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Last Updated on April 30, 2021

The 5 Unspoken Principles of Effective Goal Setting

The 5 Unspoken Principles of Effective Goal Setting

Goal setting 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.

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:

  • 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.

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.

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Unclear goals are a recipe for fumbling around, hitting roadblocks, 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?

An example of a unclear goal would be “I want to lose weight.” 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. Knowing exactly what you’re aiming for will also help you avoid procrastination in the long run. If you find yourself struggling with this, check out Lifehack’s Fast Track Class – No More Procrastination.

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[1].

Going back to the weight loss example, would you honestly feel good about yourself if you committed to losing just 1 pound over 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.

When engaging in goal setting, 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.

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Have you ever heard someone say, “Wow, s/he 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, and the same applies to goal setting.

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 as quickly as possible just to finish them?

It’s the emotional commitment to your goals that gives you the motivation you need to accomplish them. If your personal 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?

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

4. Review Feedback on Your Progress

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

In the process of goal setting, you need to have feedback along the way to ensure you’re staying on track and 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, you may need to tweak your routine a bit.

You wouldn’t want to wait until the 2 months is up and realize that you aren’t even close to achieving what you set out to do.

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.

5. Break Down Complex Tasks Into Simpler Tasks

If you’ve followed the second principle and set a challenging goal for yourself, 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 when goal setting.

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

However, 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.

Knock down the barriers, and keep progressing forward with your smaller goals over the long term.

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, the goal setting process 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.

More Tips on Goal Setting

Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: Why You Should Stop Setting Easy Goals

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Tom Casano

The CEO and Founder of Life Coach Spotter

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Last Updated on June 9, 2021

Finally Reach Your Goal with the 6 A’s of Change

Finally Reach Your Goal with the 6 A’s of Change

Many of us set goals for ourselves at the start of each new year. Some of us choose to set specific goals such as losing a certain amount of weight by a certain date or decreasing the amount of carbonated drinks we intake.

While others choose more general, less specific goals such as be more organized, be healthier, or manage time better.

Whatever your goals or New Year’s resolutions are, there almost always seems to be the assumption that we won’t keep our New Year’s resolutions by the end of the year. Most of the changes we wish to make are positive habits we hope to incorporate and establish in our everyday lives. Your belief that these goals are not attainable may actually be influencing your ability to make a change.

Our problem is that we tend to focus on the obstacles that may be placed in front of us that can prevent or hinder our goal attainment rather than focusing on the actual process towards attaining those resolutions. Some models like the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, are great guides to assist with understanding our levels of change.

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So, how do we ensure we meet our goals and resolutions before another ball drops (literally and figuratively)?

With the Six A’s of Change!

1. Awareness

As the old saying goes, the first step towards change is admitting that change is necessary. Being aware and acknowledging that change is needed is the first step towards tackling a goal. It takes strength to understand that change is needed. Believe it or not, some people don’t realize when change is needed. This change can be external while others can be internal. It truly takes a sense of mindfulness to become aware that change is warranted. Mindfulness practice can be beneficial establishing awareness towards needed changes in your life. If you are at this step, give yourself a pat on the back! You are one step closer towards your goal.

2. Assessment

If there is something in your life you wish to change on a permanent basis, it may be helpful to attempt to understand the origin.

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For example: let’s say you have a certain behavior you wish to change. Assessing where the behavior may stem from can be beneficial to your goal attainment. Sometimes, establishing an origin is difficult and/or impossible to achieve and that is ok, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

The key is to attempt to assess the origin. Sometimes the root of the problem or not knowing the root can hinder growth or progression towards goal attainment. In theraputic practice, this is known as a psychodynamic approach. If you are able to find an origin or contributor of behavior, it’s important not to identify origin of behavior as an excuse but to better understand where that behavior comes from so you can begin to work on tackling the behavior and the origin to assist with permanent results.

Another part of the assessment stage is to understand and assess your why! Why do you want or need this change? Determining your why will assist in keep you motivated towards change.

3. Accountability

Stay accountable! One way to keep yourself accountable towards your resolutions and goals are to write them down. Write your goals down some place you can see them every day. I like to carry around a notebook that are designated towards my catergorized goals. My goals range from financial goals, personal goals, and business related goals. Each month I re-assess my goals to ensure that the goals I made in January of a new year don’t end up transfering over into other months or worse, years!

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Another way to hold yourself accountable is to tell someone. Your close friends and family can’t hold you accountable towards your goals if you don’t tell them. Having a supportive environment is helpful when attempting to make change.

4. Activation

In the activation step you are taking action. Activate measurable actions towards change.

For example, your New Year’s resolution may be to “be more organized in the mornings.” Some action steps you may activate include going to bed earlier, making the bed in the morning, and planning and prepping meals or outfits before bed.

The activation stage should feel like homework. This is a cognitive behavioral approach in which you implement or activate measurable steps towards change. These are all measurable action steps that you can activate to establish adequate change in habits that will ultimately assist with your goal attainment.

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5. Analyze

Once you have activated measurable goals the next step is to analyze. Is everything in your activation step assisting with attaining your ultimate goal: “to be more organized in the mornings”?

If you ask any business owner or entreprenuer, analyzing results and outcome measures is key towards success. If you don’t assess analytics within your own goals it will be difficult to determine if adequate change has actually been made. Ask yourself, are there some additional action steps that need to be activated in order to truly attain change? Am I being held accountable? Could I be doing more?

6. Attain

Lastly, attain! Ensure that you are not only obtaining the necessary activation steps but that you have attained your initial goal successfully. If you need to go back to step 5, that is ok. In this step, you have established adequate change and are sure that you have attained your goal(s).

So, there you have it, The 6 A’s of Change: Awareness, Assessment, Accountablity, Activation, Analyze, and Attain! Don’t be afraid of change! There is often a negative connotation that comes with the thought of change. However, change is truly the only thing in this world that remains constant. Let’s make 2017 the year we actually keep our New Year resolutions. Always remember, “Change begins in your mind.”

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Featured photo credit: Aline de Nadai via unsplash.com

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