Imagine planning a holiday to an unknown destination and paying to travel aimlessly or wherever the wind blows you. Before you realize it, your time has run out, your money is spent, and you haven’t seen or experienced anything worth remembering. Sounds crazy, right? Well, this could be what happens to your year if you don’t set any goals. You run the risk of finishing the year with little achievement and lowered self-efficacy as goalsetting is positively linked to higher motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, and autonomy .
A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan and commit to achieve. Goalsetting is the process of determining the goal.
According to Inc Magazine, 85% of goal setters will abandon their goals and only 8% of those who set goals will achieve them . Now some of that could be attributed to adjusting the goals that were initially set however based on my client work, I would say many forget about the goals they set themselves once they get busy or they talk themselves out of their goals. Rarely do I hear someone say they adjusted their goals and then chose to abandon them. For those who continue to work at their goals, their confidence in themselves grows and for some, the goals get bigger and they achieve more than they though they initially could. This is hardly surprising given the connection between goalsetting and a higher motivation to achieve.
In my experience, people who set goals are more optimistic because the very nature of setting a goal means they can envision a more positive future and believe they can be a better version of their current self. Pessimists tend not to set goals because that would undermine their world view.
For the perfectionists out there, if you’ve avoided setting goals because of your fear of not achieving them, remember goals help you focus your efforts so that you can increase your chances of success. It’s better to start working towards your goals and achieve something than do nothing and achieve nothing. Fantasizing about the future is only one strategy in a suite of strategies that you need to achieve your goals.
The 8% who do go on to achieve their annual goals understand that nothing happens by chance. They recognize how goals help them work towards a life they desire. Goals provide a focus for their decision making. For some, goals provide control in a chaotic world. Goals can be used for any aspect of human life, whether it is a career, relationships, health, education, or finances. Even in this technology rich world, if you write your goals down as opposed to typing them out, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals!  See you’re almost halfway there 😊.
No matter where you are at with your 2021 goals, it’s not too late to update or set your goals using the most common goalsetting theory, SMART goals. There are five aspects to this theory; each of the letters of SMART stands for one aspect of it.
The first aspect of goal setting is that you should be specific. Do not set something ambiguous which can be easily misconstrued. For example, “I want to become rich” is a very vague goal which can never be objective. For someone, earning $5,000 a month means they are rich, while another person may not think they are rich even they have earned a million dollars. Instead, the goal should have been more specific like, “I will earn a million dollars this year.” That’s just an example; you get the point.
You should be able to measure the success of your goals. In the above example, you can easily measure the success of your goal, because you have revolved it around a number. Other examples that don’t have a number attached might be, “I will maintain eye contact when I receive feedback from clients on my work”. The item measured needs to be as binary as possible.
While it is all encouraged that we aim for the moon, you do need to be practical about your goals. Ideally your goal is providing you with a challenge/stretch however the data you have available to you should indicate it is possible. This could be because others have achieved it or you have a plan that can be followed to achieve it. It is important that you believe your goal is within your reach otherwise your motivation will wane and you could land up giving up on it.
The goals you set should contribute and align with your overall purpose or suite of goals. There is no need to set a goal that does not feed into the bigger picture as this wastes resources you could invest into relevant goals. It will also make it harder to bounce back when you face obstacles in the path of achieving an outlying goal. If you aim to spend money to learn a new language, they have to have reasons. What use is the new language? How will it make meaningful contributions in your life? Always evaluate how the goal will be beneficial to you and your journey to success.
Time is what turns a dream into a goal. Without a timeframe there is no urgency or focus. I often encourage clients to set a timeframe and be willing to adjust it when more information is known once they have started working towards the goal. Sometimes it can be the timeframe that provides the stretch element in a goal.
Keep this S.M.A.R.T. goalsetting theory in mind when you are setting your goals. You will find that it will give your goals structure and help build a picture of what it will mean to you when you achieve them.
Setting goals is not a one time process. It is a deliberate plan for your future that involves daily tasks. If you find you need to make adjustments based on what you learn about your goal, go ahead and do it rather than abandoning your goals like many others who choose to instead.
1. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 265-268.
2. Matthews, G. (2015). Goal Research Summary. Paper presented at the 9th Annual International Conference of the Psychology Research Unit of Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), Athens, Greece.
3. Schwantes, M. (2018). Science Says Only 8 Percent of People Actually Achieve Their Goals. Inc.com, https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/science-says-only-8-percent-of-people-actually-achieve-their-goals-here-are-7-things-they-do-differently.html, accessed online 12/01/2021.
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