Here’s How You Can Set Goals Even if You Don’t Know What You Want
“People with Goals succeed because they know where they are going.”
- Earl Nightingale
Scary thought, isn’t it? To live your life without a goal; to be told that you’ll never succeed because you don’t have a goal? Are you one of the zillion people out there who believe in “going with the flow”? Are you at a loss of words when quizzed about your new year’s resolution, simply because you don’t have any? Well, if you are, then perhaps this post can help you in goal setting and achieving.
1. But why should one set a goal?
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can keep running up and down the field without ever scoring.”
- Bill Copeland
Clichés aside, goal setting is extremely important. Do you find yourself fulfilling others’ expectations and wishes, instead of pursuing your own happiness? Or do you get distracted or dejected when you see others achieving while you’re still struggling? This could be because you haven’t been able to identify your goals, or assert them, or measure them, or adhere to them.
i. Goals keep you motivated
Often, we hear advice such as write down your goals and prop them everywhere; in the kitchen, on your mirror, desk top, and other places you frequent. This keeps your goals at the forefront and keeps you on track. Else, you might end up following a pattern we’re all familiar with: we set a goal; get all excited about it; work madly towards it; suffer setbacks; lose steam; abandon goal; back to square one.
Motivation is instrumental in attaining your goals. Conversely, pinpointing your goals will keep you motivated. So, jot down a goal you really want to achieve (we’ll get to this later), set down a realistic target date, and outline a plan of action.
ii. Goals can make you achieve the unachievable
Proper goal setting can lead to real success. Breaking down large, intimidating goals into small measurable victories will give you momentum to keep working till the final pay off.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh wrote in his book “Delivering Happiness” how he increased employee satisfaction in his company by offering frequent promotions for small achievements. The cumulative sum of promotion returns for each employee in a year was the same as would have been had he given annual promotions on large accomplishments. But satisfaction and energy level among employees on receiving acknowledgement for each positive action was discernible. Employees were able to reach their target faster and the end result were happier employees and a satisfied management.
iii. Goals keep you accountable
A goal without a date and a plan is just a wish. Writing down your goals, sharing them with people, measuring your achievements are all ways to maintain accountability. It also helps you re-align your strategies if you find yourself falling behind your goal timeline. Another benefit of identifying concrete goals is the satisfaction you’ll experience when you look back at your journey and realize that you’ve achieved what you had determined.
iv. Goals assert your self-belief
Goals fuel your ambition. They lead to strengthening of belief in your strengths and capabilities. Why else would you pick a goal if you thought you couldn’t accomplish it? This especially true for goals that are hard or uncommon.
In dark times when your self-belief is shaken or bruised, you can look back at your past achievements and boost your morale, pick up your spirits, and carry on.
v. Goals help in self-realization
Self-realization or actualization means how well you know yourself. What do you REALLY desire? Is it just a reflection of what others want from you? Your goals will help you understand what makes you happy and content.
If you don’t feel real happiness on attaining a goal, it means that the goal isn’t close to your heart. Naturally, when you’re able to drill down on goals that are truly important, you will understand yourself better.
2. A Guide to Goal setting
Now, arises the question, how to set a goal? You might be at a juncture in life where you feel you’ve achieved everything, so there’re no more goals to attain. But there’s always more to achieve. Wouldn’t you feel charged up when you have something concrete to accomplish?
Or, you might fall in the league of underachievers; people riddled with self-doubt, who are not expected to achieve much- floating through life directionless, rudderless? If so, it’s time to surprise everyone, including you.
Are you afraid of setting a goal for yourself? Are you setting yourself for disappointment and guilt? It’s not so. Life gives us umpteen chances to change; every day is a new opportunity. Goals can be changed and realigned.
i. Set a goal that YOU really want
Again, we come to the point about self-realization. Eliminate what’s not important from your goal list. Experiment with different goals to find the ones that make you happy. Prioritize your goals on the basis of their importance in your life. Then, pick the top goal, determine its timeline and action plan. Voila, you have your goal!
ii. Make small, iterative goals
Instead of making yearly resolutions, have a monthly goal and revise it for the next month. For instance, target to lose 5 pounds in a month. Work hard to achieve this and once you have your strategy spot-on, iterate to a larger goal for the next month.
iii. Share your goals
Confess your goals to people you trust. Beware, telling the wrong people about your ambitious plans can act as a deterrent in reaching your goal. They will criticize or pull you down if you waver or fail, demotivating you. Your well-wishers will support you completely, gently remind you if you get diverted, and empathize if you are unable to attain your goal.
iv. Savor the journey
Goals should not become an albatross around your neck. They should not overwhelm you. The key to enjoying your journey towards your goal is to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals.
v. Reward yourself
Enjoy the fruits of your success. You need not be too critical of yourself. At the same time, don’t cut yourself too much slack. Set short-term goals, pat your back when you achieve them, strike for a bigger goal, and reward yourself even more when you reach the touchpoint.
vi. Keep yourself on track
When the temptation to procrastinate or abandon your goal strikes, ask yourself some hard questions. Find out why you’re pulling back from the goal. If there’s an actionable way to solve the problem, take action. Even if you can’t find any answers, find a way to remain on track. While it’s okay to take breather when you feel down and out, too much of a break can lead to complete delineation from your goal and you’ll find yourself back from where you started.
Think positively about your goals. It’s not entirely a falsity that when you visualize vividly about something, the whole universe starts conspiring to make it possible. Self affirmation primes you for success.
viii. Measure your success
Find ways of measuring your success. This is easier said than done. For goals that equate to emotional, social or psychological success, it becomes quite hard to calibrate how far you’ve reached. If you’re generally satisfied with results, you can term your goal setting exercise a winner.
ix. View failure as opportunity
The final piece of advice is to view setbacks as learning opportunities. Assess what went wrong and why, then restructure your strategy, and start afresh. Failure is nothing but success turned inside out. It will humble you and make you stronger.