The Importance of Setting and Achieving Goals
© 2018 Elena Fawkner
With rare exceptions, nothing truly worthwhile in life happens by accident.
Sure, you may win the lottery but what are the odds? What if
achieve everything you ever wanted without wining the lottery?
What if it
was as simple as deciding where you wanted to go and planning the route
to get there? It is. Goal setting is the process of deciding
where you want
to go in life and then mapping out a series of steps to get you there.
Success is something we create for ourselves. Luck has nothing
to do with
it. All successful people set goals. Some may have a structured
others a “vision”. Some may not even consciously set goals at
all. But the
process is the same. Successful people know what they want, determine
the steps that will get them there and then they implement them.
By setting and achieving goals, you will use your time more productively,
perform better and more efficiently than ever before and with every
you achieve, your self-confidence will increase, motivating you to
ever higher. If you have goals, you have purpose. If you
you have direction. If you have direction, you do not waste a
heap of time (such as a lifetime) on activities and things that will
you where or what you want.
Think of it as setting out on a long journey to somewhere you have never
been before. Would you even put the key in the ignition unless
a destination in mind and a map to get you there? If you’re heading
for a lazy Sunday drive, maybe you would. But if your destination
somewhere specific, no way. You’d just end up spinning your wheels.
Your life is the longest and most exciting adventure you will ever take.
Make sure you have a map before you start out. You may decide
take some sidetrips along the way, but you’ll at least reach your
destination eventually. You may even find some shortcuts.
But if you
leave without a map at all, you may just waste the entire journey driving
around in circles.
Know What You Want
Remember the old adage, “be careful what you wish for, you may just
get it”? Be careful what you choose for your goals because you
probably get it. The methodical process of goal setting will
The first step to setting effective goals is to know what it is you
The key word in the last sentence is “you”. It is what you want
important, not what others want for you or for themselves through you.
If you don’t want to achieve your goal, you certainly won’t.
if you have a burning desire to achieve your goal, you surely will.
Begin defining your goals by writing a wish list. Don’t censor
Visualise yourself living your ideal life. Think of categories
such as career,
education, family, personal life, physical, spiritual, financial, social,
pleasure and attitude. What is your highest ideal for each of
categories? Write it down. Perhaps it is to be at the top
of your profession.
Perhaps to be self-employed. Maybe it’s to earn a PhD by the
45 or to marry and have a family. It might be to attain your
and to be physically fit. It could be to have a small circle
of very close
friends or to earn enough money to retire at 50. What kind of
do you want to live in? Where do you want to live? What
type of car
do you want to drive? What exciting destinations do you want
to travel to?
Paint a picture. Use sweeping strokes and bold colour. There
limits. You are the architect of your future. You are limited
only by your
Criteria for Effective Goals
Once you have a vision for your life, it is time to start crystallising
dreams and expressing them in terms of specific objectives. Before
beginning the work of actually setting objectives, goals and supporting
tasks it is important to understand the criteria for setting effective
First, use the present tense. Express the goal as if it has already
achieved and not as something that will only occur in the future.
important to think of your goals in the present tense as this is what
with your subconscious. If your subconscious believes it is not
that is to happen now, it will not work on it now. It will deal
with it later,
when the appropriate time comes. Of course, for a goal that is
in the future tense, the time never comes.
Next, focus on outcome, not performance. Don’t worry about how
are going to achieve your goal, concentrate only on the outcome.
on your vision for the goal category. Example: I retire at 50
as I am
independently wealthy, not I start my own business, quit my job, pay
all of my debts and invest successfully.
Make your goals specific. If they are fuzzy and ill-defined, you
will not be
able to internalise them in a way that will allow you to decide on
actions to take to achieve them. Also, your subconscious won’t
them clearly enough to act on them. Furthermore, you will not
when or if you have achieved them! An example of a specific goal
“I weigh 125 pounds”, not I will lose weight.
Make your goals realistic. Whatever you set as a goal must be
power. While it should be challenging, it must be something that
achieve as a result of your own efforts and not something that depends
someone else doing something. Example: I am self-confident
this attitude to others, not I make John fall in love with me.
Make your goals challenging. While your goals must be realistic,
must also be challenging if you are to gain any real benefit from them.
all, if you merely set as a goal something you would have achieved
(such as that automatic raise next month), what have you really achieved?
Start Long-Term and Work Backwards
Now that you have written down your wishlist and understand the criteria
for effective goals it is time to begin translating your wishlist into
a goal plan.
Starting with your wishlist, express each “wish” in terms of a long-term
For example, if one of your wishes is to retire at 50 because you are
independently wealthy, your goal could read “I am independently wealthy
and retire at age 50”.
