Here’s a question for you: how many of us have ever given smart goal setting some serious thought?
We’re not talking about those last-minute New Year resolutions that we jot down only to discard them within the first week. We mean actually sitting down, thinking what you want from life, where you want to be and devising the best plan to get there.
Here’s why smart goal setting is so important:
The unstructured mind is like a double-edged sword. You’re rapidly darting off from one random thought to another. While this does increase your chances of finding connections between things that wouldn’t otherwise connect, it also leaves you vulnerable to failure.
This is why most successful people set up goals to bring some structure to the chaos within. We need plans and schedules to drag us back to planet earth and be productive. Research shows that smart goal-setting changes the way our brain functions and makes it vastly more effective.
Here’s the gist of it: if our thoughts are like laser beams, then goals are like mirrors that collect and focus these beams into one direction.
This isn’t just anecdotal experience either. The science is very clear on the mind-altering power of goal setting. One research article explains that the brain literally restructures itself to execute well-defined goals.
Here’s how it works:
- The brain’s amygdala (the part that creates emotions) evaluates the degree to which a specific goal is important to you
- It then goes about problems solving (by engaging the frontal lobe) to define the specifics of what the goal entails
- Both parts of the brain work together to move toward situations, behaviors, and objectives that culminate in the achievement of that goal, while simultaneously ignoring scenarios that could lead to deviation from said goal.
When you don’t give your brain purpose with goal-setting, it easily skids off into dangerous territory that could lead to disaster. Not having a goal increases one’s chances of being out of work, and even in trouble with law enforcement, going to prison and being on drugs.
So what are your goals? There are some common things people say they want to achieve:
- Earning more clients
- Losing weight
- Getting fit
- Being healthier
- Getting stronger
- Buying a new house
The difference between those who succeed and those who fail or drop out is always smart goal setting. Just saying that you want to get leaner doesn’t mean much. To truly succeed, you need to set purposeful goals that will inspire and motivate you. When setting up a goal, you should strike a balance between reasonable challenge and achievability.
Research shows that ambitious goals motivate the brain more than an easily achieved goal. One study found that people who committed to ambitious goals ended up saving energy than people who committed to easier goals. What this means is, if you want to truly take advantage of your true potential, you should set challenging goals.
How to Set Challenging and Purposeful Goals? 6 Tips for setting effective goals
A goal without a plan is just a wish” - Anonymous
1. Be Specific
Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. Something like, ‘losing weight’ is too general. There are so many ways of losing weight. How do you want to go about losing weight? Stop binge eating? Start exercising? Start lifting weights?
Breaking a bigger goal into smaller chunks helps you get one step closer to what you had in mind.
2. Create Measurable Goals
Suppose you want to gain lean muscle. There are literally thousands of ways to gain lean muscle. Trying to tackle too many steps at once is the surefire way of setting yourself up for failure. With so many things to achieve, it’s easy for people to get anxious if they didn’t do one thing and end up feeling like a failure.
This leads to an endless loop of negative self-talk that lowers one’s chances of achieving any goals.
Instead, pick one thing you’re good at, like doing pushups or pull ups, and channel your efforts into perfecting the movement before moving on to a more challenging compound exercise (such as muscle ups).
You will need to be able to track your goals by being very specific. In the case of pushups, you may want to start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Once your body gets used to the movement, you can switch to weighted pushups and gradually add heavier plates to make the exercise more challenging.
Check out this evidence-based blog on setting up measurable goals and its impact on success.
3. Be Realistic about What You Want to Achieve
Remember, your goal should be challenging, but it should be within the reach of your abilities. For example, if you’re doing your first ever bench-press, or weighted squat you should start with low weights instead of competing with pro athletes!
Start with something really low, like 5KGs, and move your way up to 10KG, and so on. Setting the bar low early on is important because it helps you build confidence for long-term results.
4. Be Consistent and Committed
We’re driven by instant gratifications, but it’s important to stay realistic when it comes to the time frames of achieving your goal. Let’s face the ugly truth: you won’t gain 20 pounds of muscle in one week or lose 10 pounds of fat overnight. Instead, pick a goal that can be achieved over the course of several months or even a year.
The idea is to commit yourself to a healthier lifestyle instead of looking for a quick fix. In the case of a quick fix, you may end up relapsing back into your old habits that led to the problem in the first place.
5. Put a Time Limit to Goals
Include an end-point to your goals. This will create a sense of urgency and your brain will kick into high gear to accomplish the goal before the stipulated deadlines.
Without a time limit, you won’t have an urgency to push forward. If you have a large goal with a big time limit, such as one year, it is good practice to break it down into smaller goals with shorter intervals.
6. Adjust Your Goals As Needed
During progress, you will likely want to readjust your goals. As ironic as it may sound, this is progress because your own ideas of success are developing and maturing. Adjusting your goals doesn’t mean failure. Always be prepared to change goals if you feel they’re not in line with what you originally had in mind.
Remember, goals are just tools to help you focus all your energy in a positive direction, you can change them as your priorities change, new ones can be added, while outdated ones can be dropped. This is called progress and it means you’re right on track!