Saturday, 24 May 2014


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"Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievements." - Brian Tracy (in the book: Eat that frog)

One common similarity among we humans is the desire to have a good life filled with success and achievements. We all want to record success stories in our education, careers, businesses, finances, relationships, and families. Such a desire is good, but as we all know, achieving that success is where the challenge really lies. A lot of things happening to us, or around us, could make us not to look deep inside and identify who we are and what we really want to achieve. Yes, we all usually think about becoming successful, but each person is unique, and so are the things that work for us. That is the reason why each person needs to identify what (s)he wants and outline how to go about it, and one sure way to go about that is by setting goals.

Goal setting is simply a process of thinking about what you want to achieve, and working towards making it a reality.

Goal setting is important because:

  • It helps you organize your time and resources, thereby, making the most out of your life.
  • It helps in long-term planning: by setting goals, you can plan for the things you want to achieve in the next 10-20 years.
  • It helps you focus on what you want to do: you get to focus your efforts on goal-relevant activities, and away from irrelevant ones.
  • It leads to more effort: that is, there is the tendency to work more intensely towards the realization of a set goal.
  • It encourages persistence: pursuing a goal could help a person to look beyond the setbacks that (s)he may encounter, and thereby, makes the desired success attainable.
  • It leads to behavioural change: through goal setting, individuals can change some undesirable behaviours they have, and develop better ones.
  • It builds self-confidence: you get to recognize your own competence and abilities in achieving set goals.
  • Goals are motivational: you can measure and take pride in the achievement of goals and thereby, work towards achieving a greater success.

Now that we have discussed the importance of setting goals, the question that comes to mind is: "how do I go about setting my goals?" The following steps will sure guide you to not only setting your goals, but also making your goals a reality:

1. Think broadly about what you want for your life
    The first thing you need to do is to think generally about what you want for your life. It could be general thoughts like: "I'd like to be a business man", "I'd like to be an athlete", "I'd like to build a house", and so on. You must make sure you are not thinking in that way just because it is what others are doing or what sounds good to you. It must be something you really want. Knowing the things you value and the things you have a passion for can greatly be of help in this regard, and it can move the thoughts from "I'd like to ..." to "I want to ..."

2. Break "what you want for your life" down into smaller and smaller targets
    You have already thought about what you want for your life, right? Now, you need to break it down into smaller and more specific goals. This could be in the areas of education, career, finances, family, physical goals (particularly about your health, and any physical activity), attitude (changing something about your behaviour, or mindset), public service (contributing your quota to making your society a better place to live in), etc.

   Let us look into these, using education and career as examples.

   In terms of Education: What course would you like to study? Would you be studying it online or in a conventional school? What are the tests or exams you'd need to take before you can proceed to study the course?

   In thinking about your career: What kind of job do you consider ideal for you? What steps do you need to take to get the job? Do you need a certificate or degree? Are there alternative ways to still pursue the career, like apprenticeship? What challenges are you likely to encounter in going for the career?

   These questions are meant to help you break down your big goal into smaller ones, and your ability to provide answers to them will in the long run lead to the attainment of your goals.

3. Make your goals SMART
    SMART is an acronym which has been in use since the 1980's. It is used as a guide in the setting of objectives for various companies, as well as for individuals. It basically stands for:

    S - Specific
    M - Measurable
    A - Achievable
    R - Relevant
    T - Time-bound

    Some other variations to "A", "R", and "T" above include

    A - Actionable, Attainable
    R - Realistic, Result-oriented, Result-based
    T- Time-targeted, Time-relevant, Time-related
    Specific: You need to have a specific goal. If you say that "I want to be a business man", that is a general statement. It does not say specifically what you really want to do. Saying that "I want to own a shipping line" is more appropriate, as it indicates exactly what you intend to do.

    Measurable: Your goals should be quantifiable. "I want to run every day" is different from "I want to run 2 miles everyday". It is only when your goal is measurable that you can know whether you are making progress towards its realization.

    Achievable: This is all about being sincere with yourself. You need to honestly consider your goals and decide which ones are attainable - in the light of your abilities, skills, and financial capacity; and which ones are unattainable. Don't misunderstand me - some goals will certainly stretch you before you can achieve them, but that does not mean that they are not achievable. They are still within your reach and are therefore attainable. The unattainable ones are the extreme ones which are sincerely too big for you to achieve.

    Relevant: The relevance of your goal is an important point to consider. Does your goal match "what you want for your life" which we discussed earlier? Is now the right time for it? These are the kinds of questions you must ask yourself in order to determine the relevance of your goal. A relevant goal will certainly be in alignment with other goals which you have set for yourself, and they will together move you forward in life.

    Time-bound: This simply involves setting a due date to meet goals. We most times get engrossed with daily activities that we take our eyes off the need to achieve our goals in good time. Having a deadline or time-frame in which goals must be achieved will help focus your effort on achieving your goal before the due date, and thereby giving no room for procrastination and unnecessary postponements.

