Goal-setting is an absolute must for people who want to succeed, find their true purpose, and create joy in their lives. Without clear goals, you will not have a clear direction on where you’re heading in your life. When you know your life purpose, determine your vision, convert your desires into achievable goals and then act on them, you’re virtually guaranteed success.
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” – Andrew Carnegie
When you’re finished reading this article you’ll understand the importance and science of goal-setting, how to set goals, and how to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Goal-Setting Theory & Science
After decades of research into how the human brain works, scientists now know that for our brains to figure out how to get what we want, we must first decide what we want. Once we lock-in our desires through goal-setting, our mind and the universe can step in to help make our dreams a reality.
Experts on the science of goal-setting and success know the brain is a goal-seeking organism. Whatever goal you give to your subconscious mind, the brain will actually start looking for information, for resources, and for opportunities and other ways to achieve the “want” you have identified. While this may sound like an impossibility given your current situation or circumstances, we’ve seen countless individuals “suddenly” get what they want — often from a source or opportunity that already existed in their life or sphere of influence, but that they had never instructed their brain to find it before.
Now to effectively engage the powers of your subconscious mind, a goal has to be specific and measurable. How much, by when. When there isn’t any criteria for measurement, it is simply something you want… we call it a wish, a preference, or a just good idea, but it does not register in the mind as a goal.
Some people call specific, measurable goals SMART goals.
What is a SMART Goal?
No matter what you call your goals, they must be specific and measurable. One of the best methods of goal-setting is setting SMART Goals. Ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bounded. You have a bigger chance of achieving SMART goals than those that are vague and too broad or don’t have a specific target date for completion.
When goal-setting, your goal must be very clear and defined not only to you but to others as well. It should be precise, detailed, and capable of answering questions instead of creating more.
Include dates, exact financial numbers, and amounts in your goal. Your goal shouldn’t be, “Make more money,” it should state a specific amount, by a specific time. “I will make $10,000 extra dollars by January 1st.” If the goal is broken down into steps, each step must be measurable, as well.
Your goal must be achievable. You should be able to accomplish it within the constraints of time, money, environment, as well as your skills and abilities and other important factors. I do however, recommend you set a couple goals for yourself that I call “breakthrough goals” or a goal that is really going to push you to attain.
Goals should be in line with the direction that you’re heading in life. Keep your goals in line with your true purpose. Don’t waste time with unrealistic goals.
Always set specific deadlines for the completion of your goal. Creating a target date of completion creates accountability and gives you more motivation. If you don’t achieve your goal by your specific date, that’s ok, adjust and keep moving forward. Always set a date to your goals.
How to Set Goals
The first step to goal-setting is to decide exactly what you want.
What do you want to accomplish?
What do you want to experience?
What do you want to acquire?
Who do you want to be?
One of primary reasons most people don’t get what they want is that they aren’t clear about what they want. Others will recognize what they’d like to have, but when they can’t see how it’s possible to get what they want, and they dismiss their desires as foolish and unattainable.
Don’t sabotage yourself this way!
1. Set Goals in Important Areas of Your Life
We start the goal-setting process by getting clear about what you want in order to create the life you want.
What do you want? To create a balanced and successful life, write down a minimum of 3 goals in each of the following 7 areas:
Free Time/Family Time
Making a Difference
If you have more goals than this, don’t limit yourself – write them down! On the other hand, if writing down 21 goals seems like a lot, remember that we can have a mix of long-term and short-term goals.
For a goal-setting example, in the financial area, you may have a short-term goal of paying off a $5,000 credit card balance, as well as a long-term goal of amassing a net worth of $5 million dollars.
You want to keep both goals present in your mind, even though you’ll be working more actively on the short-term goal first.
2. Set a “Breakthrough” Goal
When setting goals, it’s important to include a few that will make us stretch and grow to achieve them. These might be learning a new skill or trying something that is uncomfortable and maybe a little frightening, such as public speaking. It also helps to set a breakthrough goal that would represent a quantum leap.
Goals that require a breakthrough include: publishing a book, starting a business, getting on Oprah, winning a gold medal at the Olympics, or getting elected president of your industry association someday.
