The first step to success is setting clear goals. A clear goal has substance. It resonates with you. It has edges, texture, and weight. It’s so real you can almost touch it! How do you set that kind of goal, make it your own, and take the steps to reach it? Well, what does success mean for you? Take a minute to really visualize yourself being wildly successful. Does this mean financial gain? Love? Happiness? Weight loss? Career advancement? Dream big. Be authentic. Where you want to be doesn’t need to look like where anyone else wants to be. What does your dream look like? What would you be doing every day? How does it feel? If goals are unclear, unreachable, or unmeasurable they can be very difficult to visualize. If you don’t know exactly what you want, how do you expect to get it? Ask yourself: Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Why do you want it? How are you going to get there? By when?
Key words in the above paragraph are want, why, and when. We have to genuinely want to reach our goals. If you don’t truly want to live your dream, the motivation to stay the course will slip away. You may settle for good enough. We have to know why we want this life we dream of, and our why has to be strong. Otherwise when setbacks occur, and they will, we may give up or get lost. In order to rise to the challenge, a solid answer to the question “Why am I working so hard?” will become important. We have to clearly define when we want to achieve the goal. A clear deadline gives your goal urgency and challenge. We all like to procrastinate, and having a due date looming on the horizon helps keep us motivated. These are the five principles of goal setting according to Dr. Edwin Locke: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback, and complexity.
The first principle of goal setting is clarity. Setting crystal clear goals changes our mindset. It makes the goal “ours”. This is the Endowment Effect. We commit to the idea and literally own it. Jen Sincero advises acting as if your goal has already been achieved. This mindset sets us up to behave in such a way that attracts what we want because we’re acting like we already have it, which raises our vibration and puts us in a position to get what we want. Want to lose the weight in order to fit into those fantastic pants? Buy the pants, hang them where you can see them every day, visualize yourself wearing them, and imagine the compliments you will get when you totally pull that look off! Set a specific deadline. “I will fit into those pants before we leave on vacation June 5”. Make sure your goal is measurable. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve reached it? Your goal should also be specific. Think of what your goal is. Then zero in on your true intention by adding “in order to” on the end of what you want to do until you have a razor sharp, clear goal. Use language that resonates with you and captures the essence of what you really want. This seems like a minor detail, but words matter. Then write that goal down and post it somewhere prominent.
Make sure your goal is challenging. This is the second principle of goal setting. If it is too easy you may decide not bother with it at all. Challenge is a motivator. On the other hand, don’t choose something so overwhelming that you can’t get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. A challenging goal is motivating, an overwhelming goal is frustrating. If your timeline exceeds your attention span you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s okay to be terribly ambitious, but break your big goals into smaller chunks. Set a deadline for the major goal and each of the smaller goals. Say you want to run a marathon, but you get winded walking across the grocery store parking lot. Maybe start with a 5k. Find a race that you can train for within the next few months, sign up for it, and take steps every day to work towards it. Actually signing up for the race and paying the entry fee in advance makes it more likely you will follow through. See if you even like running. Then, find a marathon that takes place in a year’s time. Mark it on your calendar, post the date everywhere so you can see it multiple times a day, use it as motivation to get out of bed in the wee hours to run. Setting several concrete deadlines also minimizes the tendency to procrastinate. Maybe you schedule several 5k races, a 10k, and a half marathon this year to keep you motivated. Check in every so often to be sure you are on schedule. Be sure your reward is equal to or greater than the effort it will take to reach your goal. A more challenging task should have a greater reward.
The third principle of goal setting is commitment. How bad do you want it? This is where your why comes in. If your why is strong enough, your what, when, and how will fall into place. The more challenging your goal is, the stronger your desire to reach it will have to be. It also helps to be accountable to someone other than yourself. Support groups, coaches, sponsors, classmates, and friends all make fantastic accountability partners. Choose wisely! You don’t want your accountability partner to bail on you. You can also post your intention on social media. Putting it out there for all to see, and potentially ask you about later, makes a thing real. Prepare for failure, because problems will arise despite your best efforts. Don’t give up! Keep coming back to your why and make adjustments as necessary. Remember that tenacity is more important than talent. Really sticking to your vision and being committed to the long haul matters more than how good you are at it. Plus, set backs and obstacles are great teachers, but only if you don’t give up.
