I don’t remember how many times I’ve read about how important goal setting is. Every successful person out there vouches for it and there are numerous studies showing the benefits of writing down your goals. Every person, whether they write their goals down or not, has shared a quote about goals.
The point here is, writing down a goal really does help. Let’s find out why and how.
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
What do you remember the most from college? The stuff you read or the stuff you actually worked on? Definitely, the stuff that you worked on, because you consciously chose to pay attention to it. When you read for an exam you do that only to pass the exam most of the times but when you actually apply it, it is because you want to learn it and that is when you remember. You are an active participant here.
The same logic goes here. We all read the ‘Scientists say’ posts and at least give them the benefit of doubt. Well, here we really have a scientific term to explain why writing down goals help. It is called the generation effect. What it basically means is that, you remember information more when you have generated it with your own mind than when you have read it. There’s no one specific answer to why it happens but a lot of studies have been conducted on it, and this phenomenon is used in quite a few things. You can also use it to help with memory retention, but that is a topic for another day.
“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.”
So, let’s say, setting a goal helps trigger the generation effect because you are the one creating it. There is still no guarantee it will affect you much. Yes, you will remember it better but it will be lost in all the thoughts your mind generates.
To make it worthwhile, we write it down. I have a few things that can explain why it helps us, one of them being that we retain visual cues better. Much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision, in fact, the part of the brain that processes words is quite small. Visual clues are easier for our brain to remember, which is why most people can sit through hours of TV shows but not finish a book.
Writing down your goal and visiting it every day has that effect on us, it creates a reminder daily that this is something you need to work on. This is something you wish to achieve. When you keep looking at it, you are reminded day after day about what your purpose is and why you wanted to achieve that goal in the first place.
Another thing and an important one at that, is encoding. Our memory has the ability to encode, store, and recall information. By writing your goals down, you are storing it externally by putting it on paper. Now, by visiting it again and again, we are encoding it into our brains. There are few intensively used types of encoding. Two types are at work here, Visual encoding and Elaborative encoding.
Visual encoding is pretty straightforward to understand. For elaborative encoding, a little narrative will be needed. It means actively retaining new information to the knowledge of something that is already present in our memory.
Let’s look at it this way, I write down that I want to buy a new car. Generation effect kicks in. I write it on a post-it note and look at it daily, visual coding kicks in. Now, I remember how my old car keeps giving me trouble, this is when elaborative encoding kicks in because we are going to remember it by how it made us feel. This is connecting the old knowledge of my car giving me trouble with the new information that I need to buy a new car.
This is the scientific support to the claim that works for me. To put it in layman’s term, you remember something you look at daily. It makes you feel guilty the longer you don’t do anything about it and see the sad post-it at the same place every day. One day you decide, enough is enough, and finally get down to doing it.
Basically, writing your goals down helps you increase your motivation, concentrate your efforts, track your progress, filter opportunity, and finally helps you turn it into reality.
At the end of the day, action is what matters. By writing your words down, you make a small mark and set the ball rolling.
“Set ambitious goals and along the way you will discover yourself.”
Why Do We Need Measurable Goals?
Measurable goals are the first step to setting a realistic goal. It is very important to have a clear idea of what you want so that you can have a proper plan as to what needs to be done to achieve that. When people aren’t dead set on achieving something is when they set vague goals and that gives them an out for not doing it.
Unrealistic goals can be goals with either no defining line as to when it can be considered as complete or goals that are way out of the realism of achieving them. In both cases, you are going to end up failing and, in turn, being demoralized go after the said thing again. Being ambitious is important and setting goals is important – the problem occurs when you overdo both of these things.
“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.”
-Orison Swett Marden
Let’s start with the basics today – Why do we need to set goals?
“Man does not live by bread alone.” This is what Jesus says when Satan asks him to turn a stone into bread.
The world has discussed this popular maxim for over years. What does a man need to truly live?
The moment we are born, the society categorizes us, labels us, gives us a name and expects us to make our presence count. We are sent to school, then to college, all this to get a job and continue the same cycle with our children. But why do we need a job? We need a job to make our stay on this planet comfortable.
Some of you may interpret this statement as basic requirements one needs to lead a normal-ordinary life. But ‘bread’ stands for much more than just food, clothes and shelter. There is deeper meaning to the statement. There is a difference between living your life and merely existing.
We all have this phase in life when we are pressurized to choose our career options. We either go for engineering or medicine or maybe even law or accounts. This is the point where you should choose what you like rather than what would pay better in future. If you are passionate about your choice, then you would eventually find your way to success. Choose a path you are willing to travel despite all the hardships you experience on the way.
Some of you say you are not even clear with your passion. In that case list your talents and interests, weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose one.
There is always a way, a choice because 30 years from now you cannot afford to have regrets about the one thing which shaped your whole life. This is why goals are needed and to achieve them, measurable ones are the most logical way to go.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
Measurable goals define a goal that is specific and measurable and that makes it more likely to be achieved.
