bannister first broke the 4-minute mile at a time when everyone (other than him) thought it was impossible. As soon as he broke through that glass ceiling, others started to believe too. Your beliefs about yourself will limit how high you set your goals.
“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.” – Bo Jackson
2. Moderating Factors
Once we are clearer on our intentions, additional factors impact how successful we are with our goals. Our commitment level will determine whether we follow through when things get tough. If the goal is important, and we believe in our ability to succeed, we are more resilient and creative when our progress slows. When we start on an important path, there will be hurdles, and it is commitment that keeps us in the game.
Feedback is essential to success. Feedback isn’t always pleasant, but how we react will determine whether we are on track for our goals or falling away from our proper path. Find a way to get external feedback from people you trust, and don’t hide away from it when it gets more constructive.
Finally, ensure the goal is challenging, but not too far out of reach. Extravagant goals are great as long-term ambitions, but we need to break down goals into manageable, yet challenging action steps. If we don’t do this, we will either be overwhelmed by our bigger goals or bored by our smaller goals. Make each step of the journey equally rewarding and challenging.
“Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” – LL Cool J
3. Follow Through Behaviour
Lastly, we will never achieve our goals unless we follow through with the action steps. If you don’t have a defined path to success, it is often easy to appear to be busy, when in reality, your efforts are not focused. Instead, think about how to concentrate your efforts, like a magnifying glass focuses the sun, and stay working hard on that one track.
One thing that reduces follow-through behaviour is lack of self-efficacy. We need to believe in ourselves. We need to know we are destined for success and it will come. For some, that journey is quicker than others, so don’t get disheartened when others around you are crushing it.
You don’t know their journey and the effort they put in behind the scenes. Focus on you. Be better than yesterday, model people, reward your smallest successes, play your favourite music on full volume, then go out and be awesome.
If you read the goal setting science papers, maybe their language is a little less colourful, but ultimately, every single one of the goal setting tips has scientific research to back it up. If you want to read it, drink some strong coffee, head over to Google Scholar and then type in ‘goal setting’. Alternatively, trust these steps, set your goals now, and make today the day you accelerate your success!
How do you use goal setting to find success? Comment below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
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