Goal Setting

by Arielle Essex

In a nutshell

1. Why goal setting is important

Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your brain is wired to fulfil whatever strategies you tell it to do. It will produce behaviours according to whatever you programme in. If you don’t set a goal, then either someone else will govern your thinking and behaviour, or some old habitual pattern will continue to run.

  • The bio-chemical reason to set goals: positive thoughts release serotonin, which aids thinking processes.
  • A political reason to set goals: people will like you more because people with a sense of purpose are charismatic.
  • Successful people have a sense of purpose and direction which is refined into specific goals that motivate them to do what it takes to be successful.


2. Goals come in different sizes

Goals fall into a hierarchy and at each level they may be called by different names. Use whatever works for you, but be aware that others may mean something different when they use the word ‘goal’.

  • Purpose, mission, vision, direction – big picture framework based on values; put these in place first and then all the goals you set later will be in alignment with your deeper values.
  • Goals, outcomes – goal setting procedures aim to create well-formed, specific goals; outcomes tend to be larger in scope and more general, sometimes incorporating several goals.
  • Targets, objectives or milestones are measurable, precise statements of action.
  • Daily goals, to-do lists and tasks are small steps towards larger objectives.


3. Myths and misunderstandings

Myths can get in the way of good goal setting.

  • Cause > effect: it’s not just a matter of cause leading to effect; it’s your decision/commitment that leads to the action that has the effect.
  • Lining up your ducks: don’t wait to get everything in place – get started! Don’t wait for things to be perfect.
  • Self discipline or pushing past the pain barrier – this is poor long-term motivation; pump up your motivation and you won’t need all that self discipline.
  • Achieving a goal will give you happiness: no – true happiness is a state of mind.
  • Goal setting doesn’t work: it does if you follow the process properly.
  • New Year resolutions: this is another expression for procrastination.
  • Head and heart conflict: what do you really want?
  • Size does matter: thinking too small, too big and too vague don’t work.
  • Never change your goal: in fact, it’s much better to re-examine and revise goals regularly.
  • Avoid failure by not setting goals: no – the fastest way to learn is by making mistakes.


4. The ultimate goal

What do you really want? Look behind most goals and you’ll discover that ultimately most people are in pursuit of happiness. This magic X factor makes going for a goal feel worthwhile. It adds passion, excitement and juice to get you going.

  • There are steps to can take – from rewarding and acknowledging yourself to simply smiling – that you make you happy.
  • Worthwhile goals are fun and you can feel happy along the way.
  • Go through an exercise to elicit your values.
  • Remember times when you were in the Zone – then pick goals that give you that feeling.


5. Purpose and personal mission

Getting some sense of your purpose will increase your motivation, and any confusion about your direction will diminish. You’ll feel more inspired, centred, aligned and on track.

  • If you are not sure what your mission or purpose is, use the exercise on this page.
  • If a conflict between values is holding you up, resolve the issue with the exercise to handle inner conflict.
  • For heightened awareness, imagine stepping into your future and experience your success.


6. Thinking big works best

Successful goal setting starts by stretching beyond the boundaries of what is normally considered possible. Brainstorm just how good it could be. Give your imagination free rein.

  • Who do you admire – what can you learn from them?
  • What did you dream of doing when you were young?
  • What would you do if you were rich, had six months to live, or were sure of success?
  • Go on asking why, until you reveal your big goal.
  • Discover and acknowledge your talents.


7. Choosing which goals to go for

By prioritising which goals to focus on, you maximise your effective use of time and energy. Knowing your values and purpose is crucial when you are choosing which goals are most important. It’s also important to maintain the balance of each area in your life.

  • Ideally, limit yourself to ten major goals.
  • Use a life balance wheel to ensure that you are addressing all aspects of your life.
  • Learn from the high scoring areas.


8. Setting goals

The well known SMART acronym is good, but these 12 thorough steps make sure your goal starts its journey on the right foot.

  • Use the process for your BIG goals.
  • You’ll know you’re there when you feel committed, enthusiastic and excited every time you think about it.


9. Getting goals

The secret to ‘going for it’ starts with commitment: the decision to do it no matter what and gain the assistance of providence.

  • Have faith in providence, but take active steps to reach your goal.
  • Plan, but hold your plans loosely.
  • Keep on target and re-assess and monitor progress at regular intervals.
  • Remember that commitment puts you mentally in alignment with getting your goal and attracts others to help you.


10. When goal setting doesn’t work

The problem isn’t usually laziness, lack of will power or distraction. There are at least eight pitfalls that begin with the choice of goal itself.

  • Choosing what’s conventional and compromising too much
  • Choosing the package rather than the content
  • Choosing with attachment to results
  • Choosing by consensus
  • Choosing by abdication
  • Choosing to change someone else
  • Choosing the end result, but not taking consistent action
  • Making excuses