Imagine having hundreds of immeasurable goals written down on your list – what do you think you are going to achieve or how many goals do you think you will be able to achieve? If I say I want to get a healthy body and that is my goal. Now, because I haven’t specified how much weight I need to lose in order to get to my desired weight, I cannot make a proper plan and I will not know when to stop or how dedicated I need to be. I will not be able to mark it as achieved and move on to another goal because this one will always linger in my mind as incomplete. Marking goals as achieved or complete is what drives up to aim for new ones.
This is why your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Goals And Double Your Success Rate
Everyone wants to achieve their goals, however, very few put in the effort to actually make this a reality. And even among those who do put in the required effort, chances of attaining the goal tend to be pretty slim. Set realistic goals to begin with because when you set unrealistic goals, you are already setting yourself up for failure.
We think we need to work more to achieve our goals but what we need to do is find ways to be productive and achieve more in less time in a given day. There are many ways to make sure that you are being productive but that falls apart if you don’t know how to stick to your goals. So, to ensure that you stick to your goals and triple your chances of succeeding in the venture, you need to abide by the following tips:
1. Divide Big Goals Into Smaller Ones
A good tactic you should start using is to divide your big goals into smaller ones. For this, you need to find out the course of action you must take in order to achieve those smaller goals. For example, suppose that you are a student whose main goal is to perform well in an entrance test coming up in two months.
Now, the first thing you should do is to break the big task into smaller targets. Since there are two months to the test, you can set up weekly targets. If there are 7 modules you need to learn, then you can assign one week to learn one module. And the last week can be set aside to revise and refresh your knowledge. Make sure to finish all modules on time and to test yourself each week to assess your retention of that specific subject. This process of learning will surely help you far more than trying to learn all the 7 modules in a haphazard way.
This example demonstrates how you can split your big goal, which is preparing for the entrance test, into smaller goals where you finished learning a section every week. And by doing so, you were able to learn everything and be ready for the entrance test comfortably.
People usually have difficulty in managing a big goal. However, with a smaller goal, which they think is doable, people can achieve better with a bit of an effort. Turning a big goal into a series of smaller goals, and writing your goals down, will not only help you stick to your goals but also to achieve them successfully.
2. Create Beneficial Habits
It is also important to create habits that will help you attain your goals. These habits have to be developed by identifying the various ways which will be used to achieve the end goal. Carrying the previous example forward, you will now have to dedicate a fixed amount of time each day preparing for the test.
As such, you will have to decide the best time slots for your studies. Once decided, you need to ensure that you follow the said plan accurately. And for this, you need to attune yourself to the time slots. So, if the time is set at 8 AM, and you usually only wake up at 10 AM, then you need to immediately consider adjusting your sleep cycle so that you wake up at 8 AM and are ready to study.
Similarly, if your aim is to improve your productivity at office, then you may have to accept and embrace habits like waking up early to exercise as it helps to ensure a fully-charged body for the entire day. So, whatever your goal, just make sure that you incorporate and develop a few habits to achieve your tasks as a part of your plan.
3. Commitment and Accountability
A good method to help you stick to your goal is to commit to another individual who will make you accountable for it. For example, imagine that you are an overweight person and wish to shed about 30kgs. You draw up a 6-month diet and exercise plan with monthly targets that define the process.
The next thing you should do is to get in touch with a very close person, a friend or relative, and share the goal you have set for yourself. For example, you can disclose the plan with your brother coupled with the condition that you will pay 20% of your part-time income to him if you fail to meet the target. The prospect of failing in front of your brother and the loss of your income will act as a good motivation for you to try and meet the set goals.
4. Behavior Substitution
At times, your goal may require you to change certain behavioral patterns. Under such circumstances, you may have to substitute such behaviors with good alternatives to ensure that you are able to proceed toward achieving your goal. Let’s suppose that there is a 1.5 km race being conducted in your community and you wish to place a position in the top 3 but your weight is an issue for you.
Now, you may have a habit of overeating which results in excess weight. This is something that you must try to control to be in perfect shape for the race. But cutting down your eating can be difficult. So, what do you do? Look to substitute that behavior with something that causes the least negative impact on your goal. For the purpose of this example, you can replace high calorie foods with low calorie ones. By doing so, you will be in a better position to achieve your goal.
5. Join a Community
Finally, try joining a community that shares interests and goals similar to yours. If you try to fulfill a goal by yourself, you might find it difficult to stick with the plan and this will eventually impact your success. However, if you make it a group activity, then there is a better chance that you might actually end up achieving the goal. This is also for accountability and commitment.
For example, if you wish to study Spanish, you might find it difficult to study the language on your own. However, if you join an online study group that conducts weekly learning lessons, then you have a fighting chance of fulfilling your goal. So, find a supportive community that focuses on the subject of your goal and become a member.
Having big goals can be intimidating but do not run from it. Find ways to face it. Find ways to make the huge tasks manageable, seek support from people you know or people who are in the field, get tips from people who have done it – either succeeded or failed in it. Learn as much as you can, set rewards for yourself and keep yourself motivated. Keep going, stick to your goals, and do not give up.
