Setting goals seems like a basic element of achieving happiness and success, but I’d hazard a guess that most people do not do it. It requires making a commitment, risking failure, self discipline, and venturing outside of your comfort zone. That can be scary! But it’s only debilitating IF you allow it to be.
Sure, everyone has a “wish list” in their heads — but do they do anything to translate those wishes into reality? Whether or not they use a methodical approach to getting what they want in life, it all comes down to five things, all of which can be upgraded, changed, or replaced with something more effective.
- Belief systems: Your belief systems may be erroneous and based on past failures, embarrassing experiences, or self-limiting beliefs imposed on you during childhood.
- Thought habits: Self-limiting, negative thoughts are habitual and can be debilitating when it comes to setting and achieving goals. Focusing on possibilities rather than your chances of failure will tip the scales in your favor and put you in a much more resourceful state of mind. When you feel optimistic, the quality of your thoughts, actions, and results will be elevated.
- Self talk: Isn’t it amazing the way we sometimes say negative things to and about ourselves, and then accept those put-downs as the gospel truth? Most of the time it’s a blatant lie when you tell yourself “I’m not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough” to pursue a particular goal. When you take a look at the sheer number of successful people who are clearly less gifted than you, it makes you realize that it’s primarily your negative, self-doubting thoughts that are hold you back.
- Mind set: Unfortunately, positive thinking can not be practiced sporadically to get meaningful results in your personal, professional, and financial life. We become the cumulative product of our everyday thoughts, habits, and beliefs. I would define mindset as the amount of attention you pay to your dominant goals, and the extent to which you prioritize those goals. Determination and persistence are key components of a positive mindset, and a believe in yourself and your own capabilities is also one of the key cornerstones of realizing your human potential.
- Intention: The concept of intention is a powerful one. The word “intention” implies decisiveness, a definite purpose, and a positive expectation about achieving a goal.
How to Set a Goal and Achieve It
Goals are exciting because they allow you to entertain the idea that anything is possible and that you are in control of your future circumstances. Setting goals is the first step to achieving them. Writing down your goals and developing a realistic plan for reaching them is the method through which goals take root and take on a life of their own.
Setting and achieving goals is a relatively simple process, but it does require a certain amount of self belief, tenacity, and follow through. I suppose no blog post about setting and achieving goals would be compete without mentioning the “SMART” acronym. If you plan on setting a goal for yourself, that goal should have the following characteristics:
Goals should be Specific… Measurable… Attainable… Relevant… and Time-Oriented.
You’ve probably heard the quote that says “Goals are wishes that have a deadline,” or something to that effect. The good thing about a deadline, or at least a target date, is that it’s motivating and gives you something to work toward. Admittedly, the word “deadline” is more motivating than “target date” because deadline conveys more of a sense of urgency — especially if you’ve missed a deadline for a work project, school assignment, or payment date. In those scenarios, there are consequences for being late — so it may be to your benefit to impose deadlines on yourself for taking certain actions and producing desired results.
This is important, though: If you fall short of your goal or fail to produce the desired outcome, don’t be too hard on yourself! Self criticism or condemnation is anxiety producing and discouraging. Get in the habit of being your own best cheerleader, life coach, and advocate, and focus on supporting, encouraging, and inspiring yourself, no matter what happens!
I’ve never been on a football team, but in movies and TV shows, the coach gives players a pep talk during breaks about mistakes they made and how they do better when they’re back on the playing field. Since success and winning is as much of a process as it is an outcome, it makes sense to continually focus on process improvement, rather than beat yourself up about failing to hit the bullseye every single time!
Present Moment Awareness: The Value of Being Mindful
When setting and going goals, it’s often beneficial to stop, take a look around, and assess you’re doing. We’re always faced with decisions and crossroads, and it requires present moment awareness to consider the choices before you and choose the direction that makes the most sense. Whether you decide to take “baby steps” or “quantum leaps” any risk you take should calculated, well thought out, and based on the best available information you access to. Virtually any kind of action, business startup, investment, travel plans, new experiences, or social outreach involves some degree of risk, but if you approach new experiences intelligently and with a sense of curiosity and optimism, then your successes should outweigh your failures. Every person needs to factor in their own tolerance for failure and frustration, and then develop a strategy for making the most out of your life!