I’m going to be brief. If you want to achieve something, you need to have a goal. A goal is not just a dream that haunts you when you’re bored; it’s something you aspire to achieve. Get 8 tips for optimal goal setting here.
There’s a tonne of research on what to do or not to do to make your goal setting as useful as possible. Did you even know that setting a measurable goal can improve your chances of success drastically?
Here’s a checklist with 8 tips for optimal goal setting. Use them if you want to reach your goals in time to experience them.
1. Spell it out
Write it down. Goals that are written down have a better chance of being realized. Write it down multiple times and keep the notes where you need to interact with them daily.
2. Have a timeframe
You need to specify when you want to reach said goal. Otherwise, you have nothing pushing you. Writing a book is a lofty goal. When are you going to write it? In five years? Or do you need to sit down in front of your computer right now because you want to write the book within three months?
3. Measure it
If you can’t measure the goal, how will you know when you have reached it? It can be to run a 5k in less than 25 minutes within July 1st. Or it can be to hold a headstand in yoga for more than 30 seconds before Christmas. Make it something you can measure so you know when you’re there. And while we’re on that subject: measure it often. Several randomized weight-loss studies show that people who check their weights more often lose more weight. Making you aware and accountable for your progress helps.
4. Break it down into parts
Let’s use the book manuscript as an example again. Your long-term goal may be to have a finished first draft of around 80,000 words, but 80,000 words are a lot. Why don’t you have a goal of writing 500 words a day? Or 1,000? You get several small wins along the way, and you have something tangible you need to own up to every day. The same for losing weight or going to the gym. If your short-term goal is to get outside and jog for 30 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, it’s much easier to motivate yourself.
5. Carrot or stick?
It’s tempting to reward yourself when you reach one of your goals. But the prize itself may not do much for your motivation to put in the extra effort along the way. Almost all business schools do economic experiences on normal people, and all of the tests can agree on one thing: People hate to lose more than they love to win. Having to give away 100 dollars gives you much more discomfort than the pleasure you get from gaining the same 100 dollars. It’s not rational, but that’s the beauty of behavioral finance, you figure out that people aren’t as reasonable as we assume they are. How do you use that in practice? Agree with a friend that you need to pay them a certain amount if you don’t achieve your goal. There are even apps for this where you can lock up a certain amount that you lose if you don’t hit the gym.
6. Do you tell someone?
Not necessarily. Some research points out that saying a goal out loud might give you the same satisfaction as reaching said goal. This means that you become less motivated to put in the effort. If you’re telling someone, use the trick above and make someone hold you accountable, so the people you tell will know if you fail.
Listen to this TED talk about why you should not tell anyone about your goal.
Or read this study about why telling someone about your goal is a bad idea.
7. Creating a habit will help you reach your goal
Unless you are setting a very easy goal that only demands you to take one action one time, you may need to do some activity repeatedly. Losing weight, building a business, or anything else in life that matters, take time and repetition. If your goal is to jog every day, try doing it at the same time each day. Even better, put it right after something you know you need to do every day. Place your running shoes under the sink, so you see them when you brush your teeth. Habits can be powerful tools, and if you’re able to incorporate them, it can eventually feel more painful to you not to do the action every day than to do it.
8. Use positively phrased goals
I almost forgot this one because I feel it has been repeated so many times by everyone who talks about goal setting. Don’t set a goal of not smoking, set a goal of being healthy. A positively phrased goal motivates more than a negative one, and a negative goal can make you focus too much on the negative habit to be able to quit.