4. Keep your goals per time few in number but high enough
    It is certainly good to set goals, but the truth is that you can't focus on many goals at the same time. An attempt to do that would only lead to you accomplishing very little, as you'd want to put your effort in each of the goals, and each time you run after one, it would be at the expense of the others. It is therefore advisable that you pursue few number of goals per time, as you'd be able to successfully pilot them to the level of attainment you desire.

    However, in your attempt to keep your goals few in number, you must not underestimate your abilities by setting small goals which you can attain with almost no effort. Make sure your goals are high enough! Going for it will bring out the best in you, and help you achieve what you want for your life.

5. Write down your goals:
    Although knowing your goals offhand is nice, it is not advisable that you leave them in your mind without clearly writing them down in a safe place. I'd give three reasons why you should write your goals down:

    Firstly, there is the natural human tendency to forget things. Yes, I know that you are passionate about your goals, and you've probably started taking steps to achieve them, but not writing them down could lead to you forgetting some of them. It wouldn't be as if you don't know what you want to achieve anymore; you'd still know your target, but due to the ups and downs of life, you might forget some of the details, and you sure wouldn't want that to happen.

    Secondly, but in a similar vein, there could be a loss of memory. Although no one wishes to be involved in an accident of stuffs related to that, but in life, we can't be completely sure of what could happen the very next minute - there could be an incident that would result in a loss of memory. However, by the time the memory is being regained, a written goal would be very handy in moving on.

    Thirdly, the fact that you have written down your goals, which you now get to look at from time to time would keep you motivated to continue pursuing them. That is totally different from just having them in the mind where they could lie passive. By picking up the written copy and reading it, you would consistently get geared up and be reminded of the goals you are yet to achieve.

6. Get to work:
    Now that you know your goals, the next thing to do is to immediately start taking steps to achieve them. You must make sure that each day, you do something that will inch you closer to the attainment of your goals. You must not forget to set a time-frame for their accomplishment - that would gear you up in finding time out of no time in your daily schedule to work on your goals.

7. Set Priorities:
    One truth I won't shy away from telling you is that some goals are more important than others. Yes, all the goals you are pursuing are important, and all are expected to be achieved, but you need to consider the time-sensitivity of each goal and go first for the ones you do not have plenty of time on your side to achieve. For example, if you have scheduled a meeting with your business partners on the same day you intend to hang out with your friends to discuss some business ideas, the meeting with your business partners should be the one you'd go for. You can easily fix another day to hang out with friends or even discuss the ideas on the phone, but it probably might take some time to convene another meeting with your business partners, and calling off the earlier meeting might even depict you to your partners as unserious. So learn to always set priorities.

8. Be mindful of those you share your goals with:
    You must know that not everybody will understand your vision and what you are working hard to attain. Some people would simply laugh at your goals and tell you it's a waste of time - such people can't see what you are seeing and are probably not interested in you explaining things to them. You should share your goals only with those who can encourage you and help you all the way till your goals are achieved.

9. Always take note of the progress made:
    You must always take note of the progress you've made as you consistently work towards the realization of your goals. Taking note of your progress would make you understand that you are not just wasting time, and that would motivate you to continue to give your best towards the attainment of your goals.

10. Periodically review goals:
      The periodical review of your goals is very important, especially the long-term goals. You might need to modify them in order to reflect changing priorities and experience. The way you viewed things 2 or 3 years ago might be different from the way you view them now, and that might also be different from the way you would see them in the next 5 years. So learn to review your goals.

NOTE: If certain goals do not hold any attraction any longer, you might consider letting them go.

11. Celebrate your accomplishments:
      At the end of it all, when you have achieved what you set out to do, feel free to celebrate! You have worked hard to attain your goal, so relish every moment of the celebration, because you deserved it.

12. Assess the overall process:
      After celebrating your success, the next thing to do is to assess the overall process that led to the realization of your goals, starting from the time you thought about it till the time you achieved it. What lessons did you learn? What challenges did you face? Is there a deficit in your skills? Do you think you could have done better? You need to take note of these things in order to learn from the experience you've had at attaining your goals, and thereby apply the experience when setting future goals.

  • Do not entertain fear in the pursuit of your goals: When you feel intimidated about your goal(s), it could lead to a poor performance. Therefore view your goal(s) as a challenge which you have to stand up to.
  • Perseverance: You must know that nothing good comes easy, so learn to keep going despite the challenges on your way. You must also know that perseverance is needed when you want to change some established habits. For example, it could take a couple of weeks to get used to the idea of waking up 30 minutes earlier than you used to.
  • You are not a failure: The lack of experience, and uncontrollable circumstances, could make you not to meet your goals, but that does not make you a failure. The important thing is for you to learn from the experience, so has to make use of it in future endeavours.
  • Get advice from those who have successfully trailed the path: You need to consult with people who have gone through what you are now going through. Some people would have worked on similar goals in the past, ask for their advice. Why and how did such people succeed? And probably, why did they fail? The role of a mentor in achieving your goals can certainly not be overemphasized.

I hope you have been able to learn something from this post? Therefore start setting your goals and work towards their attainment.

"Failures do what is tension relieving, while winners do what is goal achieving." - Dennis Waitley (as quoted in Brain Tracy's book, Eat that Frog)

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