Short on time? For the key points of these goal-setting tips, stick to the bold text and the conclusion.

What is goal-setting? Why is it essential? And most importantly: how do you set goals that work? 

A goal is something you try to do or achieve. So “goal-setting” can be defined as deciding what you want to do or achieve. This practice is essential because “every person’s life depends on the process of choosing goals to pursue; if you remain passive you are not going to thrive as a human being.” (Edwin Locke).

In this guide, we’ll explore the power of personal goal setting and discuss three tips to make goal setting work. Let’s get started!

Top 3 goal-setting tips:

Define your why

First of all, it’s key to be clear about your why. Why are you setting this goal? Why do you want this to happen? What are you willing to do to achieve it? 

Take your time to explore these questions so you can find clarity. Brainstorm, journal, meditate. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, you might as well never start. 

Defining your why will help you find focus. Make sure your goal is top priority. You’ll only find the required focus if your goal is more important than any other thing in life, bar family and mental health. You can’t have too many goals either. ‘If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.’ (Seneca). Choose one port and set sail. 

Clarity about your goal and focus on why you want it so badly make goal-setting work. The following question can help you: how would you convince your best friend that this goal is worth your time? If you can successfully answer this question, you’re ready to go.

Define your why. Set goals that don’t feel tiresome. When a goal becomes your number one priority, no one can hold you back. 

Focus on what you can control

When you set goals, focus on results that are within your control. Goals like “convince 5 new clients” are not always within control. What you can control is the number of sales calls you make. Setting goals that are controllable and attainable are better for your mental health state. 

Business people often talk about SMART goals. These goals are

Attainable goals are realistic yet challenging. When you get the optimal mix of these two factors, your motivation will peak and you’ll feel a greater sense of achievement afterwards. Moreover, this type of goal is most likely to induce flow.

Measurable goals are easy to track. (Check out one of these habit tracker apps for help). Tracking your goals gives you a sense of progress. It makes you feel better about yourself. You control your input and output. But only if you focus on what’s within control. For example, you can control how many times you interact with other social media users, not how many new followers you get. You can control what you eat, not how much weight you’ll lose. You can control how many reps you put in, not how much you’ll be able to benchpress by the end of the month. Get the picture? 

Specific and relevant goal setting lean on what we discussed before: clarity. The more clarity around the goal, the better the performance and the better the results. 

Deadlines, finally, are unavoidable. Without a deadline, motivation is hard to come by. Goals without a deadline are just a dream, make that part of your mindset. 

Using these metrics helps to set better goals and improve performance. Not using them, may even have negative effects. A lack of clarity about the goal or unrealistic expectations may lead to stress and anxiety.

Focus on goals you can control. Make it measurable and attainable. That’s the best way forward for your mind and business or body. 

Focus on the process; not the result

“Eyes on the goal” is common advice. You’ve probably heard it before. In terms of clarity and focus, which we discussed earlier, this is very important indeed. Yet, staring at the goal and forgetting about the process, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. 

You will spend more time with the process than the result. So instead of selecting an outcome as a goal and then thinking about what process to follow, select a process as a goal and think about what outcomes you can achieve with it.’ (Kunal, @Crazypolymath on Twitter)

As you’re building and working towards a goal, the final outcome might not always be 100% clear. ‘Any ambitious goal is broken down into small steps, and sometimes you need to take the first step to see the next step.’ (Olga Yurkova)

Let’s not confuse this with a lack of clarity. Clarity means that you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve and why. How you achieve that can change throughout the process. If your goal is to become fitter, don’t just focus on losing weight. In the process, you might be lifting weights and converting fat into muscle tissue, which is heavier. If you’re so focused on the scale, you might never reach your goal while the outcome of your process will still be a healthier body. Capeesh? 

Now you’re convinced to focus on the process, here’s how. 

Set progressive goals. Don’t just set one long-term goal but chop it into smaller milestones. The shorter the distance to your goal, the higher your motivation.

Finally, you might even consider not setting a long-term goal at all. By focusing on tiny changes each week, you’re able to create a new habit. Even when you’ve reached your supposed goal, you can now continue and make a lasting change to your life. 

In summary, there’s no need to change it all at once and be obsessed with the result. Focus on the process. ‘If you make daily choices that are consistent with your goal over and over again, you will eventually reach it.’ (Nadia Goodman)

Start setting those goals

Goal setting is all about clarity and focus. Know why your goals are your goals. Define what it takes to accomplish them. Set controllable rules and live by them. And don’t forget, the chase is often better than the catch. So focus on the process; it might be better than the outcome. 

When you focus on the process and enjoy what you’re doing, your productivity will increase and results will follow. 

Any goal-setting tips you’d like to add? Leave a comment!

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Sources and further reading about goal-setting tips