While in the process of working towards a goal, it helps to track your progress and check in occasionally. This provides you with the fourth principle, which is feedback. Feedback helps you spot potential problems or set backs and fix them before they derail your plan. It also helps you see your progress and keeps you motivated and excited about the end result. Check in with yourself and others. How do you feel about your progress? Are you heading in the right direction? If you are working on a business goal it may help to get feedback from your customers. Are you reaching your target audience? Do people like your product? This is a great time to express gratitude as well. Gratitude greases the wheels for further progress. Consciously expressing gratitude for both successes and lessons provides feedback on how things are really going. Celebrate successes, be thankful for lessons. Grateful people are positive people and positive people make things happen.
The final principle of goal setting is complexity. Goals should be simple, attainable, and manageable. If they are too complex you will get bogged down in the details. It’s like hiking through an overgrown path in order to get to the beautiful waterfall. If the path is too difficult, it’s likely that you will give up or lose the path altogether. Clear the path of extra stuff. Remember the “in order to” exercise in the first principle? This will also help you with complexity. Narrow your goal down to the bare essentials of what you want to be “in order to” do what you want to do. Keep repeating “in order to” after stating your intention until you have a simple, precise statement. This revision will help you zero in on your goal for your own reasons no matter which way the winds are blowing. You may run into alternate views along your path; one expert says you should do it one way, another says to do it a different way. If your goal is rock solid and your path easy to follow, you will be able to extrapolate what information serves you and discard the rest. Keep visualizing what you truly want and use this vision as a beacon to light your way through the clutter.
These five principles will help you set an effective goal and be on your way to achieving it. Remember that the journey is more important than the destination. According to Jack Canfield, the destination is only another version of “now”. Once you get there it won’t look shiny and wonderful for long. You’re likely going to want something else fairly soon. We are wired to think this way so we continue to grow. Well, then what’s the point of working towards a goal if we won’t want it when we get there? Like I said: it’s the journey. Jack Canfield says the journey is important because you can’t ever know less, and what you know can never be taken away. Whatever your destination is — whether it’s a new car, or new status, better neighborhood, whatever — these things are external and can be lost. Through divorce or scandal or flood, what you have worked so hard for can be taken away. But the experience and lessons you have learned striving for that goal cannot be taken away. Things like mastering yourself, wisdom gained, character earned, qualities, and skills can never be lost. Those things are possibly the true goal anyway.
Once you have this big, exciting new goal and you start to visualize the future every day, remember to stay present. Meditation can help with this. Especially a daily meditation that helps to ground you and brings mindfulness to your day. A fantastic exercise to help you get started on being mindful throughout the day is to set the timer on your phone to go off once every hour. When the timer goes off, pause what you’re doing and breathe. Connect with yourself for just a few seconds and move on. Taking this a step further, Carrie Green suggests to write down what you have been thinking about and how you have been feeling during the past hour. This practice may help you nail down your goals and be sure they are authentic to you.
When you get to that inevitable low point or have a setback, return to your journal or vision board and renew your motivation with the energy you felt when you first started. Remember the point of this journey is the lessons it provides. Be grateful for the set backs. Say, “Thank you, teacher,” and move on. Return to your “Why” and inject new life into the “How”. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your path to account for things that you have learned or mistakes made, but stay true to the prize. Reconnect with what you truly want to accomplish and go back through the five principles to be sure you are staying the course with a clear, attainable goal. Be tenacious!
You can do this!
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Jacob Shriar, The Science of Goal Setting, access online at http://www.business2community.com/strategy/science-goal-setting-01597399#T0sVAZOlEgGH8JEq.97
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (find it on Amazon)
“How to Succeed at Life with Jack Canfield” The Melissa Ambrosini Show. May 10, 2017. https://melissaambrosini.com/podcast/how-to-succeed-at-life-with-jack-canfield/
Carrie Green, She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas Into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur (find it on Amazon)