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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

More by this author

Denise Hill

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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