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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

Try this quick thought experiment discussed by Sir John Hargrave in Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days. Try to create a quick mental picture of yourself twenty years from now…

What do you see? Is it a blurry or fuzzy image? Is it like a puzzle with missing pieces?

How do we improve our vision or find the missing puzzle pieces?

I found 9 game changing tips on how to write goals and actually reach them.and split them into 3 categories to explain them: Questions to improve the image, simple rules, and feedback.

How to write goals and actually reach them

Let’s examine these 9 game changing tips on how to identify these missing pieces and how you can find them.

    Questions to improve the image — Your goal

    1. If — and — then (Killer tip!)

    IF we seek to identify goals to improve our life in twenty years from now — AND we see a blurry image in our mind — THEN we should use these powerful tips to write and action our goals.

    This is no different than computer coding. In How To Hack Your Brain and Reprogram Your Habits (Like a Computer), I discuss how to use this technique to overcome bad habits.

    Yet, this technique can also be used to write and action goals. Let’s examine how this works:

    IF x happens — THEN I will do y.

    IF = cause

    AND = necessary condition or correlation

    THEN = effect

    Example:

    IF: If I notice I have gained weight.

    AND: And I want to start exercising.

    THEN: I will create triggers to ensure I exercise every morning.

    To illustrate this point further, let’s examine an exercise trigger:

    IF: If I sleep in my (clean) running clothing.

    AND: And I use technology, such as the Pavlok Shock Clock to wake myself up in the morning.

    THEN: Then I will wake-up at 4am and run every morning.

    2. 80/20 Rule

    The 80/20 Rule (otherwise known as the Pareto principle) is the law of the vital few. It states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

      Inputs or Causes = 20%

      Outputs or Effects = 80%

      20% of our inputs cause 80% of our outputs. The key is to identify the 20% of your actions that are creating 80% of your rewards. If you are able to successfully identify the 20%, then only do those actions.

      Example:

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      If what you do 80% of the time only brings you 20% of your results, then stop doing those actions.

      If what you do 20% of the time brings you 80% of your results, then only perform those actions.

      Another example can be found in the workplace:

      If you perform the following tasks: 1) make phone calls, 2) check e-mail, 3) write long reports, 4) participate in long meetings, 5) visit work-site locations to improve a process, 6) visit work-site locations to identify problems, 7) speak with employees directly to identify problems, 8) spend long hours creating PowerPoint presentations, 9) micromanage employees tasks, 10) micromanage employees attendance, etc.

      And you determine that only 20% of these tasks produce 80% of the direct positive results to you and your organization. Then only perform those 20%.

      This means you might only perform the following: 5) visit work-site locations to improve a process and 6) visit work-site locations to identify problems.

      In Joel Runyon’s article about the 80/20 rule, he provides advice for a diet. He says,[1]

      “If you change 20% of the foods you eat, you’ll see absolutely massive results, particularly when you’re just starting to improve your diet for the first time.”

      3. What? — So What? — Now What? (Killer tip!)

      Developed in 1970 by Terry Borton, Borton’s Development Framework provides us a straightforward approach to anything by asking three simple questions: What?, So What?, Now What?

      In Razor-Sharp Thinking: The What-Why Method, I wrote about the power of this simple approach.

      What? The experience… What happened?

      So What? Why was it important… What is the bottom line up front (BLUF)?

      Now What? What are you going to do now?

      Example:

      What?

      What happened to trigger a new goal? Let’s say you find it hard to breath while walking.

      So What?

      This is the reason (or the why) to improve your health. If you find that you lose your breath while walking, and you are a smoker, then you have potentially identified the problem.

      Now What?

      This is your plan of action.

      For example: If you lose your breath while walking, and you are a smoker, then you need to quit smoking.

      Simple rules

      4. DSRP (Killer tip!)

      Systems Thinking v2.0 (DSRP) was developed by systems theorists Derek and Laura Cabrera. In Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems, the Cabrera’s surmise,

      “We are astonished to learn that the breathtaking diversity and creativity of nature that produces peacocks, giraffes, and star-nosed moles is born of genetic mutations of the four nucleotides of DNA (ATCG). Much like the genetic code that underlies all species, DSRP provides a cognitive code that underlies human thinking.”

      DSRP is predicated on the idea that systems thinking is a complex adaptive system (CAS) with four underlying rules: Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives.

      DSRP is a way to use simple rules to understand difficult and confusing concepts. Let’s look at the simple rules with examples of how to use them in understanding the confusing concept of blockchain technology.

      Distinctions (Identity and Other)

      We must first identify what something is and what it is not.

