Today I am going to tell you about why goals are important and how to make effective goals for yourself.
Real quick, make a list in your head about the most successful people you know of. This might be some high profile names like Elon Musk, Beyonce or Joe Rogan to name a few. I can guarantee that each of these people have at least one thing in common and that is that they set goals for themselves. Goals are a fundamental part of achieving success. You can see this in the heavy weights that you thought of. I have experienced it myself with my own goals as well as in the many people I have worked with.
Studies back these claims up as well.
One study found that 90% of people who make relevant and challenging goals perform better than those without goals or with non-challenging or non-relevant goals.
In another study, 384 tests have shown that setting goals has a significant effect on behavior.
This study shows that setting goals keeps you persistent when it comes to achieving success.
There is a caveat to all of this, however, and that is you have to make good, smart goals. So how do we do that? We use the SMART acronym. Since we are so close to the new year and most new year’s resolutions tend to revolve around health or fitness, let’s use the following as an example of a poorly made goal.
I want to be more in shape.
It’s a good idea but it is not a goal. We will come back to this idea as we go through our SMART goal system.
You need your goal to be as specific as possible. Being “in shape” could mean anything and it means different things to different people. A professional marathon runner is certainly going to have a different idea of what being in shape is vs someone who is very sedentary and is trying to just get off the couch.
In order to turn this being in shape into a good goal we want to make it as specific as possible. Being able to run a 5k, marathon, being able to do 8 pull-ups would be ways to make this goal more specific.
Being specific is important because you often need to create subgoals or a set of actions in order to achieve your main goal. If we aren’t being specific we have no direction. Always make your goals as specific as possible.
All goals need to be measurable. If your goals aren’t measurable then how do you know when you were successful? Being in shape is not measurable. Being able to run a 5k or being able to run a 5k under 30 minutes is measurable. Lowering your resting heart rate is measurable. Losing weight is measurable.
In addition to providing a way to gauge success it also provides a feedback mechanism which can kickstart a motivational feedback loop. Often when people start seeing that they are making progress they become very encouraged and motivated. Small successes are fuel for larger successes.
Whenever you set a goal ask yourself how you can quantify success. How will you gauge progress?
In this step we do a reality check. Perhaps you have never ran before in your life. Do you think winning the Boston Marathon this year is an achievable goal? We 100% want challenging goals but we always need to make sure that they are within the realm of possibility.
Hands down where I see people fail at this the most is when setting weight loss goals. People want to lose weight fast so they set some insane goals like trying to lose 20lbs or 10kg of fat in a month. Unless you are VERY large that’s not going to happen. Generally, 1-2lbs of fat loss a week is a good rate to go with. You can’t let your excitement set you up for failure.
When making the goal, ask yourself do I have time, resources and ability to do this? If the answer is Yes or probably then you are on the right track. If the answer is no then modify the end goal until you are confident it will be within the realm of possibility even if it won’t be easy.
Goals are great but we shouldn’t be making goals just for the sake of goals. We should make goals because they are important to us in some ways. Making a goal to read 1 book a month would be a great goal for many but as a personal goal it’s terrible if you don’t want to read a book or you think reading a book isn’t going to help you. Most of the time we naturally make goals that are relevant to us but I’ve noticed that people who set a lot of goals or are just setting goals because they heard it is the right thing to do make goals that aren’t important to them.
It sounds silly but would you make a goal to compete in MMA if you had zero interest in MMA? Of course not.
Make goals because you want to achieve something. Not just because some guy told you goals are important.
Lastly is you need to make sure your goal is time-bound. We need a deadline. Setting a time limit lights a fire under your butt and makes you get stuff done. Imagine having a goal that you want to walk 10 miles. That’s specific and measurable but without a time limit it seems like something you are going to accidentally do just from getting up and doing regular life things. Setting a goal to walk 10 miles this week, however, means you have to start making a plan and take action very soon.
If you don’t set a deadline you will have no reason to take action and there is a good chance your intentions will decay and the goal will be left totally unfulfilled. Always set a deadline. If you aren’t sure what your deadline should be you can always break the goal down further and make goals for each milestone along the way. For example, Let’s say you want to lose 25lbs and you have no idea how long it will take you to lose that amount. Instead of setting a goal for the full 25lbs set your goal to lose 5lbs in the next 45 days. You are still moving towards the ultimate goal of losing 25lbs but you are doing it with subgoals that you find easier to set to a time-line.
Now that we know how to make a smart goal let’s play a game called Bad Goal Good Goal.
Bad Goal: I want to be in shape.
Good Goal: I want to be able to run a 5k by the end of the year.
Bad Goal: I want to save more money.
Good Goal: I want to save 5% more of my paycheck by the end of the year.
Bad Goal: I want to stop smoking
Good Goal: I want to be 100% smoke free by the end of May.
Bad Goal: I want to drink less.
Good Goal: I am not going to have an alcoholic drink for the next 60 days.
Bad Goal: I want a better paying job.
Good Goal: I am going to attend a certification program in July that will allow me to get a better paying job.
If you are in a leadership position you can use the SMART system to help make goals for others. Have you ever had a manager or boss give you an open-ended task or feedback that amounted to ‘Do Better”. This is setting up other people to failure. Give them a SMART goal and they will be happier and more productive. Let’s play one more round of Bad Goal, Good Goal.
Bad Goal: We need you to increase sales.
Good Goal: You need to increase your sales numbers by 10% this month.
As you can see the good goals are always Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. If your goals don’t meet these criteria then they aren’t really goals. They are wants, ideas or simply notions. A key to success is setting goals and the key to setting goals is making them SMART.
So, what about yourself? What sort of goals do you have? Let me know.