How to Set the Right Goals?

A goal is a desired result or possible outcome that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve: a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value.

Setting the Goals

Goal setting may involve establishing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded (SMART) objectives, but not all researchers agree that these SMART criteria are necessary.

Research on goal setting by Edwin A. Locke and his colleagues suggests that goal setting can serve as an effective tool for making progress when it ensures that group members have a clear awareness of what each person must do to achieve a shared objective. On a personal level, the process of setting goals allows individuals to specify and then work toward their own objectives (such as financial or career-based goals). Goal-setting comprises a major component of personal development and management.

Goals can be long-term, intermediate, or short-term. The primary difference is the time required to achieve them.

Short-term goals

Short-term goals expect accomplishment in a short period of time, such as trying to get a bill paid in the next few days. The definition of a short-term goal need not relate to any specific length of time. In other words, one may achieve (or fail to achieve) a short-term goal in a day, week, month, year, etc. The time-frame for a short-term goal relates to its context in the overall time line that it is being applied to. For instance, one could measure a short-term goal for a month-long project in days; whereas one might measure a short-term goal for someone’s lifetime in months or in years. Planners usually define short-term goals in relation to long-term goals.

In any endeavor, the first step is to establish a clear goal. The more detailed and clear it is, the easier it will be for you to make choices and establish steps that you need to take towards accomplishing it.

However, before getting into the subject of setting goals, let us first talk about the Goal-Setting Theory of Locke and Latham. Learning this will help you visualize the results that you truly want and need.

Dr. Edwin Locke, the author of the article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives”, published in 1968, explained that people become motivated towards doing their job when they are given clear goals as well as proper feedback. He also pointed that having a specific and challenging goal motivates people to boost their performance.

Twelve years later, Locke and Dr. Gary Latham published “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance,” their seminal work. It not only highlighted the significance of setting definite and challenging goals, but also provided five key components that will guide you to set them successfully. These are Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, and Task Complexity. Here are the steps on how you can use them:

Establish clear goals.

It is important to be detailed with what you want to accomplish. By doing so, you can track your progress and determine which areas you need to improve on and which ones are helping you to get closer to your goal.

Perhaps the most efficient way to establish goals is by applying the SMART criteria. This was first explained by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. It has since become the primary tool used in setting goals.

“SMART” stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Assignable), Relevant, and Time-bound. Here is how you can apply each criterion:

  1. Specific – the goal has to be so clear it leaves no room for doubt. Detail what is important to you, what you expect from it, how you will know when it happens, and so on.
  2. Measurable – this puts emphasis on the need for measurable factors to help determine whether you are improving or not. Without measurable factors, you would find it impossible to stay motivated.
  3. Assignable or Achievable – a goal may be specific and measurable, but it can be unachievable if it is unrealistic. It is important to ensure that you can either achieve the goal-related tasks yourself, or assign some of the tasks to someone who can.
  4. Relevant – it is important to work towards a goal that is in line with your principles and purpose in life. For instance, you can consider whether the goal is worth the time, energy, and resources and if it is of true value to you.
  5. Time-bound – a time frame is an essential part of goal setting, because it helps you commit and increases your focus. A goal that is not time-bound is usually shipped off to “someday” land and never seen again. Therefore, you must set a target date.

Here is an example of a SMART goal: “I will finish writing the first draft of my twenty-thousand-word romance fiction novel entitled “Oceans Away from Sarah” before December 25, 2016.”

Set the Right Goals

Ensure that the goals are challenging

The more challenging yet realistic a goal is, the more motivated you will be to accomplish it. First, consider whether the goal you want makes you feel excited. Why does the thought of accomplishing it makes you feel good? Visualize the goal and determine the steps you need to take to turn it into a reality.

Commit yourself to the goal

Committing to your goal means that you are going to devote your time, energy, and resources to accomplish it. It also means you recognize its importance in your life and that you will not give up. It also helps to remember that plans can change, but the goal should remain the same.

Track your Progress to Get Feedback

As you work towards your goal, you must continuously enhance your skills, plans, and tools. That way, you can become even more efficient and effective. The only way to know how and what to improve on is by receiving feedback.

Feedback is easily given by a team leader and one’s peers in major projects, but if you are on your own, then you need to track your own progress to receive it. Therefore, you must create a way to measure your progress as soon as you start working towards your goal. Through these standards, you can determine how far along you are.

Calibrate the complexity of the task

If a certain task towards your goal is too challenging it becomes unrealistic, you can take a step back and make the necessary adjustments. In other words, do not charge head-on if you are unprepared for it, because you will only end up feeling too pressured. This is dangerous, because it can cause you to give up altogether.

Instead, consider the factors that are causing the task to be too complex. Reflect on whether you need more time, additional skills, or better tools for it. Maybe you need to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. It is also possible that you need to delegate it to an expert. All these adjustments may even help you achieve your goal more efficiently.

Once you have established a clear goal, the next step is to generate tasks that are in line with it. By doing so, you would then be able to determine the time you need to accomplish it. How to Set Your Organize Priorities?posts will help you to identify which tasks are important each day, and which ones to set aside.


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