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        Systems (Part and Whole)

        Once we have made clear distinctions we then examine the part-whole structure for blockchain and something else we are already knowledgeable with.

          Relationships (Cause and effect)

          After we analyze the part-whole structure for both concepts, we then look for relationships between ideas.

            Perspectives (Point and view)

            Finally, we can then examine the different perspectives of blockchain technology from a point (i.e. supply chain) and a view (i.e. smart contracts).

              5. VMCL (Killer tip!)

              Derek and Laura Cabrera have also developed simple rules for any organization in their most recent book Flock Not Clock: Align people, processes, and systems to achieve your vision.

              In fact, I used these simple rules to develop my vision (Emergent Learning by Swarming the Classroom) for courses I teach at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Hays, Kansas. Let’s take a look at these rules and examples of how you can use them.

              Vision (your desired future state or goal)

                Mission (our repeatable actions that bring about the vision… simple rules)

                  Capacity (our systems or processes that provide readiness to execute the mission)

                    Learning (our continuous improvements of systems of capacity based on feedback from the external environment)

                      Finally, here is a summary of VMCL for Emergent Learning.

                        6. Cynefin Framework

                          Developed by Dave Snowden, the Cynefin Framework is a conceptual way to assist decision makers in making decisions. For a detailed examination of the framework, I recommend reading my article How to Thrive in Chaos.

                          This framework provides simple rules (or domains) for identifying where a problem resides and the tools to use to solve a problem.

                          The Cynefin Framework is essentially 5 domains. Let’s briefly examine four of the five domains (leaving out disorder) with a description, a metaphor, and an example:

                          Simple (systems are stable and we can see clear cause-and-effect relationships)

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                          • Description: In this domain, the right answer to a problem is easy to identify.
                          • Metaphor: Playing Checkers
                          • Example: Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in an organization can solve simple problems.

                          Complicated (a domain of experts where we know the information we need, but we don’t have the answers)

                          • Description: We have asked questions but have not received an answer.
                          • Metaphor: Playing Chess
                          • Example: The use of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) in solving problems.

                          Complex (the information we need is out there somewhere, but we don’t know what we’re looking for)

                          • Description: The best way to determine if you have a Complex or Complicated system or problem is to figure out if you have an emergent complex adaptive system (CAS) – which will have a large number of agents interacting, learning, and adapting; thus, if you have a CAS, you are in the Complex domain.
                          • Metaphor: Playing Wei-chi (aka Go)
                          • Example: Using Systems Thinking v2.0 (DSRP) to solve complex (wicked) problems.

                          Chaotic (the realm of the unknown)

                          • Description: Possessing an understanding of cause-and-effect is useless.
                          • Metaphor: Playing Twister
                          • Example: First responders and the military have to train for all possible scenarios. In this domain, it is very important to train yourself so you do not freeze during an unexpected situation (such as an active shooter).

                          Feeedback

                          7. Cue — Routine — Reward

                          Charles Duhigg writes about a powerful habit loop in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. By understanding the habit loop, we can change bad habits by replacing them with healthy habits. The habit loop is a neurological loop consisting of the following:

                          • Cue: The cue is anything that triggers the habit. Think of this as a tripwire.
                          • Routine: This is the routine you wish to change (i.e. smoking).
                          • Reward: The reward is the reason for change. It is the positive reinforcement for the new behavior.

                          Duhigg provides the following tips to short-circuit the habit loop.

                          Let’s look at an example:

                          Step 1: Identify the routine

                          This is the behavior you wish to change. If you step on a scale and notice a large weight gain, then this will trigger the cue to lose weight.

                          Step 2: Experiment with rewards

                          Experiment with different rewards to see which one stick. If you write down every time you run — And you create a long chain of events — Then you will want to continue the chain (imagine a calendar with a string of check-marks illustrating how often you run).

                          Step 3: Isolate the cue

                          Duhigg says that we can ask ourselves (and record our answers) five things the moment an urge hits use in order to diagnose our habit:

                          1. Where are you?

                          2. What time is it?

                          3. What’s your emotional state?

                          4. Who else is around?

                          5. What action preceded the urge?

                          Step 4: Have a plan

                          Duhigg found once we figure out our habit loop, we are then able to shift our behavior.

                          “Put another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.” – Charles Duhigg

                          8. Algorithms (Killer tip!)

                          Algorithms are built off of and learn from feedback loops. This is why companies, such as Netflix and Spotify can successfuly recommend movies and music to you.

                          In Swipe to Unlock: A Primer on Technology and Business Strategy, the authors illustrate the algorithm and feedback loop Spotify uses. It is a computer algorithm to find songs that fit your profile.

