Importance of Goal Setting
Did you know there is a simple process that can dramatically increase the efficiency of our daily lives? With this tool, we can optimize our time, increase productivity, and make the most out of our days. What is it you ask? Goal setting.
That’s right, this elementary skill is so useful in leading a successful life, yet often overlooked due to familiarity. Since people become too familiar with the idea of goal setting, they often forget its main purpose.
So, to begin, let’s take a look at what goals are.
What are Goals?
A goal is an object or an aim that we wish to achieve through action.
It is quite a simple concept but there are many different variations of goals. For example, there are daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals, and yearly goals.
To put it plainly, there are big and small goals.
The reason we set goals is to provide direction and purpose in life. Without them, our lives can seem pointless. By setting goals, we ensure ourselves a certain level of motivation and desire each day.
Let’s take a little deeper look into the differences between big and small goals.
Big Goals (yearly, quarterly, & monthly)
Here we have goals that require a large amount of time to accomplish. These goals are often based around categories like finances, fitness, owning a home, landing a new job, getting into a relationship, etc.
In other words, the big goals are outcome-oriented.
What I mean by that is the focus is on a certain result, such as a business profiting $500,000 in quarter three, a person losing 20lbs by the end of the year, or getting into a relationship within six months.
You see, these are targets that must be set. However, by themselves, the large goals will not help in accomplishing them. It is the next category, the small goals, that result in the outcome being achieved.
Small Goals (daily & weekly)
Details play a big part in small goals.
Once a large goal is set, small goals must be developed with the intent of achieving the large goal. For this reason, they are considered process goals.
A process involves the steps taken along the way to achieving an end result. Daily and weekly goals are a great way to keep us motivated and accountable.
If a well-thought-out plan has been created, then the small goals will take care of the larger goal. That is the beauty of it, no more concern needs to take place.
Trusting the process and following through on each of your small goals is bound to lead to the outcome you desire.
For example, let’s take the case of an individual wanting to lose 20lbs by the end of the year.
Their weekly goals will look something like this:
- Go to the gym five days out of the week.
- Eat healthy six days this week.
- Walk thirty minutes a day.
- Say no to fast food all week.
Then, they would break these down into even smaller daily goals:
- Go to the gym for one hour tomorrow.
- Meal prep tomorrow for the week.
- Walk tomorrow after work.
- Meet with a personal trainer tomorrow.
You see, by taking a large goal and breaking it down into steps, there is a much greater chance of success. That is why both large and small goals are important, each playing off the other.
"If a well-thought-out plan has been created, then the small goals will take care of the larger goal. That is the beauty of it, no more concern needs to take place.Trusting the process and following through on each of your small goals is bound to lead to the outcome you desire."
Value of Goal Setting
Why should we set goals in the first place? That is a good question worth answering, since nothing should be done in life if there isn’t a real reason to do so.
The value of goals lies in the direction and purpose they provide. When we set a goal, we are giving ourselves a target to strive for. Holding onto that end result leads to a more structured and purposeful life.
Many good qualities stem from goal setting. Once a goal is set, motivation is needed to work towards it every day. Focus also must be put into practice.
By giving ourselves goals to work towards, days become more meaningful and productive. Without a clear goal, it is difficult to generate a plan. And without a plan, it is likely we will not be as efficient.
Anything can be a Goal!
This is one of the most beautiful aspects of goal setting. While many believe that in order to set a goal it must be large, that is simply not the case. We can apply goal setting to any part of our lives.
By having goals in place, we drastically improve our chances of success. Since structure, focus, and direction are all a result of setting goals.
From large scale goals to smaller daily ones, the value is the same. Having a clear-cut plan for life increases the likelihood of us achieving what we want. It can also lead to a more fulfilling life.
In my experience, I have found that setting goals makes me feel happier and more productive. My large goals lead to daily tasks I wish to accomplish. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than looking over my list and seeing all I accomplished that day.
So, there is no shortage of value found in goal setting and the benefits gained from it are equally as impressive.
Benefits of Goal Setting
We now know what goal setting is and the value it provides. But what about the benefits gained from the practice?
After setting goals, there are many benefits that can be expected. They include the following:
Goals work to increase our motivation in two ways. First, they give us a target to work towards. Having an objective instills a certain level of motivation in us to achieve it.
Second, with each goal that we accomplish, whether large or small, our motivation grows. This is due to the sense of pride felt in achieving a target, which then motivates us to do it more and more.
Provides a Sense of Responsibility
Taking personal responsibility for our lives is very important to our success and overall well-being. When we set goals, we are giving ourselves something to work for. The goal is our own making, which means accomplishing it will be by our own result.
