Goal setting is essential in order to achieve success and happiness in life. Many people, however motivated initially, do not follow through long-term with their plans though.
Brian Tracy, a sales trainer, writes that “…less than 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis.”
Additionally, data analysis suggests that 8% of people successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions, and only 46% of people follow through with their goals past six months.
Why do we have so much difficulty following through with plans and objectives? After all, they’re for our betterment and well-being!
Brian Tracy suggests these reasons:
- We are not serious about our goals.
- We don’t understand how essential goals are.
- We don’t know how.
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of failure
Two other potential reasons people do not follow through with goals, which are not specifically mentioned in Tracy’s article, relate to the achievements themselves:
- We make our goals too general (e.g. “I want to be healthy.”) rather than specific (e.g. “I want to get one hour of exercise three times per week.”).
- We make our goals too grandiose and unrealistic (e.g. “I want to bench 500 lbs within three weeks.”) or too vague (e.g. “I want to be in better shape.”).
These items perhaps relate to not knowing how to make goals. If we do not specifically define what we wish to accomplish, we automatically set ourselves up for failure.
If we are not clear enough in what we want, we cannot achieve success.
So, how can we curb these negative feelings and behaviors, and develop goals we can strive for and follow through with in the long haul? There are several essential steps to doing so.
1. Choose an area of your life you would like to improve in
Think this through carefully. Is there a career path you always wanted to embark on but fear is holding you back? Do you have a creative idea you wish to explore?
Do you want to improve on less than spectacular qualities within yourself?
Figure out which area you want to improve and get serious within yourself about changing it.
2. Start small
Obviously, it would be nice to be the CEO of a successful, multinational company, but that does not just happen overnight. You need to take a series of smaller steps in order to acquire the experience to get there.
Set a smaller goal for yourself initially, and once you have achieved that, you can tackle bigger things. For example, if you are trying to curb your anxiety, set a goal that you will refute negative thoughts causing you stress for one day, then maybe three days, then five, then a whole week.
This will increase your confidence, and therefore your chances of long-term success. Based on Albert Bandura’s studies, self-belief increases your chances for achievement.
3. Set a time frame
Putting a time limit on something makes it more real and expresses a sense of urgency. It will also amp up your motivation and drive.
Give yourself a reasonable span within which you wish to accomplish your goal. At the same time, note that some things may be possible to achieve faster than others and adjust accordingly.
4. Consider possible roadblocks and ways to break barriers
The outcome we hope to achieve from our goal is positive, but, it is important to recognize issues that may arise and develop strategies we can use to deal with these things.
Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds within 6 months. You recognize that a proper diet and exercise will help you immensely, but know your partner likes to bring junk food home.
You may choose to have a variety of healthy, but good tasting snacks on hand, or may talk to your partner and ask them to respect your goal and not to bring things like this home within your time frame.
In a loving relationship, your partner will respect you and your goal, and support this!
5. Research, research, research!
In any area of your life you plan to improve or change, research is key. This can involve speaking to someone who has been successful, as in the weight loss example.
It can also encompass research in the traditional sense if you are planning to become self-employed or start a new business on the side.
By doing so, you can examine struggles others have had, how they achieved the outcome you wish to achieve and consider these things in your planning.
6. Make a formal plan
Put your plan in writing, either on the computer or on paper. Again, this gives you some structure and makes the goal feel more “real”. This can also make you feel like you are more accountable and serious.
7. Take “baby steps”
Ease into your goal. Don’t expect to achieve the pinnacle overnight. To use the weight loss example again, perhaps start off by going to the gym four days a week rather than seven.
If you move too fast, you will burn out and, especially if you are not seeing huge results initially, you will become disillusioned and give up. At the same time, challenge yourself!
8. Don’t be your own worst critic
We all make mistakes. If you slip up (e.g. don’t exercise as many times as you set out to or make a poor financial choice in starting a business up), do not beat yourself up over it.
Acknowledge it and move on. Negative self-talk only leads to low self-confidence, thus negating your chances for long-term success.
9. Hold yourself accountable
With that said, hold yourself accountable. Recognize what you have done wrong, and ensure it does not happen again. If you eat foods you are not supposed to, acknowledge it and vow o not to do it again.
If you unintentionally burn a bridge with a potential client, recognize your errors. While doing so, however, determine what you could do better next time and vow to change it.
10. Relish in your success, or applaud an effort made!
You will either achieve success or not. If you are successful in reaching your goal, be happy about it and celebrate. If not, but you gave it your best, be happy with the determination and drive you had, and understand sometimes things just do not work out.
Resolve to continue, and determine how you can improve next time. Then, start over again!
Psychology Today has an excellent article on goal setting. What goals have you set for yourself in 2016? Did you follow these steps? Do you have any other suggestions or tips for success?