Have you considered what you would like to be doing a year from now? How about five years from now? What’s your main objective at work? What do you want to have accomplished by the end of the day? Goals are important. One of the most important and often overlooked benefits of setting goals is what you do and who you become in order to achieve your goal. When we set goals, we need to focus, to zero in on exactly what we need to do to achieve our goals. When we set goals, we grow and that makes us better.
Don’t confuse short-term and long-term goals
Setting goals helps you take control of your life and provides you a means of determining whether you are succeeding. But – and this is a huge “but” – we need to make sure we don’t confuse short-term with long-term goals. Life tends to make us look long-term and live short-term. Most of us dream about the future while living in the present. And it’s in the present that we encounter most of our difficult obstacles. Setting goals that provide long-term vision in our lives help us overcome short-term obstacles.
Set SMART goals
Pursuing the wrong type of goals may ruin your best efforts to build the life of your dreams. End goals are the ones that are related to what it means to be human. Goals like being happy and contributing to the world we live in with the gifts we were given. An example of a means goal would be to get a certain degree in school, to make a certain amount of money, or to get a good review at work. Many of us mistakenly think that means goals are end goals. And that if we achieve any of these goals, we will be happy and fulfilled. This, as it turns out, is not so. Are you setting the right type of goals to get there? And are you setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive?
Frame your goals positively
If you want to accomplish your goals, you must know how to set them. There’s more to it than saying “I want something” and then expecting it to happen. You must carefully consider what you want to achieve and then be willing to put in all the hard work needed to do it. Make sure you set goals that motivate you. If they are important to you, you’ll work much harder to achieve them. Make sure you frame your goals positively, e.g., “I will play to win” instead of “I will play to avoid losing.”
Commitment and accountability are key
Achieving your goals requires commitment and accountability. Without these things, it’s too easy to postpone the things you need to do. Put up your goals in places where you see them every day. Refrigerators, computer monitors, “storyboards” and desks are good examples of highly visible places. Make sure you set goals that don’t depend on other people, otherwise you’ll have very little likelihood of ever achieving them.
Set mini-goals when things are tough
Learning to set proper goals and scaling them to mini‐goals when the going gets tough is also extremely important. Well-stated goals are positive, precise and written down, making them more tangible. They are also measurable and have an appropriate timeframe. Your goals must be realistic and achievable, i.e., you have the possibility of reaching them with the resources and skills you have access to. As things get tougher and tougher, your goals should become smaller and smaller. Set mini-goals and allow yourself to celebrate achieving each one. Nothing feels better than crossing off a sub-goal on your way to the finish line. And don’t set too many goals at once, you’ll only lose focus.
Sharing your goals
Should you share your goals or keep them private and to yourself? Google this question and you’ll find all sorts of answers, most of them conflicting. Some say that sharing your goals will make you more accountable to yourself and to others. And in doing that, you’ll get the necessary incentive to achieve them. Others, however, say that sharing might prevent you from gaining the necessary incentive because you could feel rewarded without having accomplished anything. Of course, the notion of keeping your goals to yourself has been around a long time. An old Arabic proverb says, “the more you surround your candle, the more it remains lit.” Studies advocating keeping your goals to yourself include “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?” and a TED talk titled “Keep your goals to yourself. ”
The Journal of Applied Psychology recently published a new study suggesting that a solution somewhere between these two extremes, i.e., that you should only share your goals with people whom you perceive as being of a higher status than yourself. “Contrary to what you may have heard, in most cases you get more benefit from sharing your goal than if you don’t – as long as you share it with someone whose opinion you value,” according to Howard Klein, author of the study and professor of management and human resources at the Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. The results of several studies Klein conducted showed that adults do share goals frequently and that they worked harder to achieve the goals when they shared them with people they believed to be of higher status.
A second study involved 171 undergraduate students, separated into three groups, were asked to play a computer game. After playing the first time, they were asked to play the game again, but this time with a goal. The first group had to share their goals with someone they believed had a higher status than themselves, in this case, a lab assistant pretending to be a doctoral-level student and an expert on the topic. The second group had to share their goals with a lab assistant who they thought had a relatively lower status, i.e., a casually dressed man who said he was a student at a local community college. The third group did not have to share their goals with anyone.
The studies revealed that people who “shared their goals with the high-status person not only showed a higher commitment to achieving the goal, but also performed better in the game. The two other groups showed similar commitment and performance.” According to Klein, “If you don’t care about the opinion of whom you tell, it doesn’t affect your desire to persist – which is really what goal commitment is all about. You want to be dedicated and unwilling to give up on your goal, which is more likely when you share that goal with someone you look up to.” The results revealed that people were motivated by sharing a goal with someone they thought had higher status because they cared more about how that higher-status person would evaluate them and didn’t want that person to think less of them if they failed to achieve their goal.