Achieving the maximum benefit from goal setting requires an understanding of how to effectively set goals. This simple seven-step process to setting effective goals which will take broad non-specific goals and transform them into supported, defined, powerful statements generating momentum and motivation towards an achievement.
The steps are:
- Listing existing goals
- Identifying motivation for selecting goals
- Setting timeframes for goal action
- Phrasing and recording goals
- Sharing goals with a goal partner
- Reviewing and adjusting goals
- Celebrating progress and goal achievement
Listing Existing Goals
All desired achievements should be written down as goals. For example, desires like ‘travel overseas,’ ‘lose 10 kilograms’ or ‘become a rock star’ could each represent potential goals. Listing a wide range of goals at this step will create a foundation allowing the following steps to assist in selecting those goals which have the strongest motivational support and therefore ability to offer the maximum benefit.
Goals do not need to involve major life changes they should not be limited by the common perception of what is achievable. The only requirement of a goal at this stage is that it holds value to the individual.
Identifying Motivation for Selecting Goals
For each goal identify the motivating factors behind the goal selection and record them next to the goal. The motivating factors are the reasons why a specific goal was chosen. For example:
- Travel overseas – to broaden historical awareness, to visit a new country, to learn a language and to promote personal development;
- Lose 10 kilograms – to fit new suit, to have more energy, and to feel more confident;
- Become a rock star – to attain financial freedom and travel.
After identifying these motivating factors, they must be prioritized. Prioritizing the motivating factors will enable a review of the stated goals to ensure they align with the motivation behind them. For example, setting the goal ‘become a rock star’ but then defining the motivation as ‘having greater financial freedom’ suggests that many other possible career pathways could also be considered and the goal, or motivating factors, should be reviewed.
Setting Timeframes for Goal Action
Establishing timeframes take goals from ‘maybe someday’ and turns them into defined future actions, thereby providing the initial impetus and motivation to commence the journey towards goal achievement. Effective timeframes will include, commencement, reviewing points and completion dates.
Commencement date for each goal initiates the goal journey. For the weight loss goal of ‘lose 10 kilograms,’ this would be the date that exercise and eating patterns are modified or initiated. Reviewing points provide feedback on goal progress and should be set at regular intervals within the goal timeframe. Completion date indicates the point at which the goal should be achieved.
Phrasing and Recording Goals
Having clarified the goals using motivational factors and established timeframes the next step is to state and record the goals. These are statements of action and should provide a commitment to their achievement. For example ‘travel overseas’ is now written as; ‘on the 1st of July 2010 I will move to Japan for six months to learn Japanese.’
Visual references may also be attached to the written goals to further enhance their motivational impact. With programs such as iPhoto, it is even possible to superimpose an individual’s portrait onto any background they choose, therefore making it possible to ‘be in Japan’ right from the start of the goal journey.
Sharing Goals with a Goal Partner
Accountability is a very strong motivator, and where a gym partner will assist in improving the value of workouts, a goals partner will provide support and encouragement in goal achievement. Discussing the process of setting goals will quickly identify people who can offer the appropriate support and share in the enjoyment of the journey.
The personal commitment to sharing a goal provides additional stimulus during challenging periods where the powerful emotions of honesty, integrity, and pride activate to prevent disappointing the goals partner. Sharing the process of goal setting and reviewing points also allows enjoyment and satisfaction to be derived from the progress and success of the selected goals partner as they move towards completing their own goals.
Reviewing and Adjusting Goals
Each goal must be reviewed regularly to ensure continued relevance and monitor goal progression. For example, goals relating to weight loss require regular checks of body shape and size. Using an established timeframe with rewards attached to reviewing points will also assist in keeping a goal current and interesting.
Goals may require adjustment during the journey toward completion, as new opportunities may arise or changes in circumstance could remove the desire for a specific goal. The purpose behind goal setting, however, remains constant, so the process for setting effective goals should be completed again to set new goals which align with the new situation.
Celebrating Progress and Goal Achievement
Celebrating not only the completion of a stated goal but also progress towards goal achievement is essential to maintaining motivation and energy. Setting effective goals will stimulate achievement and success while celebration will provide positive feedback and encouragement to stay committed to finalizing existing goals and setting new goals in the future.
Building rewards into the timeframe can provide additional incentive at critical periods and each review point should have a reward attached. A reward does not have to be substantial, or directly attached to the goal itself, as the simple act of recognizing that a reward has been earned through a commitment to the goal will stimulate motivation in continuing the journey.
Applying these seven steps to goal setting will ensure goals are relevant, motivational and most importantly survive the transition from thought to action, through to completion. Whether making significant lifestyle changes or fine-tuning existing behaviors setting effective goals will ensure the maximum benefits and personal satisfaction are achieved.