What is a goal?
A goal is an aim or a purpose.
A goal is an idea of something you want to achieve. An idea that can become an obsession and something very personal to you. An idea that you want to turn into a reality.
A goal is something you want to become a reality. A vision of what you want to achieve and setting goals has been proven many times to be a fundamental aspect of achieving success.
Goal setting works on various levels; big goals which are often called Visions, things that need to be achieved to ensure that you move towards the Vision which we call Outcomes and the small things that you need to be doing now, which we call Actions.
These are all goals, they just vary in size.
Your vision needs to be big. So big that you feel embarrassed to share it with people. It is embarrassing because you might not achieve it and look like you have failed.
The worst thing you can do is try to keep things how they are. Growth requires offense — or what psychologists call an “approach-orientation” where you focus more on the rewards of a new future than the potential risks.
Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
The opposite of an “approach-orientation” is what psychologists call an ‘avoid-orientation’, where you focus more on maintaining your current position and protecting what you already have, in case you fail and lose what you have already achieved.
If you are not willing to embrace change and growth then you will start to move backwards. Your health never stays the same, it is either improving or declining. Every time though, when you try and change and grow, you will experience discomfort and unfamiliarity.
Growth and change is a process of taking something uncomfortable and challenging and making it simple, systemised and subconscious.
Trying to do something different requires exploring and searching for what is possible and what can be achieved. It involves learning things that you don’t know and challenging what you do know. For many people this alone can stop them changing before they even start.
You must expose yourself to the fact you might not know what the right thing is to do to achieve your goal, and accept that what you thought was the right thing to do, might not be.
To help you through this process, seek people out who have achieved your goal already. Learning from them what worked and what didn’t work will play a big part in being successful. Being inspired by others and learning from them has shown to greatly increase the chances of you achieving your goals.
The second part of goal setting is the Outcome. What will achieving your goal accomplish? What will you get from realising your vision? What is the purpose of it?
“Nothing can resist a human will that will stake its existence on a purpose.” — Benjamin Disraeli
Why is it you want to achieve your vision (goal)? To go through the process of growth and change, and therefore discomfort and unfamiliarity, your reason, or why, needs to be strong enough.
Otherwise, at the first challenge or barrier to your progress, you will falter and possibly return to your previous state.
At this point some people set targets and that is okay, but actually it is not really that motivating. You need to consider why you want to achieve your goal.
Ask yourself questions such as:
What impact will achieving the goal have?
What will be the results of achieving the goal?
What's important to me about achieving the goal?
What will I gain from achieving the goal?
Each time you give an answer, ask the question again in relation to that answer. For example you might say "transforming my body will make me look better". When you ask the question again, i.e. "what's important to me about looking better", you might answer, "it will give me confidence".
Each time you ask the question you are stepping up to a higher value. Values are those things that are important to you; they drive your behaviours and are consequently very motivating.
By doing this exercise you will become very clear about why you are setting out on your journey. When things become challenging, as they surely will, remind yourself of your Vision and this will help inspire you to keep going.
So are you willing to become more ‘approach-oriented” and focus more on the rewards that you can achieve or focus more on the risks of not achieve it an stay more “avoid-orienated”.
“There are only three requirements for success. First, decide exactly what it is you want in life. Second, determine the price that you are going to have to pay to get the things you want. And third, and this is most important, resolve to pay that price.” — H.L. Hunt
Focusing more on the risks over the rewards of achieving your goal, is actually based on most studies of motivation in psychology, known as the Expectancy Theory.
According to the Expectancy Theory, you must have three things in place to have a extremely high level of motivation:
You must believe the reward (the ‘WHY’) of a particular goal is important, meaningful, and compelling.
You must believe that you know how (clear strategies/plans/people) to achieve your goal.
You must believe that you can execute the plans, strategies, and pivoting involved in achieving the goal.
The last part of setting and achieving goals is the actions you will have to perform to achieve them.
Since goal setting is based around the principle 'what you focus on is what you get', it makes sense that when you set your goals, you are as specific as you can be.
The more specific you are, the greater the chance of you achieving exactly what it is you want. So to help set really good Outcomes we use the acronym SMART. It stands for:
Specific and Simple
The more precise you can be when setting your goals the greater the chances of you getting exactly what you want. Ensure the goal is written in terms of what, where and with whom.
Measurable and Meaningful
You need to have feedback as to how close you are to achieving your Outcome. The best way of doing this is to describe in sensory terms what it will be like if your Outcome is achieved. Also determine how other people will know you have achieved your Outcome.
Attainable by you and As if…
You must have the personal resources to achieve the Outcome; it cannot be dependent upon others. Only by changing your behaviours can you influence the behaviours of others.
You should also ensure that you refrain from comparing yourself to others; there will always be someone better! When you write it, do so as if you have already achieved it now, i.e. "I am..." rather than "I will..." or "I can..."
Realistic and Right
It is important the Outcome fits into your current circumstances. If by achieving it you will lose something important, then you need to weigh up the consequences at the outset.
Ask yourself what you might lose if the goal is achieved and what impact having the goal will have on your life.
Towards and Timed
Make sure you write the Outcome as if you are moving towards something and not away from something. This is because of what you focus on is what you get! So if you focus on something you don't want you will keep getting it.
Finally a SMART outcome requires it to be achieved by a fixed time. If you tag a deadline onto the end of a goal it can appear to conflict with the statement "I am..." A way round this is to put the date at the front of the Outcome e.g. "It is 25 November and I am..."
Remember Outcomes enable you to identify those things that you need to do that will give you the highest returns for your efforts. By doing these things successfully you will move even closer towards your Vision and by being really clear and specific you will increase your chances of getting exactly what you want.
Having designed SMART goals it is also helpful to write them as affirmations. By doing this you will be able to continually remind yourself of what it is you want. Every time you read the affirmations you will be switching on your RAS and focusing it on what you want to achieve.
To write an affirmation, follow the steps below:
Step ahead from today to the time you want to have achieved your goal by.
View the future and pretend the Outcome is achieved.
Describe what it is like to be achieving the Outcome.
Write what it would be like if your goal was achieved in one sentence on a 3 by 5 inch card.
If you follow these simple steps you begin to move on the path towards achieving your Outcomes and by doing so you will be taking yourself towards your ultimate Vision.