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Successful People Aren’t Gifted. They Just Master Some Goal Setting Techniques

Successful People Aren’t Gifted. They Just Master Some Goal Setting Techniques

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 [1] 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.

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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.

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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[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

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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.

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.

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.

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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 [3].

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 [4]. 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

Reference

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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