                            The authors discuss the Discover Weekly algorithm that starts by looking at two basic pieces of information.

                            First, it looks at all songs you’ve listened to and liked enough to add to your library or playlists. They also mention that the algorithm is even smart enough to know if you skipped a song in the first 30 seconds.

                            Second, it looks at all the playlists others have made, with the assumption that each playlist has a thematic connection.

                            We can use computer algorithms, such as the Discover Weekly algorithm as an example of how to adapt and evolve our mental models. Our mental models are our own personal feedback loops and algorithms for how we live.

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                            In Flock Not Clock, Derek and Laura Cabrera write,

                            “When we interact with the real world, we receive feedback on the accuracy of our mental models. We adjust our mental models based on that feedback. Ideally, we refine our models to be better approximations of reality.”

                            Here is how this can work:

                              Our mental model (current knowledge) takes our present understanding of reality and approximates the real world (combined with current facts). This is the lens through which we view reality. Once we make the decision to act on our current knowledge, we then receive feedback from our environment. This feedback then changes our mental model — thus, this changes/revises our present knowledge. In essence, this is an algorithm for improvement.

                              9. OODA Loop

                                The OODA Loop was created by Colonel (Ret.) John Boyd. Without going into too much detail, I have adapted the OODA Loop as follows:

                                It is a high-speed decision making and feedback process using simple rules to upgrade your critical thinking skills for a sharper mind.

                                For a more detailed look at the OODA Loop, I recommend reading my article How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind.

                                In its simplest form, the OODA Loop is a high-speed decision making and feedback process in four stages: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

                                I am using the OODA Loop in my Emergent Learning concept as discussed in the VMCL portion of this article. I use it to move from information to understanding.

                                  Observe

                                  In my course at FHSU, I have my students digest information to receive data. Essentially, information is data. Think of information as a node in a systems diagram.

                                  Orient

                                  I then help my students orient to the information in an attempt to make sense of the information. Sense-making is the process of connecting information.

                                  Decide

                                  When we connect information (connecting two nodes) we bring about knowledge. The Cabrera’s provide the perfect equation for knowledge:

                                  Knowledge = Information x Thinking

                                  Thus, we can only bring about Knowledge when we introduce students to “Thinking”.

                                  Act

                                  To truly understand a concept, we must act. When we connect knowledge we attain wisdom. This is done through practical application of concepts.

                                  Final thoughts

                                  Lastly, my hope is that these 9 game changing tips will provide you a clear picture of your future vision or goals. These missing puzzle pieces should assist you in filling in those gaps in your mind.

                                  Just remember, use questions to improve your vision, use simple rules to guide you to your vision, and always look for feedback for improvement.

                                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                  Reference

                                  More by this author

                                  Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                                  Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

                                  10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus, and Creativity How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices The Ultimate Exercises to Improve Posture (Simple and Effective) How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain and Grows Knowledge 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

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                                  Last Updated on March 4, 2021

                                  A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

                                  A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

                                  If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

                                  Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

                                  You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

                                  Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

                                  What Are Goals?

                                  To kick off our goal setting guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

                                  A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

                                  Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

                                  Objects vs goals for goal setting

                                    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

                                    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

                                    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

                                    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

                                    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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                                    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

                                    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

                                    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

                                    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

                                    Types of Goals

                                    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting guide.

                                    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

                                    Time-Based

                                    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

                                    Daily

                                    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

                                    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

                                    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

                                    Short-Term

                                    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

                                    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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                                    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

                                    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

                                    Long-Term

                                    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

                                    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

                                    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

                                    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

                                    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

                                    Life-Based

                                    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

                                    Career

                                    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

                                    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

                                    Personal

                                    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

                                    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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                                    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

                                    How to Set Goals

                                    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

                                    1. Use SMART Goals

                                    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

                                    SMART stands for:

                                    • Specific
                                    • Measurable
                                    • Attainable
                                    • Relevant
                                    • Time-Bound

                                    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

                                    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

                                    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

                                    2. Prioritize Your Goals

                                    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

                                    3. Think of Those Around You

                                    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

                                    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

                                    4. Take Action

                                    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

                                    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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                                    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

                                    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

                                    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

                                    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

                                    How to Reach Your Goals

                                    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

                                    Tactics

                                    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

                                    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

                                    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

                                    Tools

                                    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

                                    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    In conclusion, using a goal setting guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

                                    Try out the tactics and tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

                                    More Tips on Achieving Success

                                    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

                                    Reference

                                    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
                                    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
                                    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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