Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Did you know that 80% of new year's resolutions are dropped by Valentine's day? And that only 10% of people are still adhering to them by the end of the year (Agency for Clinical Innovation, 2018)..... Why? Well, there's a high possibility those goals were too vague, lacked detail and direction, had insufficient time frames, weren't meaningful, or didn't address barriers. You see there's an art to goal setting and if you follow the right steps you have a better chance at achieving them. Now I'm not going to go through all the different acronyms out there because chances are you've heard them already but I will share some helpful tips I have learned that made a real difference in my goal setting over the years.
The first tip is to set goals that have meaning. Studies have shown that the more we align our goals with our core values and principles, the more likely we are to achieve them. In other words, if the goal means something to us if it's a goal that we believe in and truly value we have a better chance of achieving it.
Secondly, the goals we set need to be specific. This one is a common mistake made. There's no point saying that "I want to lose weight" because that is way too vague. How would you know if you had achieved that goal? A better statement would be " I am going to lose 10 kilos by this date by doing A, B, C". Also, work out if your goal is long-term, short-term, ongoing etc. A great way to make your goals more specific is by following the SMART, smartER, EEE, or ABC goal-setting acronyms.
Utilise your resources. Okay, so when I say resources I don't mean how-to books on goal setting. I'm talking about your strengths, skills, and support networks. If you have a strength, skill, or friend/ family member that you think might increase your chances of achieving that goal than use it or them.
Develop action steps for potential barriers. I read numerous goal setting templates that fail to address potential barriers. Unfortunately, there's a dam good chance you're going to hit a snag in your journey to achieving your goals and the best thing you can do is be prepared. So have a think about potential barriers, then think about how you can overcome those barriers. Be specific and clearly outline your action steps.
Re-evaluate. Re-evaluate your progress at set intervals. This way you can see the direction you are traveling in and make necessary adjustments should you realise you're heading off track.
Feedback. People who regularly provide and openly receive feedback perform better than those who don't. We don't have all the answers so seeking feedback from those we trust can provide valuable insight and increase your chances of goal attainment.
Encourage, Support & Reward yourself. Lastly, it is so important guys that we encourage ourselves, support ourselves, and reward ourselves for our achievements. So many of us seek encouragement and support from others, which is fine, but we fail to develop the most important relationship that involves seeking our own support and encouragement aka self-love.
Now, let's have a look at why goal setting is important and what the process can do for you. For years goal setting has been used as a primary tool for self-motivation and self-drivenness. Setting goals gives meaning to our actions and creates a sense of purpose in our lives. By setting goals we create a road map of where we are heading and the required steps to get there. Not only has goal-setting been linked to higher levels of success (Matthew, 2015) it is also linked to higher motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, and autonomy (Locke and Lathan, 2006)
Want to know what goal setting does to your brain? Goal-setting has been shown to alter the structure of your brain so that you perceive and behave in ways that will cause you to achieve those goals. Also, goals with strong emotional resonance can alter your brain structure faster and more effectively than goals that aren't (James, 2019).
So, now that you have your tips for effective goal setting and knowledge of the benefits, you can be confident and excited to begin your goal-setting process.
Agency for Clinical Innovation. (2018). Ace Program - Goal Setting.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 265-268.
Matthews, G. (2015). Goal Research Summary. Paper presented at the 9th Annual International Conference of the Psychology Research Unit of Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), Athens, Greece.
James, G. (2019). What Goal Setting Does to Your Brain. Inc. Sourced from https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/what-goal-setting-does-to-your-brain-why-its-spectacularly-effective.html