26 December 2007

How to set personal goals to achieve a richer life

Most people are either completely goal-less or goal-obsessed. People without goals tend to drift through life without being completely happy – and not knowing why. Goal-obsessed people are the ones who tend to be stressed out at all times and they may (or may not) achieve material success, but are seldom happy. It is important to find a happy medium to achieve a sense of both happiness and balance in life.

Some people feel happy by just having a certain “direction” in their lives, but this can often lead to impulsive and reactionary behaviour in the (often vain) hope that it will someday lead to a greater sense of satisfaction. However, what often happens is that these people will wake up one day late in their lives and feel that they’ve missed out on all of the good things.

If you just focus on the goals alone, you will probably find that you’re the type of person who always find a new goal that has to drive you on and without a goal you feel restless and without a sense of purpose. No matter how many goals you achieve they will not make you any happier because “the grass is always greener” and you have to achieve the next milestone because you BELIEVE that will make you even happier. But you need to stop up and ask yourself: “When will I be TRULY HAPPY?” If you recognise this, then you’ll probably also be the type of person who never enjoys the journey or even celebrates a success by enjoying the here and now. This is what happens to goal-obsessed people.

Goal setting is about not just setting a general direction for your life, but about giving you some milestones of achievement that will give you satisfaction both on the journey AND once you reach them!

If we learn to set goals and work towards achieving them – whether they are material or immaterial – early in life, our lives will be more rewarding and substantial… but it is NEVER too late to begin!

Before setting your goals you need to understand what a goal really is.

A goal describes a situation (or state) that you would like to find yourself in. It is where YOU WANT TO BE after you have completed a number of tasks and activities.

In general management theory about goal setting it is commonly acknowledged that goals must be “SMART”, of which there are a number of variations:

S - specific, significant, stretching

M - measurable, meaningful, motivational

A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T - time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

But you can also distil it into four main criteria:

1. The goal must be CLEARLY DEFINED
The goal must describe a desired state or situation as clearly as possible. Wanting to “learn a language” is not a goal, whereas “be able to conduct a business meeting in French” is.

2. The goal must be REALISTIC
You have to be able to achieve your goal without drawing upon resources to which you not have access, i.e. you cannot do something that you know will take you 3 years of full-time dedication and application in 2 years while holding down a full-time job and raising a family.

3. The goal must be CHALLENGING
If it is something you can easily do with little dedication or application it is NOT a goal. You must see this as a challenge to which you must dedicate time and effort in order to overcome. Start by setting a goal that might seem slightly beyond what you believe you are capable of. It is important to ensure that there is a balance between the realism and the challenge, but you’ll find that if you put your mind to it you can DO MORE than you think.

4. The goal must be MEANINGFUL
It has to give you a sense of achievement to reach the goal and you must make the achieving of the goal a high priority.

What goals should I set?

It is important to understand that you can set goals both small and large. If you only set large goals you will likely find yourself becoming disillusioned along the way – and even big goals can often get broken down into smaller segments. To take the example of learning to conduct a negotiation in French you could break that down into several components: learning a vocabulary of X number of business terms and words; learning the cultural background of doing business in France and so on.

You can also set goals for different periods of time, e.g. a day; a week; a month; a year or; perhaps even, your life. This is what a lot of people do at the start of the New Year, but they lack the understanding of what is required to then break down that goal into its achievable components (something that will be covered in later articles).

You might think that this isn’t relevant to you because of your age, your current situation or some other explanation, but this is where you must realise that your age and experience play a very important role in terms of your life goals. Therefore, you should ensure that you re-align your life goals at least once a year.

Types of goals

We all have different types of goals, but in general they can be organised into the following categories:

  • Health and well-being
  • Education and skills
  • Work and career
  • Economy and material wealth
  • Relationships
  • Attitudes and values
  • Use of your time

Helping you achieve your goals

There are some very simple rules that you can follow in order to help you attain your goals. These rules will dramatically increase the likelihood of you achieving the goals that you have set:

  1. Record your goals (on your computer or on paper)
  2. Determine the tasks and activities that you need to complete in order to achieve them
  3. Set deadlines for the tasks and activities
  4. Expend your time AND your energy on the tasks and activities that you have defined

I hope that this has given you a bit of inspiration to start setting some goals and below you can find some links to more information about goal setting.


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