The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting
Whenever you have to step out of your comfort zone, finding reasons not to is a natural response. Learn to fight that. You either find a reason to do the job or an excuse for not doing it.
Get obsessed, totally obsessed. There is no just liking what you do, get obsessed with it. Stand up and do what you want! Don’t be lazy! Don’t hesitate! Don’t let fear stop you from achieving your goals! Life is what you make of it – might sound cliche, but this is the ultimate truth.
Because in the end, the worst regrets are of things you didn’t do, experiences you didn’t have, and chances you didn’t take. Let go of people, things, situations, and habits that hold you back.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
– Tony Robbins
Now, arises the question- how to set a goal? You might be at a juncture in life where you feel you’ve achieved everything, so there are no more goals to attain. But there’s always more to achieve. Wouldn’t you feel charged up when you have something concrete to accomplish?
Or, you might fall in the league of underachievers- people riddled with self-doubt, who are not expected to achieve much- floating through life directionless, rudderless? If so, it’s time to surprise everyone, including you.
Are you afraid of setting a goal for yourself? Are you setting yourself for disappointment and guilt? It’s not so. Life gives us umpteen chances to change; every day is a new opportunity. Goals can be changed and realigned. Here’s the ultimate guide to setting a goal that will help you live the life you want.
Set a Goal That YOU Really Want
All our lives, we are conditioned to make sacrifices, to take into account the wishes of those who are close to us, to be considerate. Thinking about what you want is considered selfish. Some people don’t even have the liberty to choose their college major because their parents choose it for them. This results in people not being happy with their lives. Most people go through life not realizing that they hold the key to change in their hands.
Again we come to the point about self-realization. Eliminate what’s not important from your goal list. Experiment with different goals to find the ones that make you happy. Prioritize goals based on their importance in your life. Then, pick the top goal, determine its timeline and action plan. Voila, you have your goal!
Make Small, Iterative Goals
Big goals can be intimidating and have the power to have an adverse effect on you. Do not stop yourself from setting big goals. Instead, push yourself to set bigger and difficult goals but break it down into workable chunks. This makes the big thing not look that huge, and gives you an achievable viewpoint to conquering the said goal.
“Most impossible goals can be met simply by breaking them down into bite size chunks, writing them down, believing them and going full speed ahead as if they were routine.”
Instead of making yearly resolutions, have a monthly goal and revise it for the next month. For instance, target to lose 5 pounds in a month. Work hard to achieve this and once you have your strategy spot-on, iterate to a larger goal for the next month.
Share Your Goals
Confess your goals to people you trust. Beware, telling the wrong people about your ambitious plans can act as a deterrent in reaching your goal. They will criticize or pull you down if you waver or fail, demotivating you. Your well-wishers will support you completely, gently remind you if you get diverted, and empathize if you are unable to attain your goal.
This also helps because people will help you hold yourself accountable to your goals while this also gives you an opportunity to find people with goals similar to yours.
Savor the Journey
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.”
Goals should not become an albatross around your neck. They should not overwhelm you. The key to enjoying your journey towards your goal is to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals.
Enjoy the fruits of your success. You need not be too critical of yourself. At the same time, don’t cut yourself too much slack. Set short-term goals, pat your back when you achieve them, strive for a bigger goal, and reward yourself, even more, when you reach the touchpoint.
Keep Yourself on Track
When the temptation to procrastinate or to abandon your goal strikes, ask yourself some hard questions. Find out why you’re pulling back from the goal. If there’s an actionable way to solve the problem, take action. Even if you can’t find any answers, find a way to remain on track. While it’s okay to take a breather when you feel down and out, too much of a break can lead to complete delineation from your goal and you’ll find yourself back from where you started.
Think positively about your goals. It’s not entirely a falsity that when you visualize vividly about something, the whole universe starts conspiring to make it possible. Self affirmation primes you for success.
Measure Your Success
Find ways of measuring your success. This is easier said than done. For goals that equate to emotional, social or psychological success, it becomes quite hard to calibrate how far you’ve reached. If you’re generally satisfied with results, you can term your goal setting exercise a winner.
View Failure as Opportunity
The final piece of advice is to view setbacks as learning opportunities. You need to learn to change your mindset if you see failure as an end. Failure is very important for us to grow. It gives us experiences and lessons that cannot be learned in any other way.
When you fail, you need to get back up, dust yourself, and keep going. Assess what went wrong and why, then restructure your strategy, and start afresh. Failure is nothing but success turned inside out. It will humble you and make you stronger.
Give yourself a chance to explore your talents and achieve what you have always wanted. Have a goal. Have a plan. Have difficult targets. It’s okay if you fail – what isn’t okay is giving up because you failed once. Stop trying to find reasons for not doing something, instead start looking for reasons to do it.
Excuses are cowards way out – they are the reason you stay in your comfort zone forever. They give you a false sense of security. Life is an adventure. Live like it.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
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