By Renee Goyeneche—
Goal setting is an important psychological mandate; it helps facilitate autonomy and creates purpose in our lives. Setting and working towards goals helps us develop new skills, teaches us the value of drive and perseverance, and builds confidence and resilience. It also provides an object lesson about life’s inherent need for adaptability, which is perhaps the most important thing anyone can learn from us.
Table of Contents
There are three essential things to remember as you move towards your goals:
1) It’s not enough to have goals. You must define and create a path to them.
Having a firm grasp on our goals is paramount, as we often have to work backwards in order to move forward. That means determining what you want and then envisioning what it will take to get there. One way to do this is to design SMART goals, which include a multifaceted action plan of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based tasks. For example, you can use this technique if you are planning to write your first novel. Since this is an artistic endeavor and you probably have sole responsibility for its completion, it’s best to create a SMART plan. It may look something like this:
- Specifically: Avoid vague statements like “I’m going to write a book.” Instead, make the goal specific. “I’m going to write a 100,000 word fantasy novel.”
- Measurable: “I will finish my novel in a year.” This is a quantifiable measurement; you have a year to write the book.
- Reachable: While 100,000 words is a lot of writing, breaking it down mathematically over a year gives a clearer picture of what it takes to reach your goal; you need to write about 2000 words a week. Since there are about 400 words on a page, that’s only five pages a week.
- Relevant: A relevant factor is your writing speed. “I know I write about one page an hour, so it will take me five hours a week to reach this goal.” Understanding how much time to allocate allows you to set specific work periods to maintain consistent productivity.
- Time-bound: “I’ll start writing tomorrow and finish on this date next year.”
Once you fully understand your goal, what it requires of you and the specific steps you can take to achieve it, you can start with confidence. To remind, it is not enough to know that the way exists. You need a clear roadmap to guide you to your destination.
2) Discouragement can be part of the process, but don’t let it stop you.
One of the most damaging myths about success is the idea that we should expect a straight path to our goals. We often draw the analogy of climbing a mountain on a difficult but linear path. It is undoubtedly an uphill climb, but on an unsteady slope. We may have to swerve to one side to continue climbing, and we should be aware that we may lose our footing along the way and slide backwards, requiring us to regroup before continuing.
Change requires risk. Even more than our successes, our failures prove that we have traveled outside our comfort zone to pursue something greater. Stay committed to your goal and treat failure as a learning experience. They may be a deviation from your original path. They are not the end.
3) Don’t allow others to determine you or your ability to achieve your goal.
The human psychological process requires us to form judgments to interpret circumstances and make decisions. These judgments are critical to moving through the world because we make decisions every day based on available information. But there’s a problem: this information is sometimes factual and sometimes intuitive; we often have to bridge a gap between what is quantifiably true and what we believe is true.
It is important to remember that this dichotomy exists for everyone, because the judgment of others about our abilities can be a double-edged sword. While an opinion that we are more capable than we feel can be empowering, a negative judgment can seriously affect our self-confidence.
For example, let’s imagine you’re an efficiency expert, and your goal is to give a TED Talk outlining the most effective way to scale a startup company as it enters its growth phase. If a colleague, no matter how well-intentioned, advises against the idea and says they don’t see you feeling comfortable on the big stage, what about it?
Before you let that opinion affect your self-esteem or the pursuit of your goal, remember that two things often give color advice:
- That person has formed a judgment about your capabilities based on limited information, which is, at best, only partially correct. While they may know what they can see from an outside perspective, they certainly aren’t aware of your internal goals and aspirations – or what you’re willing to do to achieve them. While they may be right that speaking on stage may be out of your comfort zone, they may not be aware that fact is one of the main reasons why you set the goal for yourself.
- Our own concerns and insecurities can influence the advice we give to others. In this circumstance, the consultant may be afraid to present to a large audience. They can be catastrophic and imagine a worst-case scenario that reflects their own fears rather than your abilities. Or maybe as a colleague they are concerned that your career is overshadowing theirs.
While receiving feedback can be helpful at times, always take it with a grain of salt. Ultimately, you are responsible for and must live with your choices. Don’t be distracted by someone else’s opinion of what you can or should do.
By setting well-defined goals, we can execute a plan that will increase our chances of success, regardless of the venture. Set your goals, stay committed and believe in your own vision.