Learning how to set goals can help give you direction and motivation, allowing you to work systematically and progressively toward an end result.
It helps to focus your attention—linking knowledge and desire to purpose and action. Goals help give you a perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision making. Goal setting is also an essential part of time planning, enabling you to set priorities and use your time in the best possible way. It helps you determine what you want to achieve and how to best spend the time you have to achieve it. Following are six easy steps to effective goal setting.
This article focuses on how goal-setting can improve your health but you can also apply these goal-setting principles to your finances, relationships, spiritual development or career.
1. Start with a long-term goal
By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. Long-term goals are vital to your success because they provide direction, motivation and focus. You may have the desire but without a specific target to aim for, you can easily miss the mark. Achieving these types of goals is a reward in itself. The more important the goal is to you, the greater your chances of success will be.
2. Set some short-term goals
Short-term goals are like stepping stones to help you reach your destination.
These are the specific actions, steps, behaviours, skills and thinking processes you need for your outcome to eventuate. Short-term goals are all about the process that will ultimately lead to achieving results. You have much more control over the process than you do over the results. You can control what you do—which will get results. Focus on the results and the process may get frustrating. Instead, focus on the process and the results will come.
3. Reward yourself
An important part of the goal-setting process is to celebrate your achievements and reward your successes. Your long-term goal should be a reward in itself but give yourself incentive for adopting lifestyle changes and achieving your short-term goals. Knowing there is a reward to be gained reinforces your healthy behaviour and helps drive you toward taking action. You can choose to reward yourself weekly, fortnightly or monthly—whatever makes you feel good.
It’s also important to choose nonfood related rewards that won’t blow all your good work, such as getting a massage or buying new books or music.
Rewards are especially helpful when you are starting out. As your new lifestyle changes become habits, you can make your rewards more distant and harder to achieve.
4. Write your goals
Writing your goals is a valuable part of the goal-setting process. A visual reminder helps focus your attention on the things that matter. Around 95 per cent of dieters fail to lose weight and keep it off, while only 5 per cent of the population writes down their goals— clearly, this simple step makes a world of difference. Goals are much more likely to occur if you have put them in writing.
5. Act on your plan
Talk, words, thoughts, goals, plans and intentions are all important—but at some point you need to take action.
Goals don’t mean a thing unless you act on them. Action is the key that gets you started and your daily actions will ultimately decide if you reach your long-term goal.
You need to put your plans into practice. Make it a priority—find the time by making an appointment with yourself. Schedule your exercise just as you would schedule other important tasks. Allocate a time that best suits your schedule—be it morning, noon or night. Have indoor options for miserable days, such as cross training or a visit to your local gym. By getting organised, you are helping follow through with your plan and committing yourself to a course of action. Lack of time is less of a problem if you organise your time well. Once you get started, success breeds success and you will begin to generate some momentum. Habits develop through consistency and regular practice.
6. Re-evaluate your goals
While there are many benefits to focusing on the process, rather than the results, there will come a point where you have to see if the process is actually working. After a set period of time, check to see how you are progressing.
Are the changes you have made working or will you need to make additional changes to achieve your desired results? Maybe the goal you originally set was expecting too much. Or perhaps you need to set additional goals to create a greater challenge for yourself.
Once you have revisited and re-assessed your goals, go back to the first step and start again. You will only know what you can achieve if you set goals and take action!