Material goals are important, but the ultimate goal is to become a master at life. In the long run, the greatest benefit we receive from pursuing our dreams is not the outer trappings of fulfilling the dream, but who we become in the process.
The outer symbols of success can all be easily lost. Houses burn down, companies go bankrupt, relationships end, cars get old, bodies age and fame wanes, but who you are, what you have learned, and the new skills you have developed never go away. These are the true prizes of success.
Motivational philosopher Jim Rohn advises that:
“You should set a goal big enough that in the process of achieving it, you become someone worth becoming.” – Jim Rohn
Once you are clear about what you want, write them down and turn each item into a measurable objective.
3. Decide How to Measure Your Goals
Measurable means measurable in space and time – how much and by when. You cannot set goals without a proper way to measure it.
As soon as you commit to a big dream and really go after it, your subconscious creative mind will come up with big ideas to make it happen. You’ll start attracting the people, resources, and opportunities you need into your life to make your dream come true. Big dreams not only inspire you, they compel others to want to play big, too.
You’ll also discover that when your dreams include service to others – that is, accomplishing something that contributes to others – it accelerates the accomplishment of that goal. People want to be part of something that contributes and makes a difference.
4. Work on Your Goals Daily
To keep your subconscious mind focused on what you want, read your list of goals every day. For an even more powerful approach, close your eyes and focus on each goal and ask yourself, “What is one thing I could do today to move toward the achievement of this goal?” Write down your answers and take those actions.
As the old joke goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Steady progress in bite-sized chunks puts even the most audacious goals into reach.
You can also create a vision board and use it to visualize your goals each day. This helps keep you inspired and keeps your goals top of mind!
Create Your Own Life Goals List
One of the most powerful things you can do is create a life goals list for yourself. This is a list of all of the things that you want to accomplish in your lifetime. It always changes, it’s always updating itself BUT you must write your most important goals and dreams down.
Let’s go through some goal-setting examples to explain why your goals need to be specific.
For example, “I want to lose weight” is vague. But it might become… “I will weigh 135 pounds by August 1st at 5 PM.” Or “I will increase my income to $80,000 year by December 31st at midnight.” Or I will live in a 35,000 square foot home, as big as the one Bill Gates has, by December 31st at midnight.” Now, notice in these examples, they all stated how much, by when. A specific amount that you can measure by a specific time that can be measured.
For instance, if you were to tell me that you wanted more money, I might pull out a dollar and give it to you. You would probably protest, saying “No, I meant a lot more money, like $20,000!” But there is no way I’d know how you’d define “more money” unless you tell me, right?
Similarly, your boss, your friends, your brain, God, and the Universe can’t figure out what you want unless you tell them specifically what it is. What exactly do you want and when do you want it by?
Now an easy place to start when you’re setting goals is to simply look at one area in your life that you would like to be different. It might be where there is something that is negative or disturbing that you’d like to eliminate, or it might be where there’s something missing that you’d like to create. Something you’d like more of…more money, more love, more time.
Now once you’ve decided what you want you can either do something about it…or not. It is your choice and you have responsibility for your choices.
But bear in mind that you have to be willing to change your behavior and do something different if you want to create a different outcome. You have to be willing to take whatever risks are necessary to get what you want.
A Goal VS. A Good Idea
When there are no criteria for measurement, it is simply something you want, a wish, a preference, a good idea. To engage your subconscious mind, a goal or objective has to be measurable. Here are a few examples of good goals to give you more clarity.
Setting Personal Goals
Good Idea: I would like to own a nice home on the ocean someday.
Goal: I will own a 4,000-square-foot house on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, Califonia, by noon, April 30, 20??.
Setting Goals For Weight Loss and Health
Good Idea: I want to lose weight.
Goal: I will weight 185 pounds by 5PM, January 1st.
How to Achieve Goals
Setting goals are only the first piece of the puzzle. Once you’ve set goals you must take immediate, everyday action to accomplish them. Sometimes, when things don’t happen for you as fast as you’d like
1. Check Your Expectations
When we admire someone’s success, we tend to focus on the end result and overlook the time and effort it took to get there. This can cultivate unrealistic expectations and lead to the idea knowing how to be successful happens overnight.
