Goal Settingby Arielle Essex
Why goal setting is important
Whatever you do and whatever stage of life you are at, you need goals to aim for.
- Do you want things to be better in your life?
- Is there anything you don’t want in your life?
- Is there anything more you would like to have?
- Is there anything you tolerate in your life?
- Is there anything else you would like to do?
- Is there anything about your life you would like to change?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you are a candidate for goal setting. In fact, identifying what you want means you are already part-way there.
In order for you to answer ‘yes’, you must already have an idea of how you would like things to be different. You must already sense a gap between what is happening now and how you would prefer it to be in the future. In essence, this desired future constitutes a goal, even though it may not yet be well formed.
Goal setting takes this idea of a desired future and then refines and defines it to make it a motivating force in your life. If you don’t go through a sound process of setting a well-formed goal, it will simply remain a dream, a nebulous idea that has little chance of becoming reality.
Goal setting is the act of constructively focusing on your goal with a level of intensity that is sufficiently high and consistent to kick off the chain of events that will lead to its fulfilment.
We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.
So, to answer the question as to why goal setting is important: desired change is unlikely to happen in your life without it.
Would you give back the menu in a restaurant and ask the waiter to just bring anything he felt like? What if you didn’t like it? So exercise some choice over your future in order to get a future you want.
If you want specific changes in your life, you need to set good goals to get those changes.
The bio-chemical reason to set goals
Quite simply, setting a goal has an incredibly positive effect on your brain cells. Your brain has over 100 billion nerve cells – more than the number of stars in the sky. Each dendrite cell is separated from its neighbour by what is known as a ‘synaptic gap’. In order to think a thought, an electrical impulse must leap this gap to connect to another cell, and then another, until a chain is created by the flow of energy. This chain of energy is your thought.
Positive thoughts release the chemical serotonin, which bridges the synaptic gap with ease, allowing the thought flow to continue from cell to cell. Connections to different parts of the brain allow more creative thinking and new ideas. The serotonin brings a feeling of happiness and well being that makes you feel good about what you are doing. So you are more likely to continue, come up with better ideas and surpass the results you expected to achieve.
Negative thoughts, however, release a chemical called cortisone, which acts like an insulator, slowing and blocking the free flow of thought. The impulses cannot leap the synapses to reach other cells. The energy of the thinking stagnates and gets stuck. This chemical leaves you feeling sad and depressed, so you will feel less motivated or enthusiastic about what you are doing. You are more likely to be judgemental, pessimistic and limited in your thinking and creativity.
Setting a positive goal literally trains your mind to work and move in the direction you want to go, since paying attention to your goals focuses you on the positive.
So, by training yourself to think positively and to set well-formed goals, you are following the natural structure and chemistry of how your brain is designed to work.
In effect, you are creating your own happiness drug, and it is legal and free!
Becoming aware of and then learning how to direct the flow of your thoughts could be more valuable than anything else you do.
A political reason to set goals
When you set goals that inspire and motivate you, people will like you more.
People who have a passion for what they are doing in their lives are attractive. Their sense of purpose and direction gives them a magnetism or charisma, often in a small way, but sometimes in a big one. This is what makes the great leaders of the world.
People who are downbeat about their lives, with no sense of purpose or direction, are not much fun to be around. Just take a good look at the people you know and notice the differences, relating these observations to whether you think they have goals and a sense of purpose and direction, or whether you think they are just drifting through life.
Many surveys have been done of successful people in order to model and, hopefully, replicate their success. A core theme that always emerges from these surveys is that 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.
Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organised their energies around a goal.