Defining your direction is essential to achieving success in any area of life. Setting a goal transforms aimless wandering into a concentrated effort. So how do you set goals that will propel you in the right direction?
An excellent goal should be clear, compelling, consistent, and consequential. These features will help you answer four related questions:
Contemplating these questions will help you define your goal and put you in a good position to follow through on your action plan.
What do you want to achieve? Construct your goal so that it is well-defined and precise. Describe in direct and actionable language what is that you intend to be, do, or have as a result of your effort. Consider answering questions like the following:
Avoid vague generalities, broad aspirations, and ambiguity.
You are responsible for your own choices and actions, not the choices and actions of others. So, state your goal in such a way that you can have success regardless of other people’s performance.
However, there are likely others whom you can learn from and who might help you in your work. Who might be able to better equip you to pursue your goal? You will also want to establish accountability later when you begin to take action on your goal. So think about who might be a good accountability partner for when that time comes.
You should be able to state your goal clearly to yourself and to anyone who asks you what you are doing. For example, you could say, “I intend to limit my social media time to 30 minutes per day in the afternoon and only on my main computer.” Or maybe you could say, “I will install accountability software on all of my devices and ask two friends to be my accountability partners.”
Avoid vague generalities, broad aspirations, and ambiguity. Use a strong verb to show how your goal is easily translated into a specific action.
Why do you want this? Why is this goal important to you? What benefits do you hope to receive as a result of your effort? What advantages do you anticipate?
Give specific reasons to pursue the goal, including the purpose and advantages you expect to gain. Identifying what you want to avoid can help you confirm what it is that you really want. For example, though you might want to spend less time on social media, what positive gain do you want instead? Do you want to use that time to spend with your family, read books, or learn how to play the guitar?
Write out your key motivations for pursuing this goal. Keep listing all your ideas. Then prioritize and select your top three reasons. Summarize these reasons as part of the definition of your goal.
You do not want to rely upon your willpower alone to accomplish your goal. Do you really want it? Are you willing to do the work necessary to accomplish this? You may falter if your reasons for pursuing the goal are weak. The goal ought to pull you forward with excitement and a sense of urgency.
How does it fit with your other goals? You likely have other pursuits in your life. How does this new goal align with them? Be diligent to harmonize your various plans into a cohesive whole. Your new, great idea should reasonably integrate into the other things you want to realize in your life.
Harmonize your various plans into a cohesive whole.
Consider if this the right time or season of your life to pursue this goal. What priority does it have in relation to other things that you are doing? Avoid becoming overwhelmed with too many goals at one time.
Endeavor to have a sensible strategy that improves your life consistently without competing against yourself for time and other resources. You may need to refine or eliminate a goal that you determine is out of sync with the rest of your life.
How does it move you forward? Your goal should stretch you to the next level. It should pull you beyond your comfort zone. Does your goal require you to find new solutions and new strategies to make your life different than it is now?
Your goal should stretch you to the next level.
Instead of setting goals in relation to things you want to avoid, be sure to identify the positive features that you seek. Turn toward good and desirable things, celebrating your successes along the way.
Does this goal matter in the long run? Anticipate the momentum that achieving this goal will bring to your life. What rewards might you receive as a result of your personal challenge? Ponder the potential significance that this goal might have on your life.
As you consider these questions, remember that writing is often the first action in the creative process of setting goals. Writing forces clarity, and clarity accelerates you toward your goal. So, write out your ideas in a list, craft a narrative, or draw a picture showing how your life can grow in excellence.
Remember, this is your life. You are responsible for your choices and actions. So, live deliberately and define your goals sensibly. Keep moving forward!