But the thing is, overnight success is a myth. REAL success typically follows a series of small events and achievements that can seem to take an eternity, include a number of disappointments along the way, and challenge you to the core: your stamina, courage, integrity, and even your willingness to keep going.
So if you’re feeling particularly challenged right now, don’t worry! It’s all part of the process. The important thing is to learn the lessons you need to learn and keep moving forward.
2. Focus on What is Working – NOT on What Isn’t Working
When you’re frustrated because you’re not progressing as quickly as you’d hoped, it can be easy to focus on the negative instead of the positive.
You may even find yourself entertaining self-destructive thoughts like “I’m not good enough,” “It will never work,” or “Something must be wrong with me.”
But one of the great laws of the Universe is, you get more of what you focus on. So if you pay more attention to the things that aren’t working, you’ll encounter more negative experiences, people, and results. And there’s not much success in that!
On the flip side, if you focus on what IS working, you will be able to see where you’re getting the best results for your efforts, and will start identifying new ways to get even better results!
3. Keep a Written Record of Success
Humans have a built-in negativity bias. It’s an evolutionary thing – it helped us stay alert to danger back in the prehistoric days when everything was out to kill us!
In modern times, this negativity bias causes us to feel and remember the bad things much more powerfully than we feel and remember the good things. It really helps to have a written record of what’s working so you can keep track of your positive achievements and remember them at the end of the day.
That’s why I recommend you keep a daily success journal. It’s a great way to focus your attention on the positive and continually stay on track with your vision for your ideal life.
Spend a few minutes each morning writing a list of what you’re grateful for in your life. Then, at the end of the day, write some notes on what went right that day. Be sure to write down everything, no matter how small it may seem. When you train yourself to recognize and acknowledge your own achievements, you are guaranteed to attract even more success into your life.
4. Use Meditation to Cultivate a Positive Mindset
Meditation can be a powerful tool to help you find solutions to problems and shift your attitude so you can attract success sooner rather than later.
Meditation shuts down your judgmental, highly critical brain and allows your unconscious mind to take over – so you can enter a deeper state of inner peace and joy and tap into a higher level of creativity that will help usher in the results you want.
(NOTE: If you’re new to meditation or if you’ve struggled when meditating on your own, my 4-step meditation guide will help you get started using a simple process.)
5. Use the Rule of 5
My favorite way to get more done every day is to follow the Rule of Five. Here’s how it works: every day, identify 5 specific things you will accomplish to get closer to your goal – then don’t call it quits for the day until you cross each one off your list.
Not only will this give you a proven structure to ensure you get more accomplished every day, it will also give you a clear sense of what’s actually achievable in a day – and you can round up your goals or scale them back so they help you move forward consistently without exhausting yourself by working until midnight every night.
6. Don’t be Afraid to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone & Take BIG Action
Let’s say you’re doing ALL these things, but you still aren’t happy with your results…
Here’s a question to consider: have you taken any BIG ACTION to launch yourself out of your current situation and closer to the life of your dreams?
You may be taking action – but it might be the same kind of action you’ve ALWAYS taken. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the same results you’ve always gotten.
If you want to create a new life for yourself, you have to practice some new behaviors. Shake things up a bit and see if you can take new actions or modify existing ones. And don’t be afraid to do something BIG.
Setting Goals Can Change Your Life
You see, it’s very liberating when you finally realize that you have the power to make your life whatever you want it to be. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that your success does not really depend on anyone else.
Brian Tracy says that setting SMART goals can have an impact beyond your own life, as well.
So if you’re looking for one thing to do different today than you did yesterday, make it this: Commit to taking 100% responsibility for every aspect of your life. Then choose what it is you want. Decide what actions you’re going to need to take to create it and then take those actions one step at a time.
There are a lot of things you can learn to do to accelerate your success. But the basics that will move you from where you are to where you want to be are simply this: Decide what you want, take control of your thoughts, visualize what you want, make a plan and then take action. Start with these simple steps and I promise you that you’ll start seeing the results you want.
About the Author: Jack CANFIELD, Monthly Mentor, is America’s #1 Success Coach and founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul® as well as a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you’re ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at FreeSuccessStrategies.com. Jack holds the Guinness World Record for having seven books on the New York Times Bestseller list on the same day. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the largest book signing ever for Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul. Read More…