In some cases, a particular wish will be the equivalent of a life-time
In others, it will be able to be achieved in a relatively short timeframe.
long-term or “life-time” goals, you will need to work backwards, breaking
your objective down into more manageable sub-goals. One approach
take a life-time goal (say a 25 year goal) and break it down into 10
5 year and 1 year sub-goals. The life-time objective to retire
at age 50
because I am independently wealthy could translate to a 10 year goal
“I am debt free and my business generated a net profit of one million
dollars this year”. You could then take this 10 year goal and
set a 5 year
goal of “I have quit my job and I am earning $100,000 per year from
own business”. Your one year goal could be “I am researching
businesses so I can set up my own business next year”.
It will be obvious that by starting long-term and working backwards,
idea is to break each intimidating objective down into manageable steps.
The end result will be a daily “to do” list. Before going too
far with this,
however, take a moment to think through what you will need to achieve
those longer term goals. Think about what skills you will need
and how to get them; what information and knowledge; what help,
assistance and collaboration; what resources. Then try and anticipate
obstacles and plan a way around them. Prepare for all foreseen
contingencies. Once you have a clear idea of what you will need,
can build these things into your goal plan.
Create a Daily Task List
By this point you should have worked your way backwards to at least
one year mark. Now work back to the six month mark. What
need to do within the next six months to achieve your one year goals?
When you’ve set your six month goals, work backwards even further and
set out your one month goals. What do you need to do within the
month to achieve your six month goals?
Finally, by continually working backwards in this way, you will eventually
get the point where you are writing out what you need to do TODAY to
achieve your longer term goals. In this way, long-term goals
down into small, manageable tasks that are done on a day to day basis.
The process is an incremental one of small steps today leading you
closer to achieving your life’s desires.
Imagine not having a daily task list. What would you be doing
Going to the same old boring job day in, day out, pottering about,
something and not finishing it? Going around in circles, watching
TV? With a daily task list, you can be sure that you’re investing
and energies in activities that will bring you long-term benefit.
activities will bring structure and purpose to your day and eliminate
wasters. Soon you will find yourself becoming discriminating
in what you
give your time to. You will ask yourself, “how does this bring
me closer to
my goal of x”? You will learn there is a certain satisfaction and sense
accomplishment in crossing off a task as completed. You will
in the knowledge you are taking care of business and, of course, once
have taken care of business, you can take some guilt-free time for
In this series of articles you’ve learned why setting goals is important,
to decide what it is you really want, how to set effective goals and
create a goal plan by starting long-term and working backwards in time.
This final article in the series concentrates on how to achieve the
have set. Now obviously once you have a daily task list you have
hands the steps you need to take to reach your longer-term objectives.
But along the road to your destination, you are going to encounter
twists and turns. And probably a pothole or two for good measure.
may find you get bored doing the same things day after day. You
to have setbacks and crises of confidence.
These are all to be expected and are perfectly natural and normal.
though, is not to let them derail you from your course. This
is what separates
the successes from the wanna-bes. There are five keys to staying
commitment, flexibility, discipline, determination and persistence.
Designing a goal plan and sticking to it requires commitment.
commitment to yourself and to your values and ideals. Unless
committed to improving your life, don’t even bother starting with goal
It won’t be worth the effort. Remind yourself constantly of your
Put up photographs that represent your goals in prominent places.
reasons you want to achieve a particular objective next to the objective
goal plan. Read them every morning and evening.
If your reasons don’t compel you to keep striving, then perhaps they
good enough reasons. Maybe the objective is not something you
enough. If so, change it. Don’t let your objectives lock
you into a path you
don’t want to go down. Be flexible. Setting and achieving
goals is a lifetime
process. Over the course of a lifetime you will go through many
What was important to you ten years ago may not be a priority any more.
If this happens to you, let it go. Set new objectives that are
who you are today.
Many of the tasks you have to do on a daily basis to achieve your longer-term
objectives will be laborious and may become boring. It is tempting
boredom sets in to do something different. Don’t! Discipline
yourself to carry
out those tasks every day even if you don’t feel like it. An
objective to lose
60 pounds is not going to be achieved overnight. It requires
and attention to diet. Bored with your exercise routine?
Change your routine
but exercise anyway. Exercise personal discipline. It is
amazing the difference
daily performance of seemingly minor tasks can make over only a relatively
short period of time.
When you suffer setbacks, and you will, grit your teeth and keep going.
is what separates the winners from the wanna-bes. Anyone can
give up when
the going gets tough. Most do, in fact. It is those who
keep going in the face
of setbacks who are ultimately victorious.
And finally, persistence, persistence, persistence! Never give
up. Never ever
let anyone else make you doubt whether you can achieve your goals.
success is in your own hands. Reach out and take it!
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