Setting Motivating Goals

Goal Setting has become such a common topic in self help and performance improvement literature that you may wonder why it needs to be covered again.  Perhaps it doesn’t if it is working for you.
Alternatively, perhaps some Eastern Philosophy may help justify why this article is worth reading.

‘Kihon wo Tadashku’ is a Japanese phrase from the martial arts.
It means ‘Get the basics right!‘.

The basics of any system are the foundation for the rest of your performance.  Getting the basics of Goal Setting right is fundamental to the actions you take and the things you will achieve.

Why Set Goals?
There are many trite comments about why you should set goals.  ‘If you don’t know where you are going, then any direction will get you there’ is a classic!

So why are goals so important?

In short, goals give you 4 key things:

  • Motivation
  • Direction
  • Decision support
  • Measure of performance

Motivation is the internal drive to have an external effect.  You will recognise motivation when you feel it as it is that state that gets you off the sofa and into some other activity.

Direction is that guidance you need to move from where you are to where you want to be.

Decision support comes from asking the question, ‘Of the choices I have now, which takes me towards my goal more effectively

Measure of performance is achieved by looking at where you have moved to from where you where on your path to achieving your goal

A goal therefore, gets you going, guides you on the path, supports the decisions you have to make on that path and lets you know how far you have come.

Setting Goals
Here is the cliche you have been waiting for…Goals have to be  SMART.  However, there is more to be considered than just making a goal, ‘SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC and TIME BOUND’.

Specific:
A goal needs to be specific.  It needs to be in as much detail as you personally need to identify what it is you want and to let you recognise when you have achieved it.
Measurable:
A goal needs to measurable.  As you will be using the goal to measure you performance, having a metric that gives you feedback is critical.  This metric should be in terms or output and not activity.  for example, if your goal is to write a 200 page book, then a metric that indicates you have spent 4 hours writing is meaningless.  Activity isn’t progress  (Write that down and remember it!) and so a better metric is ‘5 pages of draft completed and ready for review’.
Achievable:
There is no point is setting a goal that is unachievable.  That isn’t to say that goals should be, as Jim Collins puts it, BHAGs – Big hairy audacious goals.  But they must be something that can be achieved with realistic effort.  Perhaps the goal needs to be broken down into smaller parts, something less daunting.  As humans we have set our goals in the heavens and stepped on the moon.  So there aren’t many goals that can really be called unachievable.  It may just take a degree of effort, teamwork and creativity to get there.
Realistic:
Your goal has got be to something that YOU believe you can achieve.  Reasonable people accept the world as it is and adapt to it.  Unreasonable people do not accept the world as it and make changes.  Therefore unreasonable people make all the significant changes in the world.  They could any achieve this is they believed something was possible, despite what others think!
Time Bound:
Having a time set for the goal provides motivation, accountability and helps measure performance.

To guide you in your goals setting, consider the goal set by John F Kennedy on 25 May 1961:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

Can you pick out the elements of this goal that are SMART?

Types of Goals
There are generally 3 types of goals:

  • Performance Goals – I will run a marathon in under 4 hours
  • Process goals – I will eat 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Output goals – I will have completed this blog posting by lunchtime today

Consider each type in your goals setting, as it is as important to be a person who is happy with their performance and behaviour (processes) as much as it is their output.

Things to consider when setting goals

As presented above, goals are useful for a variety of reasons.  However, there are a number of things that you need to consider when setting goals.

Control:
If you set a goal that has factors that are outside of your direct control, then you will have an external dependency that can stop or delay you achieving it.  Aim to have goals that are totally within your control is at all possible.  Then you are personally accountable for your success or failure.

Motivation:
Having a goal that is motivating will drive you towards achieving it.  Consider Newton’s first law.  A body will continue in its current state unless acted on by a force.  Therefore, the best guide to what you will be doing in 5 minutes is to look at what you are doing now.  A motivating goal will be that force which drags you off the sofa and out for 9 holes of golf with your son.  Keep you goals motivating.

Memorable:
Just as you forget the feeling of pressure and support in your legs when you are sitting down in front of the television, goals can also become forgotten unless they are constantly brought to the forefront of your mind.  Have a way in which you are reminded daily (several times per day if you can) of your goals and you are more likely to take action towards them.
Being memorable, your goals will also be ready to guide your decision making when needed.  If your goal is to lose 5 kg in weight and you remember that goal when the doughnuts call to you from the fridge, you can make a decision to say ‘no’ as they don’t meet the criteria for you to achieve your goal.

Accountability:
Be accountable for your actions, especially to yourself.  If you say you are going to do something, then do it.  Make your successes visible to yourself.  Make your failures also visible to yourself so that you know when you need to work harder or smarter to succeed.

Sharing:
Be careful which goals you share.  Your ‘giving up goals’ you should consider telling everyone as they will hold you accountable for those actions.  Tell your friends that you are giving up smoking and they will be the first to let you know when you are breaking your promise to yourself.  Your ‘moving up goals’ should only be shared with those you really trust and who will support you.  Don’t let your colleagues know that you are going to be the best salesman this quarter as they are also pushing for that accolade and are unlikely to help and may possibly hinder you in achieving your goal.

Changing:
Goals are generally associated with your personal values and so it is unlikely that you will change a significant personal goal.  However, there may be some performance, process and/or output goals that, on reflection are not giving you the results that you want.  They are you goals so you can change them any time you want to.  I would ask you to be able to justify to yourself why you are changing them however.  If your response is something like ‘this goal no longer meets my long term plans’, or ‘I am choosing to change this goals for this important reason…’ then you are made a rational decision based on both logic and emotion.  If your honest response is ‘its too hard’ or ‘I can;t really be bothered’, then recognise that you are not going to be as successful as the goal was going to make you.

Boulders:
Whenever you set a goal, you get a boulder…A hurdle to jump over, to smash or go around.  There are several ways to overcome these boulders so be creative rather than despondent and find a way forward.

Summary
While not exhaustive, this short piece on goal setting should give you a new insight into why it is so important and some of the tricks to ensure your goals remain motivating.  Now just set your goals and start achieving!

Dare to Aspire

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