How goal setting works

Goal setting is one of those phrases that everyone uses and is often bandied about as the solution to everything. Need to be more successful? Try goal setting. Want to be motivated? Set some goals! Plagued by procrastination? Have you tried goal setting? The only problem is goal setting alone is not going to do much for you if you don’t a) do it properly and b) follow up with some actions to achieve those goals.

So, here are my 7 steps to make goal setting work for you:

1. Define the areas of your life that are important to you

This could be family, home, career, money, health, fitness, personal development, happiness, fun and activities, spirituality, giving back, self-fulfilment, and so many more. You get the idea. Pick which ones are the most important to you.

As an example, you could pick family, career and health (you can pick as many as you want)

2. Think about what you want to achieve in each area of your life

What would make each of these areas as good as it possibly can be, a 10 out of 10 so to speak. Pick one thing for each area of your life.

In our example this could be:

  • Family: spend more quality time as a family

  • Career: get a promotion by this time next year

  • Health: get in shape to run a half marathon

3. If you haven’t already done so, turn each of these ideas into SMART goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound

Take the first item: “spend more quality time as a family” – if you only spend 5 minutes extra every day, that’s “more time” but that’s of course not what you’re after. Hold yourself accountable and make it easy for you to know whether you have achieved your goal – what exactly do you want to achieve and by when. And give yourself a chance by making it possible to achieve the goal.

If you want to get in shape to run a half marathon, are you doing this for health reasons or to help out a charity? If it’s the latter, you probably won’t keep up running and this won’t benefit your health long term. In this case, the goal is not really relevant to your health. Why we do something is important. The right “why” can motivate you to push yourself more and to help you through difficult patches.

Let’s have a look at our examples again:

Family: spend every dinner at the dinner table (instead of in front of the TV) and talk about our day

Career: be promoted to Team Leader by [date]

Health: have successfully completed the “Robin Hood Half Marathon” in September next year

4. Decide which of your goals to tackle first

As much as you’re getting excited about achieving all of your goals in all of your life areas, it’s not realistic to expect that you can tackle them all at once. It’s just like with New Year’s Resolutions – if you set one goal you are much more like to achieve it than if you set 10.

Having said that, I do believe that you can set a career goal as well as one for your personal life at the same time, but don’t go further than that. You want to give yourself the best possible chance.

Maybe there is a goal that will lead to achieving another more easily. In goal setting we can call this your “meta goal”. It’s the one goal that will make several other g