Advertising
Advertising

Published on January 16, 2020

7 Ground Rules of Setting Goals (And Reaching Them)

7 Ground Rules of Setting Goals (And Reaching Them)

How do you go from idea to implementation? By setting goals.

In your personal life and at work, goals give you direction. They allow you to split projects into manageable pieces, and they help you hold yourself accountable along the way.

But setting goals is only the first step. More than nine in 10 people who set goals for the new year never achieve them.[1]

If you want to actually accomplish your goals, you can’t just think of the finish line. You need to set yourself up to reach it, which means strategizing how you’ll run the race.

What’s the best way to do that? By setting some ground rules for yourself:

1. Setting Goals the SMART Way

Setting any sort of goal is better than nothing, but you can set yourself up to succeed by keeping the acronym “SMART” in mind. A SMART goal is:

Specific

Whatever your goal is, you need to know when you’ve achieved it. The more specifics you give yourself, the better.

Say that you’re saving money with the goal of buying a new car. How much money, exactly, do you need? Are you willing to defer some of the cost through financing, or would you prefer to make a cash purchase. When do you hope to make the purchase?

Your specific goal might be, “I want to save $5,000 for a down payment by December 2020.” You’ve given yourself a yardstick by which to measure your progress.

Advertising

Measurable

A goal can be specific but not measurable. You might want to become a better father in the new year — but by what standards will you judge yourself?

Those standards are obvious for goals like saving money. But for something like becoming a better father, you’ll need to come up with proxies.

If you’re worried that you don’t spend enough time with your son or daughter, maybe you want to measure the time you spend per week with him or her. If you haven’t been giving your child the help he or she needs with schoolwork, perhaps improvements in his or her grades is how you’ll know you’ve been a better parent.

Attainable

Specific and measurable goals aren’t necessarily attainable. If you’re trying to get fit, good on you. Realize, though, that you probably won’t be able to run a marathon by the end of next week.

Shoot high, but beware: A recent study by the University of Basel found that people who set attainable goals for themselves enjoy greater wellbeing than those who set unreasonably high ones. The reason, according to researchers, is that a sense of control over outcomes results in greater life satisfaction.[2]

Relevant

Your goals should always map to a greater plan. Why bother to lose weight, for example, if your body mass is already at a healthy mark? If revenue is your company’s greatest need, then don’t set a goal to deck out your company’s office.

Relevance is also important for two less obvious reasons: If a goal doesn’t actually matter to you, you’ll struggle to stick with it. And at least in the context of workplace goals, you’ll struggle to get team buy-in or resources if it’s not clearly relevant to your mission.

Advertising

Time-dependent

Although attaching a timeline to your goal does make it more specific, timeliness deserves a special shoutout: If you have no deadline for achieving your goal, you will struggle to make time for it.

Think through what the actual work of the goal will look like. Say you’d like to lose 25 pounds: Medical experts suggest aiming to lose 1-2 pounds per week, which means you should expect to reach your goal in 12-25 weeks.

Be patient with yourself. We’d all like to achieve our goals faster, but setting unrealistic expectations is not the solution. You may burn out or, in the context of the weight-loss example, even endanger your health.

You know that setting goals is important, and you know what a good one looks like. But your time is limited; the next step is to choose: What do you most want to achieve, and how do you actually do it?

Every goal has an opportunity cost. Working toward one means that you can’t use that time to do something else. And so, the next few points will focus on how to achieve the right goals.

2. Think about Others

Few real achievements involve just one person. Be a team player: Before deciding to spend weeks or months working toward something, think about others.

It’s important to keep your ears open. Say you learn that you’re not the only member of your family who’d like to get fit in the new year. Prioritizing that goal is a good idea because it benefits you both: Having an accountability partner makes you both more likely to hit the gym after a hard day.

3. Know Your ‘Why’

As great as it is to take others into account when setting goals, your first priority should be just that: yours.

To maximize both your time and your chances of achieving a goal, it’s important to stay inspired.

Advertising

Think deeper than “earning more money” or “being healthier.” Do you want to build a better life for your family? Is seeing your kids graduate college what gets you out of bed every day?

In professional life, this is particularly key. Mike Novotny, CEO of clinical trial software company Medrio, gets through the hard days by thinking back to his mission is to cure disease and save lives.[3] Medrio won’t cure every disease, Novotny realizes, but he does believe it’s possible for the industry to do so.

Your “why” doesn’t have to be changing the world in order to be a worthwhile goal. But it should be something that you believe in, stand a good chance of achieving, and are able to break into specific steps.

4. Look at the Long Term

Short-term goals have value, but they should really be seen as steps toward long-term goals.

Use legacy goals to organize your operations. Challenge yourself: Can you map every item on your calendar to one of those three long-term goals? What about your task list, purchases, and investments?

What might legacy goals look like in your personal life? Think about things that would actually alter your life trajectory. If you want to improve access to education, perhaps starting an online learning company should be one of this year’s legacy goals.

5. Put First Things First

Once you have your big picture and annual priorities in mind, you need to drill down: How are you going to get there?

Start with a simple question, suggests Say Insurance’s Erin Thompson: “What do I want to achieve today?” Without a specific plan of action for the day, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the little things.

The truth is, most of what you do in a day probably doesn’t get you closer to your goals. Things like answering emails, cooking meals, and commuting have to happen, but they’re best seen as chores rather than steps forward.

6. Be Humble

Whether you’re working on a solo goal or one that involves a whole team, recognize that others’ ideas can help you achieve it faster and more effectively.

Advertising

Look beyond things like age and job title. Teenager Greta Thunberg has broken through to more people on climate change than many scientists. Mahatma Gandhi was a small-time lawyer before he helped India overcome British rule.

Always assume that the person you’re interacting with has something valuable to tell you. Be open with people about what you want to achieve, and humbly accept their input.

7. Give Yourself Some Credit.

Most goals worth setting are achieved in phases. If you can’t see and feel yourself making progress toward them, warns Teamwork CEO Peter Coppinger, you’ll struggle to achieve what you set out to do.

When setting goals, think about the waypoints you expect to see along the way.

Say you hope to become a CEO someday. You can’t expect to leap straight to the top, so consider what roles you might want to hold first.

As you work your way up, celebrate those wins. When you earn your first management role, go visit a national park you’ve always wanted to see. Once you become a VP, take that European vacation. After you’re promoted to the c-suite, reward yourself with a cruise.

Setting goals is good, but achieving them is even better. Choose wisely, listen carefully to those around you, work hard, and remember to celebrate the wins along the way.

More on Setting Goals

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

7 Ground Rules of Setting Goals (And Reaching Them) How to Master Your Management Skills and Build a Strong Team How to Complete Any Task in the Most Time Efficient Manner Deep Work: 9 Grounding Rules to Stay Focused How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life

Trending in Smartcut

1 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It 2 How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 3 Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus 4 How to Answer the Interview Question “What Motivates You?” 5 Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 21, 2020

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

Advertising

How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

What Really Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

Advertising

Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

Advertising

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Advertising

Read Next