If you want to achieve anything, it helps to know how to effectively set goals. Motivational author Zig Ziglar once said that people don’t tend to wander around and suddenly find themselves at the top of mount-Everest. Without setting goals, life can make you bob around aimlessly, like a beach ball floating on the sea, being pushed this way and that. Here are a range of what I believe are the most powerful tips for goal-setting.
TIP 1: Define exactly what you want
Before you set your goal, you need to ask yourself why you think you want that goal. What is the underlying need that you think it would meet? The purpose of asking this is to see if this goal is really the best and most efficient way of meeting the need. The danger is that you waste lots of time and energy chasing a goal only to find you never really wanted it, it was only what you thought others expected of you. Or, you may have an extremely ambitious goal which you give up on because it seems so unattainable. For example, lets say that your goal is to become an astronaut, a highly difficult goal to reach. Now theres nothing wrong with being highly ambitious, but lets say that you sit down and think carefully about why you want that goal. You might decide that the underlying needs you actually want to fulfil are a need for exploration, and the desire to experience weightlessness. You then realise that you could meet these needs through learning to SCUBA dive, which would be way easier. Again, the aim here is not to stop you from being ambitious, but merely to make sure you haven’t mistakenly thought that theres only one solution to your needs when there may be a more practical one.
TIP 2: Visualise your goal, but then let go
Once you are clear on your goal, let yourself relax, close your eyes and visualise in detail what it will be like to achieve that goal. This is like a form of daydreaming, so do it when you are in that relaxed mood, perhaps just before going to sleep at night. The aim at this stage is to give a clear instruction to your subconscious mind on what it is you want. Your subconscious mind is constantly working away to solve problems that you’ve set it, and can be way more powerful and creative than your conscious mind. So it’s important that you enlist it’s help! Visualisation is good as your subconscious tends to respond best to images and emotions. However, the important thing is that you only engage in a limited number of these visualisation sessions, and then stop doing them. The danger with too much of this type of visualisation is that it becomes a form of escapism, sapping your motivation to take action, and making you feel so good about the whole thing that you are unprepared to deal with the inevitable obstacles that can crop up along the way.
TIP 3: Break down your goal into practical concrete steps
Goals can be overwhelming if you only think about them as a whole, all in one go. Chop your goal down into bite-sized sub-goals, and write down the specific things you need to do to complete each one. Also, plan to give yourself a reward, a treat of some kind, as you complete each step.
TIP 4: The top 3 benefits and hurdles
Write out two lists: the benefits you’d expect from achieving the goal and the potential problems or hurdles you might face along the way. Once you have the two lists, rank them in order, i.e. list the benefits from the strongest to the weakest, and list the problems from the hardest to the easiest. Now pick out the top 3 benefits and the top 3 problems. Spend some time imagining how great the top benefit would be, a bit like the day-dreaming/visualisation from Tip 2. Then, immediately think plan and prepare for how you would deal with the biggest hurdle. Then go on to the second biggest benefit, then the second biggest hurdle, and so on, back and forth between imagining benefits and dealing with hurdles. This will boost your motivation at the same time as practically preparing you.
TIP 5: Tell others
Let your friends and family know about your goal. This will help motivate you. If no-one knows about your goal, it makes it easier to give up, because no one will know. Telling others keeps the pressure on you! There is also the added benefit that others may help and support you.
TIP 6: Track your progress
Keep track of your progression towards achieving your goal. This will keep you focused and motivated. How you track is up to your own tastes: from writing, to filling in blocks on a chart, to keeping a spreadsheet.
TIP 7: Use the ‘power hour’ technique
If procrastination is a problem for you, try this tip. One of the main reasons we put off doing things is we get overwhelmed at the prospect of having to spend hours working on multiple steps, so we just give in and do something else instead. Get around this by just working on one step of your goal for an hour. Reassure yourself that all you need to do is focus on it for an hour then stop. You could even try using a countdown timer on your watch or phone. Once your mind knows its only an hour, its more likely to co-operate. If even the prospect of an hour is too much, try ten minutes.
TIP 8: The 30-day trial
If your goal is to change a habit, then try a behavioural technique that a lot of companies use: the 30-day trial. Do the new habit every day for at least 30-days and the chances are that it will become so natural that you’ll be able to carry on with it in the long term.
TIP 9: Change your environment to avoid temptation
If your goal involves changing your behaviour in some way to avoid something, don’t rely on willpower alone. Change your environment to minimise temptation. For example, if your goal is to do less web-browsing, then try to completely avoid temptation by working on a computer that’s not connected to the web.
So, these were my top goal-setting tips. If these tips have helped you achieve your own goals, do drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you.