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The 5 Unspoken Principles Of Goal Setting

The 5 Unspoken Principles Of Goal Setting

Setting goals is an essential practice for living a happy and fulfilling life. Goals provide you with purpose, direction, and motivation. They give you something to strive for and they force you to change and improve yourself to achieve them. Goals are good things.

The act of setting goals isn’t always as simple as defining what you want and then going after it. There’s actually a science behind it that, if followed, enables the true power of setting and achieving goals.

Back in 1990, Professors Edwin Locke and Gary Latham published A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance, in which they identified five principles of effective goal setting.

The principles are:

  • Clarity
  • Challenge
  • Commitment
  • Feedback
  • Task Complexity

Their combined research makes a correlation between the achievement of our goals and the extent to which the five principles were present.

Basically, if you follow these tips, you will be much more likely to set effective goals and achieve them.

Let’s take a closer look at these 5 unspoken principles of goal setting.

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1. Set Clear And Concise Goals

The first principle discussed by Locke and Latham was clarity. This means your goal should be very well defined and not be unclear or vague. You should be able to picture exactly what your life would look like after you achieve your goal and when you want it to happen.

Unclear goals are a recipe for fumbling around, hitting road blocks, and never really achieving what you want. After all, how do you know if you’ve accomplished a goal if you never really knew what you were after?

Think about it in terms of weight loss. An example of a terrible goal would be “I want to lose weight.”

Of course, don’t we all? A much better example of a clear, concise goal would be “I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months.”

Having something concrete and measurable not only makes achieving your goals more likely, but also makes it much easier to track progress along the way.

2. Make Your Goals Challenging

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” — Andrew Carnegie

Having a clear and concise goal isn’t enough to make it an effective one. It’s nearly as important to make sure that the goal you set for yourself is also challenging. It should be enough to test your character and make you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.

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Going back to the weight loss example, would you honestly feel good about yourself if you committed to losing just 1 pound over the the course of 2 months? You could essentially do nothing the first 7 weeks and then fast the night before your deadline to hit your mark.

Your goals have to be something worth fighting for. The research from Locke and Latham shows that challenging goals inspire increased performance. Meaning the level of effort you put in is directly related to the difficulty of the goal.

Ever hear someone say “Wow, so-and-so really rose up to the challenge of the occasion!”

That’s Locke and Latham’s theory in action. The more difficult the goal, the more effort you exert to achieve it and the better the sense of accomplishment you get from it.

3. Truly And Deeply Commit To Your Goals

People perform better when they care about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, plain and simple.

Try to think about the tasks you accomplish on a day-to-day basis at work. Which ones do you put the most effort into and which ones do you half-ass, just wishing they were over?

It’s the emotional commitment to your goals that gives you the motivation you need to accomplish them. If your goal is to lose weight, but you don’t actually care or need to, then why would you feel motivated to drop those unnecessary pounds? The short answer is that you wouldn’t.

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To be successful, you need to make sure the goals you set are something you truly want and can fully be on board with.

4. Review And Acquire Feedback On Your Progress

“Goal setting is most effective when there is feedback showing progress in relation to the goal.” – Prof. Edwin Locke

You are crazy if you think you can just set a worthwhile yearlong goal and in the end discover if you were able to reach your goal once your deadline comes and goes.

You need to have feedback along the way to ensure you’re making progress towards your goal, and to take stock of what’s working and what’s not.

Let’s, once again, return to the example of weight loss. If after two weeks you’ve managed to gain 5 pounds – oops, maybe you need to tweak your routine a little bit.

You wouldn’t want to wait until the 2 months is up and realize, “Oh crap, I’m not even close to my goal.”

Set some time aside every so often to step back, review your goals, and track your progress. Doing so will help you hit your mark and keep you motivated along the way.

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5. Break Down Complex Tasks Into Simpler Tasks

If you’ve followed the second principle and set a challenging goal for yourself, by nature, it will probably have many complex tasks associated with its achievement. These tasks can be daunting and extremely overwhelming, especially when starting with a stack a mile high.

You have to break down these daunting tasks systematically into simpler, less-complicated tasks that are easier to approach and overcome.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Don’t get the wrong idea though. Nothing that is worth doing will ever be completely easy. There will undoubtedly be simple tasks that frustrate you and test your will to continue. That’s just the fact of the matter, especially when learning to accomplish something new.

Take things one at a time. Knock down the barriers and keep progressing forward.

Summing It All Up

The next time you sit down to assess or set your goals, don’t forget the principles you learned in reading this article. Using these principles will ensure you’re setting effective goals and will dramatically increase your chances of achieving them.

Like most things in life, goal setting is a practice that must be worked at. Keep the principles in mind, implement them in your life plans, and witness the greatness you will be able to achieve.

Featured photo credit: paul filitchkin via snapwiresnaps.tumblr.com

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Tom Casano

The CEO and Founder of Life Coach Spotter

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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