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What is goal setting?

Simply put, a goal is something that you wish to achieve.

The term ‘goal setting’ can sometimes sound like nothing more than business talk. However, goal setting is an incredibly effective tool used by the world’s top leaders, athletes, businesses and key influencers. Rather than drifting from task to task, goal setting gives clear milestones that you can work towards, asses and evaluate when the milestone passes.

Quick task: compare your professional and personal goals. How many goals are work related, either set by your business or you? How many personal goals do you have?

Some goals can be very simple and set by you, such as aiming to leave work a bit earlier to get home and have dinner with your partner. Others can be more complex and set by someone else, such as a large project set for you by your manager.

Goals can fall into two categories, objective and subjective.

Objective goals are specific, such as needing to achieve a financial target or complete an important team brief by a specific date. They can be really useful to manage your time against a deadline or to focus on tasks that are a priority.

Subjective goals are more general, such as ‘wanting to be a better leader’ or ‘developing your people skills’. They can be really useful in setting larger, more challenging goals which you can then break down into smaller milestones or objective goals.

Why is goal setting important?

Research shows that setting goals can make you more resilient, productive and happier. Goals can help improve your personal life through better time management and by setting more realistic targets.

Goals can come in many different forms. Mastering goal setting can help you to manage your time, resources, energy, and help you to achieve more.

Setting goals is also a great way of managing stress and remaining calm and resilient, especially when you are under pressure.

Dealing with setbacks

Less emotion and more information

Objectively size up what happened. Was there an event that affected your pathway to the goal? Write down what worked well and what didn’t work so well. Write down the factors that created the setback.

Ask yourself “so what?”

Successful people find a path to progress. Will you allow this setback to push you back to the old habits that you’re trying to change? Or will you chalk the setback off and go back to working towards your goal?

Deal with tomorrow and not next year

The target you’re aiming for is great but don’t get consumed by it. Concentrate on the next session, next challenge or next hour. Stay in the moment.

They learn what must be learned

Depending on your goal, surround yourself with literature, people and whatever else you need to ensure you stay on track. If you stumble, these resources will be there to help you.

Positive self-talk

Setbacks and disappointment can create self-doubt. Manage your internal thoughts so you stay focused on the future and what you can do next. Give yourself credit for doing important work and trying something new.

Setting goals

Whatever type of goal you are aiming to achieve, a great model for helping you to build an action plan and give you the best chance of success is the SMART model.

This suggests that goals need to be:

   Specific

   Measurable

   Achievable

   Relevant

   Time-bound

What might a SMART goal look like in reality? Let’s use a health and fitness example that moves from being a pretty vague subjective goal to a SMART objective goal.

  • Subjective goal - I would really like to lose some weight to increase my self-confidence.
  • Objective goal - to do this, I would like to lose 5kg to get back to how much I weighed last summer.
  • SMART goal - I am going to lose 5kg before 12 July, which is 12 weeks away. I definitely have time to join a gym, sign up for some exercise classes that I enjoy doing, and every week I am going to weigh myself and record this in my diary.

This model can be applied to any type of goal in your personal or professional life.

Top tips to help you set better goals

  • Get into the habit of writing your goals down and refer to them often, every day if you can.
  • Write down your plan of action as well. A goal without a plan has very little chance of success.
  • Share your goals with other people, such as family members or close friends. Ask them to check on your progress so you are held to account, especially if you aren’t the best at staying focused!
  • Set yourself rewards. It is really important to know what success looks like and allow yourself a reward when you achieve it, otherwise, what’s the point?
  • If you begin to lose motivation with a goal, have a think about the reason that you are pursuing it. Either refocus or think about whether you may not be committed to the goal and stop. There is no shame in this.

    

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