We humans are a goal-orientated species. Not having goals leaves us stranded without direction, floating as passive vessels in a vast ocean of coincidence. Indeed, even our very survival has depended on our strivings for food and reproduction.
Beyond survival, we also set goals for personal fulfilment and professional advancement. They give focus and direction to our energy, time and resources. Goal setting helps us to move forwards.
The Why and What of Goal Setting
We recommend that you set goals in all areas of your life, including professional goals based on advancing your business or career, and personal goals based on what makes you happy.
Your goals should always be in line with your values, and should preferably be rooted in significance and meaning that goes beyond money. Identifying the true purpose of your goals will help you to find inner motivation to achieve them.
Goals should also be thought about in terms of taking positive steps towards something desirable, rather than taking steps away from something undesirable. Better to aim directly for the target.
The more defined and refined your goal setting becomes, the more likely you are to achieve it. For example, “I want to get a new job at Company X by December, so that I can be happier and have more opportunity to work with computers” is better than “I want to get out of my current job”.
SMART Goal Setting
First think of what you want to achieve on a general level. In your business life, you might aim for company growth, to gain new clients, or to introduce a new product to the market. You may wish to advance professionally and take on more responsibility in work. In your personal life, you may want to take up a new hobby, or meet new people.
To help you to refine your goals, you can use the acronym SMART.
S – is for Specific. Think about what your goal will be, where it takes place, who needs to be involved, how you will execute it, and the conditions and limitations around accomplishing it. The more specific you can be during the initial goal setting stage, the greater your chance for success, so think long and hard about the technicalities and details.
M – is for Measurable. If you can’t visualize the physical result of your goal, then it is unlikely that you will achieve it. You need to be able to define a measurable outcome – proof that you got where you wanted to be. It could be a certificate of accomplishment, a percentage of business growth, or a certain amount of hours dedicated to a project, but it has to be measurable.
A – is for Attainable. Ask yourself whether the task can be done. Can your goal realistically be achieved? Don’t take this question the wrong way. It’s not about whether you could do it, but whether you have the time, money and resources to make it happen, and whether you are comfortable dedicating the required amount of resources to the particular goal in mind.
R – is for Relevant. If you love watersports and have trained for 10 years, then becoming an instructor is a relevant goal. If you have had no previous experience and you want to win the F1 Grand Prix, then that is an irrelevant goal. Understanding the difference will save you a lot of time and effort. Ask yourself, does the goal fit with your values and deeper motivations, do you have the skills, and do you want the outcome enough to put in the required effort?
T – is for Time-based. The final component of successful goal setting is to work with deadlines and impose time constraints to keep yourself focused. If the goal is long term, set milestones to keep a measure of progress over time. It’s important to be flexible with your timings, but having them in place will drive you to work towards goals that are near and far in the future.
Goal setting is a powerful tool that can improve all areas of your life, but you must avoid two key pitfalls:
- Avoid seeing yourself as a ‘failure’ if you do not achieve, or fall short of your goals. Though your goals should be well-defined, you should also see them as strivings rather than set targets. They are there to direct your energy and resources, not to make you feel guilty. Missing your time-limit, for example, is not ‘failing’. Setting a goal to achieve a 10 in a test and getting an 8 is not a failing, especially if the goal setting lead to improvements.
- On the other hand, do not let your goals constrict your growth. If you aimed for a particular career position or business goal, and you make it further, faster, then realign your goals with your new expectations and desires. If market circumstances of life situations change, readjust your goals so that they are once again relevant and attainable. Flexibility is key to the most positive goal setting and outcomes. In this way, goals become a commitment to continual improvement, rather than rigid boundaries of successes and failures.
Use Courses Dojo’s Path Finder to discover and help set a training course. We have hundreds of courses available that can help you to advance your professional life or take up an interesting new hobby. Take a look through our course list and set yourself goals to improve your life.