Athletes set goals to win competitions. Students set goals to graduate. Business owners set goals to increase revenue.
From everyday “to-do” lists to New Year’s Resolutions, goal setting is part of the human experience. People have always needed something to strive for—something upon which to focus energy and effort.
So, if goal setting is so ingrained in our nature, why are most people so bad at it? Perhaps it’s the way we approach it. Try the following ideas to gain a fresh perspective on setting your goals.
How to Get Better at Setting (and Reaching) Goals
Size matters. Too many big goals can overwhelm. Incorporating the “half marathon approach” (starting small) helps “build the muscles” necessary for bigger challenges. Try limiting big-ticket goals to one or two.
Make it personal. Asking yourself “Why do I want this?” “How will I feel?” “What will it mean to me?” personalizes goals, making them easier to achieve.
Sharpen your pencil. When written down, priorities get clear. If the goals aren’t worth the time or effort to record maybe they’re not worth the time and effort of achieving.
Create an environment. A physical environment can remind you how daily tasks add up to achieving longer-term goals. Use posters or a computer calendar to create visual reminders.
Stay on course. Even Columbus referred to his maps more than once per journey. Periodic checking of progress allows for re-charting the course or timeline.
Put it on the line. Sharing goals in public (family, friends, co-workers) means public accountability. Pride can be a great motivator.
Get help. Success is always easier to find with support. Talking to people about business and personal goals gets them on board with morale and tangible support.
Try Intentions Instead
If you’re still having trouble setting goals, you might want to try a different approach. Recent brain research suggests that it’s not so much the goal itself, but the intention that gets us where we want to go. Some people feel goals push us (requiring unsustainable effort) while intentions pull us (they’re more efficient and effective).
Goals use ‘‘numbers” (pounds lost, sales made, products developed). Intentions bring to light what is personally fulfilling.
Intention allows us to visualize ourselves (and how we’ll feel) when we’re successful. It eliminates the “failure” option often associated with the goal achievement process.
How to State an Intention
If the goal is “five new clients by next month” ask yourself, “What will my business be like with those new clients? How will I feel?”
Now, state your intention in the present tense. “My business will be prosperous,” becomes: “My business is prosperous.” And “I will feel successful” becomes “I feel successful.”
Attaining new clients means feeling empowered, confident, proud and successful. You focus on the feelings rather than the numbers to welcome and gauge your success.
Whether goal setting or intention setting one thing is clear—success isn’t achieved by accident. Planning ahead is what successful people have always done to get what they want out of life.