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Last Updated on May 5, 2021

Goal Setting Techniques to Master for Success in Life

Goal Setting Techniques to Master for Success in Life
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Many people believe that intelligence is the determining factor for success. However, studies prove that your IQ has very little to do with it. Researchers conducted a 30-year study [1] on 1000 children and found that cognitive control is a more reliable predictor of success than IQ. This means that the ability to delay gratification and to remain goal oriented through goal setting techniques was the ultimate key to their success.

So, successful people aren’t smarter; they’re more adept at setting and achieving their goals. You too can learn effective goal setting with a little guidance.

The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting

Below are four simple steps for setting realistic goals:

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.

However, wishes are not goals, and personal goals without action plans 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 systematically moving toward them step-by-step.

Setting long-term, challenging goals forces you to look down the road and plan for the future with specific goal setting techniques. Chasing goals keeps us motivated, especially in the face of the mundane, tedious, but necessary everyday tasks.

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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.

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, with your goal setting techniques, 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. This is followed by other small steps that build upon one another and ultimately end in you opening your first B&B in Ocala, FL within the five-year period.

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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.

3. Set SMART Goals

When setting goals (long or short), use the SMART framework[2]. This means that goals should be:

Specific

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.

Measurable

Goal setting techniques won’t do much good if you can’t 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.

Attainable (Achievable)

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.

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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 may not be achievable.

Relevant

A relevant goal matters to you and is reasonable, making it easier to apply goal setting techniques. 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-Bound

A time-bound 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 YouTube 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.

This particular letter of the SMART acronym is the one that will help you avoid procrastination in the long run. You can also fight procrastination with Lifehack’s Fast Track Class – No More Procrastination. This course will help you learn how to stay on track as you work on each of your goals, whether it’s a few months or a few years.

4. Re-evaluate Your Long-Term Goal Periodically

Success is a dynamic process that requires constant readjustments and recalculations as part of your goal setting techniques.

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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 [3].

Remember, you won’t be the same person in a year or two as you are now, and you may find that your defined goals are no longer working for the kind of life you envision. In that case, take a step back and rethink things before moving forward again. This is what evaluations are for.

The Bottom Line

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. Before you know it, you will have converted your dream into reality.

More Goal Setting Techniques

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Solutions via unsplash.com

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 4, 2021

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life
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Why is it important to be goal-oriented? If you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to you.

Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal-oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openness – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful, meaningful life:

1. Start With the End in Mind

To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now.

Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? 

Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then, ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

What about one month or one week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

This exercise is a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

2. Create Nested Goals

The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Goal-oriented people get specific about when, where, and how they’ll reach their objectives by breaking them down into sub-goals.

Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day, four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

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Make your aims positive and keep track of your progress. Instead of business goals like “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office,” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

You can learn more on creating effectively goals here:

3. Get Clear on Your Values

Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of “shoulds” and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want, and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

4. Make Time for Inspiration

As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to become goal-driven and receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s easy to see why it’s hard to stay motivated toward specific goals in the long-term. 

However, the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

You can find your superpowers by answering these questions.

Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

6. Make Time for Intimates

When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. Intimates refers to close friends or people you have close relationships with.

The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

“Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

Become goal-driven to avoid loneliness

    Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being[7]. Put it in your goals.

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    7. Open up Emotionally

    When crafting your goal-oriented life, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others.

    To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings. According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps[8]:

    “Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

    She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

    If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter, making a phone call, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list.

    Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it, and try to be kind.

    Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together, and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

    8. Nurture Happiness

    To be more goal-oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

    The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

    If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach).

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    According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment in your life.[9]

    If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on?

    If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal-oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by completing positive daily tasks, like taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

    Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[10] By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

    Final Thoughts

    In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal-setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal-driven.

    It may seem like a lot of work at first glance, but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal-oriented.

    You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

    “What you seek is seeking you.”

    More Tips on Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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