Life Coach and Trainer Jonathan McRoy explains why effective goal setting is imperative to your success
People from all walks of life have a particular destination in mind – a place where they wish to arrive in life. Setting goals should be based on a set of values, principles, and beliefs. Goal setting is a skill that can be practiced by those who are extrinsically or intrinsically motivated.
There’s a wide variety of goals that keep people motivated. No matter what we wish to achieve or where we want to arrive, the common denominator in completing any endeavor is the effective employment of the goal-setting skills. Goal setting is not as fundamental as it seems. According to a study by the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions (Norcross, Mrykalo, Blagys 2002).
Goal accomplishment requires an internal desire fueled by values, principles, and beliefs. Goal setting provides a sense of control, helps prioritize what’s most important and clears the way to live according to a core set of values. You can have various goals whether spiritual, mental, social or physical; however, the key to the successful accomplishment of any goal relies heavily on defining your values, identifying goals, taking ownership of the goal, and organizing your efforts for execution.
My life is directed by the goals I set for myself:
I faced difficulty achieving goals during the initial phase of my adult life, most notably, in pursuing post-secondary education. As a child, I wasn’t a scholar and I valued sports and social activity above academics, despite my mother’s concerted efforts to impress on me the importance of a solid education.
During my Air Force career, I developed a set of values that ignited personal growth. It was the Air Force core values of excellence and service that resonated with me the most, which is funny because, as a child, my mother tried to get me to live those same values. I took me seven years to finally value the importance of personal excellence in the pursuit of education. Serving my country and deploying in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom filled me with a desire to serve my community and country on a grander scale. To do this, I knew I needed to equip myself with the requisite credentials. This meant returning to school and earning a college degree. To be successful in this endeavor I had to properly set and execute my goal.
The keys to the successful accomplishment of any goal are identifying your goals, charting your course, deliberately creating ways to run into your goals and telling someone about them.
IDENTIFY THE GOAL AND OWN IT
I had to conduct some introspection, assess my values and ask myself, “What do I want to be known for? What’s important to me?” Service and excellence being two core values I strived to live every day, I wanted to be known for service to my fellow man, community and harnessing my education to that end.
Knowing what your personal values are lies at the heart of goal setting because it reinforces your commitment to the endeavor, harnesses the passion and will to execute it and helps you own it. One example of setting a goal without owning it would be a college student who is majoring in pre-med because he is a descendant of doctors and his parents want him to seek employment in the medical field. If he doesn’t value the field of medicine the same way his lineage does, the commitment will not be the same as if he were pursuing a major in a subject area he valued and was really passionate about. As a result of different values, the student may experience failure due to a lack of commitment leading to poor scholastic performance. Thus, crafting goals based on your own values is crucial.
CHART YOUR COURSE
Once a goal has been identified, execution should be the next course of action. The execution of a goal should be organized, methodical and efficient. There should be a method of tracking progress and identifying when milestones have been reached. Contingency planning is indispensable to the process of course charting. Contingency planning provides an alternative to unforeseen events that may prevent goal accomplishment. The ability to change your approach in critical moments is crucial to maintaining momentum. While charting the course, immediate, short-term and long-term goals must be incorporated.
- Immediate goals: Immediate goals are items that can be accomplished within the next 24 hours. In the short term, I conducted research on what benefits were available to me. As an active duty Airman, I was able to go online and view my educational benefits and how to redeem them. I was also able to determine which subject I was interested in studying.
- Short term goals: Short term goals are items that can be accomplished within the next few days and weeks. During the next few days and weeks, I communicated my intent to my supervisor, so that I can be assigned to a shift that would facilitate this goal. While considering this move, I developed a contingency plan in case I wasn’t able to be reassigned to an alternate shift to attend in residence. That contingency plan was to enroll online.
- Long term goals: Long-term goals are items that can be accomplished within the next few weeks and months. My long term goal was to spend two hours per day studying and completing homework to ensure successful completion of the course.
FIND WAYS TO RUN INTO YOUR GOALS
When setting out to accomplish any goal, consistency is key to success and proper accomplishment. Finding ways to inadvertently run into your goals can aid in maintaining consistency. In my situation, I knew that going back to school was the goal so I found ways to incorporate that into my daily life in a manner whereby reminders were always conspicuous and unavoidable. For example, I hung an empty diploma frame next to my front door. This reminded me of my goal every time I left the house.
TELL SOMEONE YOU TRUST
Telling someone you trust about your goals helps maintain accountability. Some people are apprehensive about telling others their goals and dreams. If you aren’t comfortable sharing your goals, find someone who is a trusted confidant or mentor and tell them about it. This is beneficial because that person can motivate and remind you of the goal you are undertaking.
No matter what your goal is, knowing how to properly set goals and develop ways for carrying them out effectively is imperative to your success.
Sources: Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002).
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