Many people believe that IQ or intelligence is the determining factor for success. However, studies prove that intellect has very little to do with it.
Researchers conducted a 30-year study  on 1000 children and found that cognitive control is a more reliable predictor of success than IQ. Meaning, the ability to delay gratification and to remain goal oriented was the ultimate key to their success.
The implication? Successful people aren’t smarter; they’re more adept at setting and achieving their goals.
What’s the secret to affective goal setting you ask? Read on…
The ultimate guide to goal setting
Below are four simple steps for setting realistic goals:
Step 1. Set long-term goals FIRST
Creating a long wish list of things you would love to do is easy. We write down things like:
- Visit Europe.
- Learn to scuba dive
- Find a new job
It is human nature to dream big, and set unrealistic goals we’ll probably never achieve. As long as we’ve jotted a list of possibilities, we feel accomplished.
Wishes are not goals. Goals without a plan are merely dreams. When we go with the flow and set our sights on nothing in particular, that’s exactly what we’ll achieve. Nothing. Successful people start by setting long-term goals (at least five years out) first. Their goals are lofty but they begin systematical moving toward them—step-by-step.
Setting long-term goals forces you to look down the road and plan for the future. Chasing goals keeps us motivated, especially in the face of the mundane, tedious, but necessary everyday tasks.
Long-term goals are concrete and dreams are wispy abstracts. There is a notable difference between saying: “Someday I will be an authority in brain research and possibly find a cure for a dreaded disease” and “By 2020 I will have my Master’s Degree in Neurologic Surgery from Johns Hopkins University and will find a job in brain research.” The first statement is a dream that has no firm basis in reality. The second statement is a long-term goal derived from the dream of becoming a brain-research expert, but it also includes a clear and tangible path on how to get there.
Step 2. Break large goals into smaller ones
While long-term goals provide us with focus and direction, short-term goals give us momentum.
After setting long-term goals, setting smaller, short-term goals is critical because they provide you with quick wins and allow you to experience many “little successes” on your way to the big success.
Let’s pretend that your long-term goal is to run a chain of bed and breakfasts (B&B’s) on a beach–somewhere.
First, you need to break it down into a slightly smaller goal like opening your first B&B in a specific location or area within five years.
Then break it down further from there. You could start by working at a local B&B and shadowing the owner for six months in order to learn the business. Followed by other smaller steps which build upon one another and ultimately end in you opening your first B&B in Ocala, FL within the five-year period.
If you don’t break down the large goal and make a plan, you can quickly become overwhelmed and discouraged. The dream will remain just a dream—unrealized, and slowly die.
Step 3. Set SMART goals
When setting goals (long or short), use the SMART framework. This means that goals should be:
You goal should be clearly stated in specific terms. This allows you to better plan and prioritize your time and resources. It also helps you remain focused and driven.
For example, the goal: ‘I want to be famous’ is not specific. A specific goal would be ‘I want to be a well-known YouTuber. By identifying the platform, you now have direction. You can start by learning the videography skills you will need, such as video editing, which will help keep you focused and moving toward your goal.
You should also specifically quantify your goal. Use numbers instead of empty or meaningless adjectives. For example, if you want to be a well-known YouTuber, setting a goal of gaining one million subscribers is measurable versus saying “a lot” of subscribers. This enables you to see your progress at any time and gauge where you are in the process. You will know when you need to adapt your processes and better determine which ones are actually working. Having a concrete reminder of how far you’ve come pushes you to keep moving forward.
The objective of setting a goal is to make a plan, work and actually achieve that goal. You can’t do this if your goal is impossible to accomplish. An attainable or achievable goal should be realistic and should match your abilities and resources. If it involves a myriad of things that are out of your control, then it may not be achievable for you.
Let’s revisit our goal of being a well-known You Tuber with one million subbies. Let’s say you’ve never made a video—recorded, edited or produced one. The first step in your process is determining whether you have the time, energy and resources to acquire the necessary skills to create exceptional content. If this seems unrealistic to you then your goal—the way it is stated, may not be achievable.
Relevant (realistic, reasonable)
A relevant goal matters to you and is reasonable. It should reside in the realm of reality and should complement other aspects of your life. If you have to make tremendous amounts of continuous sacrifices, you may need to ask yourself, “is it worth it?” You should strive to have a balanced effort-reward ratio.
If gaining one million subscribers on YouTube requires you to spend 10 hours every day editing videos, you are probably going to have problems paying bills, maintaining relationships and getting enough sleep. If the sacrifices are unrealistic and the cost is too steep, then your goal is not reasonable.
Time-based (timely, track-able)
A time-based goal has a specific deadline. You should also plan milestones along the way and set timelines to reach them.
On your way to one million You Tube subscribers, you could set a three-month milestone of 300,000 subscribers. This helps you track and adjust your progress while working towards your goal.
Step 4. Re-evaluate your long-term goal periodically (at least twice a year)
Success is a dynamic process that requires constant readjustments and recalculations.
Re-evaluate your goals often (at least twice a year) to ensure that your goals fit the SMART framework and to ensure you are still on target .
Your goals dictate your actions and set your course. They provide you with a sense of purpose. Adjust your plan and processes when necessary but always maintain a laser-like focus on your goal and refuse to settle . Interruptions and hiccups to the plan will occur, but you must push past them and keep moving toward the prize.
…And before you know it, you will have converted your dream into reality.
Featured photo credit: OnInnovation via flickr.com
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