As 2012 is fast winding to a close, it’s a good time to look at one thing that if taken seriously can make a significant difference between where you’re now and where you would be in 12 months’ time. That one thing is goal setting.
It is a known fact that the main distinguishing factor between successful people and those that struggle is that successful people consciously set goals whilst people who struggle don’t. Sadly, it has been established that just about 5% of adult population have written goals.
Goal setting is critical for success because we have just enough time to do the most impo rtant things in life. Put differently, you don’t have all the time to do all you may want to do. It is therefore imperative that you prioritize what you want to accomplish.
Once you have your goals written down, you transfer them from the abstract world into the realm of possibility. You basically enlist all the forces – physical and spiritual – to assist you in achieving your set goals. A written goal activates your mind to go to work on your goals and bring them to fruition.
Your mind’s ability to proffer solutions to your important challenges works by a process known as ‘Reticular Activated System’ (R.A.S). The simplest example of how your R.A.S. works is to assume you want to buy a particular brand of car. Once you make up your mind about the car, you start seeing similar cars everywhere you go. The fact is that those cars have always been around only that you never noticed them until you decided to buy a similar car. The R.A.S. works the same way on your set goals by identifying circumstances or persons that will assist in the accomplishment of your goals and bringing them to your consciousness.
Why set goals
The biggest incentive for setting goals is that when you set a goal (with S.M.A.R.T. qualities explained below) and you remain focused on the goal, you have a very high probability of achieving it. The principle of ‘goal orientation’ says that 95% of people who set S.M.A.R.T. goals end up achieving their goals.
Benefits of setting goals
Goal setting facilitates the accomplishment of your dream / vision. Since goals are more or less subsets of your dream / vision, achieving your set goals moves you closer to your dream. There’s hardly any other way of making your dream a reality.
You feel happy when you achieve your goal(s). Andrew Carnegie said, “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” Happiness is a natural product of an accomplished goal. The scripture says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
Goal setting makes life and living exciting. Without goals, life is an endless boredom. Living without goals is like playing a football match in which there are no goal posts! It would be totally unexciting, to say the least.
Why people don’t set goals
If goal setting is so important, why do most people live without written goals? When I was writing this article, I posed this question to my children. I was impressed when my 13-year old son gave an answer I consider very appropriate. In his words, he said: “The reason people don’t have written goals is because they don’t see the point in setting goals”. What I had in mind before his response is that most people are ignorant of the need to set goals. I believe the two points are essentially the same.
Most people don’t consciously set goals because they see it as an arduous task. They would rather not go through the stress of setting goals. There is no doubt about the fact that setting goals is a difficult exercise especially when you are starting out. The most rigorous aspect of goal setting is that it requires deep thinking about what is important to you. However, when you get past this initial hurdle, you will realize that the pay-off is worth the effort.
Some people avoid setting goals because they are afraid they won’t achieve their goals. They are not prepared to face the reality of not achieving their goals. Therefore, they constantly live in denial of the need to set goals.
Qualities of goals
The qualities of a meaningful goal are captured in the acronym ‘S.M.A.R.T’, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Your goal must be specific so that you will know when you’ve achieved it. With respect to your goal being measurable, there’s a saying that “whatever gets measured gets done”. Since the achievement of any goal would take some time, your goal must be measurable to give you a valuable feedback on how you are faring. It goes without saying that there’s no point in setting goals that you can’t achieve. Though your goal should stretch you but it shouldn’t be out of reach, otherwise you get discouraged.
The last two qualities are that your goals must be relevant and time-bound. It is imperative that your goal tie in (be relevant) to your overall life purpose. The achievement of your set goals should resonate with who you are at the core for your life to be meaningful. Lastly, without a time dimension to your set goal, it becomes an endless pursuit; a journey to nowhere.
Goals to set
Goals should be both quantitative and qualitative in nature. The following goals are worth considering: financial, spiritual, family, physical health, personal development and social goals.
Financial goals relate to how much net worth (money and other assets) you desire. One of your spiritual goals may be to pray and read your Bible every day. Family goals entail your goal for your children and other members of your immediate family. You may choose to engage in specific aerobic exercises as part of your physical health goals.
One of your goals should be your personal development. This is about becoming the best person you can possibly be. It has to do with developing your mind with the aim of improving your thinking ability. Mike Murdock said his mind is his most valuable asset and as a result, he invests more in his mind than his stomach! The scripture says: “As a man thinks, so is he”. Your mind is the producer of your thoughts. You must deliberately feed your mind with the right information. One of my personal development goals is to read at least one book every month. Like nature, your mind abhors a vacuum. If you don’t consciously feed your mind with the right information, by default, it takes other information from the environment that may not be to your advantage.
Social goals relate to what you want to give back to the society. The truth is that we shouldn’t live for ourselves alone; it is not an optimal way to live. If you’re thinking about what to give, you may consider giving your resources of time, money, talent and skills. In terms of how much you should give, the Bible offers a valuable advice: “To whom much has been given, much is expected”. If you have been given much, much is now expected of you. It is not an accident that two of the richest people in the world – Bill Gate and Warren Buffet – are the biggest givers.
The guiding principle for setting goals is to have balanced goals. Any neglect in a particular area would ultimately affect other areas adversely. We must all resist the tendency to focus strictly on financial goals (money) to the detriment of other goals. There is no doubt that money is very important. But most people agree that it makes no sense to abuse one’s body in the process of making money only to be too sick to spend the money.
Key elements for goal achievement
To make the achievement of your goal a lot easier, you must know why the achievement of the goal is important to you. What purpose will achieving your goal serve for you? When the purpose for a certain goal is strong, it becomes easier figuring how to accomplish it. More importantly, a strong purpose gives you the tenacity to stay focused on its pursuit even when things are tough.
The person you become
This is another important element of your goal achievement. Someone said, “What’s really important is not what you get from achieving your goal but the person you become by achieving it.” The person you become is more important that the object of your goal achievement because what makes us valuable is who we become not what we have.
The God-factor remains the main determinant of the achievement of your set goals. The scripture says: “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand”. This means you must commit your written goals to God and trust Him to help you. In point of fact, your written goals should be your ‘prayer points’ until they are achieved.
Make sure you have your goals for 2013 clearly written down and start working on them immediately. You’ll be surprised how circumstances will work in your favour to ensure you achieve them. I had 6 core goals for 2012 and I achieved just 50 percent of them. One of my goals for 2012 was to set up a website and I achieved it in April 2012. This article makes the fiftieth article on the site! The circumstances that made the website possible are a testimonial of the power of goal setting. Talking about the person I’ve become, I am a lot more enthusiastic to set goals for 2013.