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Last Updated on May 13, 2021

Why Is It Important To Set Realistic Goals?

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Why Is It Important To Set Realistic Goals?

Across social media, I’ve lost count of the number of friends of mine who’ve shared the infamous Norman Vincent Peale quote:

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

In other words, aim high and set far-reaching goals, and even if you’re not quite there, you’re going to be in a good place. I very much agree with the sentiment behind setting ambitious goals in all areas of life. However, Norman Vincent Peale and I may disagree in framing such goals from the outset in a way that already talks about the possibility of failing to hit them or setting and achieving goals that might be impossible.

In my view, a goal needs to be a well-balanced combination of being ambitious and being realistic (very much in keeping with the concept of SMART Goals).

I work in marketing. As a result, the idea of a measurable objective is no stranger to me. From day one in this career, it was almost drummed into me that everything must be goal-led and that has served me well in my career. But goal setting and, importantly, goal-getting can have a significant positive impact on all professional and personal aspects of your life whatever you do as a career.

Let’s look at why it is important to set realistic goals and what are some of the benefits of realistic goal setting.

1. Goal Setting, Goal Getting, and Your Self Confidence

We have a real self-confidence crisis on our hands. A 2021 study showed that the majority of women (62%) and half of men do not believe they are intelligent. Staggeringly, over 60% of us do not believe we’re good at our jobs.[1] Moreover, low self-esteem is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicide.[2]

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So, what does this have to do with goal setting?

A study by George Wilson on “Value-Centred Approach To Goal-Setting And Action Planning” made clear associations between goal hitting and improved self-confidence.[3] In other words, setting concrete goals, even if you have not hit them yet but are making progress towards them, can result in higher self-esteem.

2. Setting Goals Motivates Us

Another reason why it is important to set realistic goals is that it helps motivate us.

Let’s face it, motivation is a battle for many people at the moment. A year of turbulence and uncertainty is enough to make even the most enthusiastic of us struggle. But well over half of people in a study said that setting goals helps keep them motivated.[4]

Particularly in times of difficulty, having goals to work towards can help you maintain focus and motivation both in your work and in terms of personal goals as well.

3. The Power of Micro-Goals

To quote the wonderful Baz Luhrmann, this particular tip “has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience,”—well, in my experience and that of others I’ve shared with anecdotally.

I’ve been on a mission over the last year to lose a ton of weight—not a literal ton, to be clear. But if we’re going to be specific, I was setting out to lose 56 lbs. It’s not the first time I’ve set out on that particular mission, and on my previous three attempts, I got around halfway there before quitting and then undoing all the good work. Hello, self-destruct mode!

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This time, I approached it differently. Instead of setting out with the goal of “I want to lose 56lbs,” I’ve broken it down into micro goals that feel more realistically achievable in a short time frame.

  • Goal 1: 14lbs
  • Goal 2: 28lbs
  • Goal 3: 35lbs
  • Goal 4: 42lbs
  • Goal 5: 49lbs
  • Goal 6: 56lbs

I recently passed goal 4 and am on the way to goal 5.

so, what’s the difference this time?

I feel motivated by having already achieved 4 of my goals. On the last attempt I made, by being 25lbs, down I was becoming frustrated that my goal still seemed so far away. This time, I celebrate wins more frequently by putting smaller goals that contribute to the bigger goal in place. It helps with my determination and commitment.

4. Dopamine Loves Realistic Goals

Dopamine is often referred to as the “pleasure chemical.” It’s the chemical that’s released when we’re happy. That happiness can be created by bad habits or good ones. Some illegal drugs work by interfering with the body’s dopamine system, which is what makes them so addictive.

Micro goals, as it turns out, give us a sense of reward. Achieving smaller goals regularly on the way to a bigger one gives us a great little hit of dopamine, which helps keep us motivated on the road to the bigger goal.

5. Realistic Goals Give Us “Oomph!”

One remarkable finding of a 2017 study by Granot, Stern, and Balcetis found that setting goals actually increases our systolic blood pressure, which in turn makes us feel ready to act. But the findings went a step further. They confirmed that when the goals felt “difficult to achievable” (in other words, “realistic”) the boost in SBP was more pronounced than in cases where the goal felt too difficult.[5]

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In other words, setting realistic goals has a physical impact on our bodies to give us the “oomph” we need to go out and get it.

6. Realistic Goals and the Goldilocks Rule

Goals, by their very nature, are outcomes we want that require action from us to attain. Achieving goals only happens when we stick with the required course of action we need to hit them. And sticking with anything, whether it’s a diet, a pledge to write 500 words a day, a running regime, or a target of hitting a certain sales number requires motivation.

In an article, James Clear talks about the Goldilocks Rule. The premise of the Goldilocks rule is that humans are only motivated when the task at hand is the absolute optimum level of difficulty.[6] Clear argues that if something is too easy, then you simply get bored. In other words, if your goal is too simple, then your motivation will die off because you are, quite frankly, not feeling challenged enough.

If, on the other hand, the task is far too difficult (impossible, even), then you become demotivated, believing that no matter what you do, you won’t be able to achieve it. Think about playing chess as an amateur against a Grandmaster. Being obliterated over and over again is likely to result in your eventual giving up.

Clear argues that the “Goldilocks” zone for a goal is that space where it’s difficult and challenges you to the edge of your capabilities but is still definitely achievable. This is where humans remain most motivated and stick with the actions that it takes to achieve goals.

So, bear in mind that the next time you set your goals, they need to challenging but by no means impossible.

7. Goal Setting Can Change Your Life

So, we know that realistic goals and micro goals help us to stay motivated on the journey to bigger goals. And ultimately, this is what really has life-changing benefits.

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As an adult, I’ve had goals in all sorts of areas. I set out with an income goal (which I broke into micro-goals) when I was in my early 20s and each time I achieved one of the micro-goals, I’d reward myself with an experience (a visit somewhere usually). I’m not at my end goal yet, and so that continues.

More recently, I’ve set health goals around weight. I’m well on my way using realistic micro-goals. These smaller more realistic goals add up. For me, they’ll add up to being healthy and financially comfortable—life-changing things.

It might be something totally different for you. But I’m a firm believer in setting big life-changing goals, breaking them down into smaller, more realistic goals, and achieving them.

Go Get It

What do you want? Is it an income level? Or do you want a job in a certain company, a business in a certain industry, or to be able to run at a certain speed? I hope reading these 7 benefits of realistic goal-setting has made you realize why it is important to set realistic goals.

Only you know what life-changing goals look like for you. But here’s something to try:

  1. Write down the end goal(s) and how long you think it might take to achieve.
  2. Break it out into smaller goals that can be realistically achieved in a smaller timeframe.
  3. Write down what you’ll do to achieve that first micro goal.
  4. Go get it.

Good luck!

More Tips On Setting Realistic Goals

Featured photo credit: Markus Winkler via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Stacey MacNaught

Small business owner, public speaker and marketing expert obsessed with working smarter.

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Last Updated on September 27, 2021

8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

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8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

“Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.

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So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.

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So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.

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Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

7. Goals Make You Feel Good

Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.

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If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

If I could leave you with something, it would be this:

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Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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