In any journey, knowing the destination is logically the beginning. Unfortunately, in their journey to success, few people start with the destination in mind. Without this focus or established goal the journey will be fraught with many pointless and unnecessary detours and reversals.
Goals then are the compass that provides direction and purpose to our actions. However, merely having goals is equivalent to merely possessing the compass. Knowing how-to set goals is then equivalent to possessing the knowledge and skill to using the compass proficiently.
To be functional, goals must be SMART. SMART being the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-specific. Satisfying these five criteria alone is however not enough. In order for goals to be powerful and compelling, they must also fulfill the following conditions …
Step One: Know the Sacrifices and Higher Purpose
In the pursuit of any goal there will be sacrifices that need to be made. It is therefore important that after setting your goal, you then question your own willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve it. If by doing so you find that you are unwilling to make the required sacrifices, you can then either choose not pursue the goal, or adjust it such that the sacrifices are ones you are willing to make. Once you have decided what you are willing to sacrifice, you have in effect made a commitment to achieving this goal.
In line with this, it is also necessary that you seek to understand the higher purpose you have for setting this particular goal. To do this, you simply ask yourself the question, “What is important about achieving this goal?” Repeatedly asking yourself this question, you will reveal the higher meaning of why you want to achieve this goal. It is this higher meaning that, more often than not, will give you the more compelling reason to achieve your goal.
Step Two: Collect Evidence and Retain Control
As part of setting well-formed goals, you must also define specific “evidence” of you achieving or, at least, moving towards your goal. This is an important step in the process as it serves the twin purpose of motivation and feedback. Motivation in the sense that nothing motivates you more than seeing yourself succeeding; and feedback in the sense that it is important to know if what you are doing is putting you on track to achieving your goal. If it is not, then adjustments to your plans can be made.
In addition, stated goals must also be those within your control. In life, there are many things that are beyond our control. Setting goals that depend on others or nature’s compliance is futile and is doomed to failure. Instead, goals must be focused on what we can control. We may not be able to control how someone else responds, however we can control our own behavior such that it increases the chance of the other person responding the way we want. In other words, the process is within your control and the outcome is not. You must trust that if you follow the process, you will get the desired outcome. This is a goal that is within your control.
Step Three: Use Self-to-Self Comparisons
The third condition to setting compelling goals is to use self-to-self comparison. No matter what we want to believe, in life no two persons start from the same point. Comparing ourselves to others, especially in the initial stages of our journey, often leads to discouragement. It is more important, and useful, to do self-to-self comparisons to judge your progress, or success, based on where you were and where you are now. Save the self-to-others comparison till you have had a reasonable time to progress.
Rest assured, that by adopting and adhering to the concept of Never-Ending Process of Improvement (where you constantly and relentless improve daily no matter how small the improvement), you can rest assured that you would soon be comparing yourself with the best.
Many people know how to set goals, however, few achieve their goals as there is more to it than being SMART. Keep in mind these three conditions and you will be on your way to success. So go ahead. Set those goals and achieve it!