Goal setting theory has been around for hundreds, even thousands of years. There is no debate over the power and merits of goal setting. The small number of people that put the concepts to practice is perplexing and a fascinating study in human behavior. In this article series about goal setting theory, we will revisit some common truths and myths about goal setting.
First and foremost, and if you read only this article in the series, commit to putting your goals on paper and updating them monthly. There are numerous studies demonstrating the effectiveness of writing your goals down versus keeping them safely locked up in the confines of your mind.
One such study asked a Harvard graduating who had their post college goals written down. 3% of them had done so, 97% had not. Twenty years later, the surviving members of the same class were contacted and interviewed. Overall, the study concluded that the students that had written down their goals were better off emotionally and physically. But these are subjective measurements. What's not subjective was their financial condition. The 3% that had written down their goals were worth more financially than the other 97% combined. Now that's some pretty strong evidence.
There are many excuses people use for not writing their goals down, excuses like "I'll lose my spontaneity by writing down my goals", "My goals might change so I don't want to commit to them on paper", or "I have my goals clearly defined in my head so why write them down"? We pose a question that might point out the lunacy of such excuses. What if you were considering a job with a firm and you asked them about their corporate goals and they used the excuses above? Would you consider them organized and on a path for success? Why do we hold companies to a goal setting standard that we don't hold for ourselves?
Bottom line is that there are no valid excuses for not writing down your goals. We'll probably never fully understand some of the mysteries goal setting theory, specifically why writing down your goals bears such profound results. For now, we just know, without question, that it works.
Here are some tips to assist you in getting started with writing down your goals:
- Start with your large goals, the ones that are 5-10 years out there. Dare to dream, even fantasize. Have fun with this part.
- Break your large goals into smaller goals, break those down into even smaller goals, and eventually into daily tasks. For more details, see our related article, "Goal Setting Theory - Start Big, End Small".
- As you break down your goals, they need to become more realistic. "Realistic" is subjective and only you know how to define it in your scenario.
- All goals must have a date attached to them. If you miss the date, just move it. But always attach a date.
- Be sure the goals are very specific. A goal "to lose weight" is not a goal. It can't be measured. Change it to "to lose ten pounds by December 1st" so there is no question as to whether or not the goal was achieved.
To get the most out of goal setting, you have to commit to mastering it. Just as you don't step on a golf course one time and then get invited to the Master's Tournament, you can't listen to a tape course, read a book, or go to a seminar and expect to be an expert at goal setting. You must practice and hone your skills on a regular basis. Just as a basketball professional rehearses the free throw thousands of times, you need to practice the fundamentals of goal setting on a regular basis.
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- GoalTender: Goal Roadmap, Goal Support Frame, Perfect Day If you're serious about goal setting, you're going to need tools to aid in designing, refining, and following your plan. We've developed a tool we call the GoalTender but there are many others available on the web and we encourage you to research several articles and tools before investing your money. What works for one person may not work for you.
The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal.
The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.