In order to achieve our goals, we know what must be done. The daily tasks involved are important, and we are the only ones who are responsible as to whether or not they get done. Having this responsibility in life is truly powerful and freeing.
"Taking personal responsibility for our lives is very important to our success and overall well-being. When we set goals, we are giving ourselves something to work for. The goal is our own making, which means accomplishing it will be by our own result."
Allows You to Track Progress
This one is especially true for smaller goals. In my experience, a lot of times what can happen when I just set a large target is that I will get frustrated along the way and wind up quitting. The reason this happens is due to the inability to see all the little progress made along the way.
By setting small goals, we can keep track of all the work we’ve done. Even if it is a matter of progressing inch by inch, this will help keep us motivated and on track towards the larger goal.
Forces You to Set Priorities
In life, priorities are key if we want to accomplish anything. You must set priorities for yourself as to not get distracted. Setting goals really helps do just that.
When we set a large goal, and then subsequent smaller ones, there are certain priorities that become apparent. For example, to achieve a goal of losing weight or building muscle, exercise must become a priority.
Likewise, if there is a goal to increase our income then making more money has to become a priority. The process of setting goals immediately outlines what will become a priority in our lives.
With the value placed on goal setting and the addition of these four benefits, it is easy to see its importance. The question now is, how should we go about goal setting? Seems like a pretty simple construct, though a set of guidelines is always useful.
That is why we want our goals to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
How to Set SMART Goals
The process of setting goals is much easier with criteria to follow. This ensures a greater likelihood of achievement.
SMART is an acronym that provides a set of guidelines that are to be followed when setting goals. It works for large and small goals alike. So, let’s jump right into the meaning of the term with the first guideline; specific.
Goals should not be vague. If they are, the path to achieving them is not so clear cut. That is why the first criteria under setting SMART goals is making sure they are specific.
We have already discussed how smaller goals stem out of a large goal. Well, if the large goal is not specific, then the daily goals will be much more difficult to decide upon.
When thinking about creating a specific goal, there are five questions that are helpful.
- What do I want?
- Why is achieving the goal important?
- Who is involved in me reaching the goal?
- Which resources are needed?
- What limits are there to me attaining the goal?
By answering these five questions, you will have a very detailed picture of your goal. This helps to get a clear vision in your head and know exactly what you’re working towards.
"Goals should not be vague. If they are, the path to achieving them is not so clear cut. That is why the first criteria under setting SMART goals is making sure they are specific."
The next criteria for goal setting says a goal must be measurable. What is being referred to here is how will you know when the goal is achieved?
For example, if you have a goal to increase your income, then you cannot merely make the objective higher income. If that is all, then how will you ever be able to tell if it’s accomplished. I mean, ten dollars is an increase in income, but I hardly believe that is what you’re after.
So, a measurable goal would be to increase your income by $10,000 in the coming year. That way, you have a clear target to work towards, and it will be easy to tell when it is accomplished.
Making sure a goal is achievable is one of the trickiest aspects of SMART goals. You don’t ever want to sell yourself short and not go after something difficult. However, setting a goal that is, for a lack of a better phrase un-attainable, can lead only to frustration and ultimately you giving up.
To avoid this, it is best we set goals that push our limits but are within the scope of our abilities. Over time, these achievable goals can lead to bigger and better goals that were thought un-attainable in the beginning.
Here is one of the beauties of goals. What seems to be unachievable now may turn out to be well within your capability in a few years if the goals set leading up to it were achievable for you at that time.
The fourth criteria for goal setting is making sure it is relevant.
Relevance plainly means a goal lines up with your values and that it matters to you. This goes for both large and small goals.
To ensure you are working towards a relevant goal, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this what I want?
- Does it make sense for me to have this goal?
- Do my values align with the outcome?
- Are my daily goals relevant to my larger goal?
Lastly, we come to the time portion of the SMART guidelines. Each one of our goals must have a target date when it will be accomplished.
Having this time frame generates a sense of urgency in us. When we look at a goal and declare a date when it will be achieved, our priorities are immediately set.
This will help to keep us on track and focused. If a goal is not time-bound, then it will likely fall to the wayside. Becoming a mere dream rather than a solid objective being worked towards.
Goals are objectives that we wish to achieve through action. Having these targets provides us with focus, clarity, direction, and purpose in life.
We can set large goals along with daily and weekly ones. The benefits of this practice include an increase in motivation, a greater sense of responsibility, progress tracking, and help to set priorities.
When setting goals, it is best to follow a guideline, such as the SMART criteria. You want to be sure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Then you will have set yourself up with strong goals, worthy of being achieved.
If you have any questions or concerns about goal setting or any sport psychology related subject, please feel free to reach out to me.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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