When it comes to our personal and professional lives, the term goal-setting is probably one of the most frequently used in both. We’re encouraged to set goals in regards to our jobs, our finances, our health — even our hobbies. But setting goals in order to achieve them requires a very specific skillset.
Ask anyone what the magic to reaching a goal is, and they’ll often attribute it to motivation. How motivated are we to go after what we want? An example is when we’re hungry, we’re very motivated to find food. So much that it becomes our primary drive and can take over our entire focus. That’s an extreme definition of motivation but serves to illustrate the point. When we’re properly motivated, we can achieve almost anything.
So how do we find this elusive motivation? It’s not like going after a raise or wanting to finish a marathon raises the same instinctual and primal drive as hunger does. Is it our passion? Our drive? Again, these are very motivating but can be difficult to find in every goal we want to set.
Motivation doesn’t have to be that hard to find. It doesn’t have to be tied to strong primal urges or require us to only pursue things that spark intense passionate reactions. Instead, we can learn to find motivation in every goal we set by understanding how to relate them to our purpose.
The Power Of Why
Purpose can be an elusive concept for many of us. We may want to lose weight, but what is our purpose in wanting to achieve that goal? Some goals will be easier to associate with purpose. Getting promotions or excelling at our jobs can be tied closely with our purpose, especially if we’re in a position that we’re passionate about.
The easiest way to discover our purpose is to ask why. Why must we do this? Why is this goal important? Why do I want to achieve this?
We can come up with all kinds of reasons to achieve a goal. The what, where, who, when, and how are all tactical pieces of our goal-setting plan. But the heart of the goal is in the why. Answering this question has to be more than, “because I have to”. There’s all kinds of goals we have to do, but getting a good grade or losing weight is rarely the actual why to any goal. It could be that getting a good grade means we have a better chance to getting into the University of our dreams. Losing weight is likely less about the number and more about something deeper like our health or our confidence.
We’ll know when we found the purpose of our goal when we have more than logic attached to it. The purpose, the real why that will drive us to success, will evoke an emotional reaction within us. Purpose is meaning, and meaning is heart.
But First, Be SMART
We’re fond of acronyms here at Kwik Learning. They help us remember difficult or complicated concepts by taking longer segments and retracting them down to short, digestible bites. When it comes to goal-setting, we want to make sure they’re SMART.
S — Specific
A good goal is well defined with a clear focus. We don’t just want to get a raise, we want a 3% raise, or whatever is a realistic number within your company parameters. We don’t want to get in shape, we want to run a six-minute mile. When we describe our goal to strangers, success should be easy to define and relatively easy for them to understand.
It’s difficult to stay on track with a goal if it isn’t measurable. Goals need to be managed, and to do that, they need to be measurable. Getting in shape isn’t measurable, but losing a specific amount of pounds or inches is something that can be tracked and measured. If the goal is more abstract, like getting a good end of year review, set up markers of success so you can track your progress. Things like a certain number of completed projects or commission sales closed. Make sure it’s tangible and can be tracked.
Once we have the specific goal and how we’re going to measure our progress, we need to make sure we have action steps that are going give us momentum forward. If our goal is small, we may not need check in points, but we still need specific, measurable steps that will get us there. We’re going to run for thirty minutes every day or we’re going to set aside thirty minutes for sales calls every morning. For larger goals, we may need to create smaller goals with these steps taking us to each progress point.
As much as we encourage people to have stretch goals, we want them to still be achieveable. If we’re in an entry-level position, getting promoted to upper management may not be a realistic goal. Same with a raise. If the company range only goes up to 5%, setting the goal for a 10% raise isn’t realistic. Make sure the goal is something that could be achieved, even if it would force us to really work for it, within our timeframe and capabilities.
While it’s true that with enough time almost anything is possible, we also want to put time-frames on our goals. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have long-term goals. But we should have smaller goals within shorter time periods that build up to the larger and longer goal. This helps our brain continue to build the habits we need to stay on track and keep our reward system activated to help motivate us to continue pursuing our goals.
Now Add The HEART
SMART goal-setting is the nuts and bolts of the goal. They’re the tactics to how we’re going to approach the goal, but they aren’t really giving us our purpose or drive. When it comes to reaching our goals, our motivation comes from the HEART.
Making sure our goals encompass all aspects of our health and well-being means we are looking out for ourselves over the long-term. It’s one thing to have a goal we know we’re going to have to work hard at, but if it’s at the expense of our health, achieving that goal may not end up being good for us in the end. Always evaluate how our SMART goals take into consideration our emotional, mental, and physical health.
Our goals should mean enough to us that they inspire us to keep going, even when it’s difficult. The E here could easily stand for Emotion, as this is what our goal should evoke. The thing is, every goal worth pursuing is going to be hard at some point. It’s going to make us question ourselves, our commitment, our capabilities. And that’s normal. But this is when we need the emotional pull of our goal to help keep us going. Attaching strong emotions to our goal helps ensure we can endure the hard times and make it in the long run.
This doesn’t mean a good goal is sexy or glamourous. When we think of alluring goals we’re thinking of them in terms of irresistability. As we mentioned, reaching our goals should be hard. They should make us work. And while emotion is important in terms of motivation, having something that excites us is also important. We want to be pulled towards our goal, so make sure we find aspects that are exciting, enticing, and engaging.
When we’re evaluating our goal, we want to be sure it’s relevant to our lives. We need to ask ourselves why we’re setting this particular goal and how it will improve our life once we reach it. Ideally, our goal will be tied to a challenge we want to overcome, our life’s purpose, or our core values. The stronger the ties to these personal beliefs, the more motivation we’ll discover as we pursue our goal.
The final aspect of giving our SMART goals HEART is being honest with ourselves. Who are we setting this goal for? To impress our boss? Fit in with the neighbors? Catch someone’s eye? These may be compelling and emotional in the short-term, but they’re not likely to sustain us or push us through difficult goals. We want to be sure our goals are true to who we are and to be brutally honest with why this goal is important to us.
Setting goals is more than simply stating an outcome we want to work towards. When we take the time to analyze our motivations and plan our action steps, we can build bigger and better goals, where we’re likely to succeed. Making sure our goals are both SMART and have HEART makes them more than simple goals. It makes them part of our lifestyle, where we develop healthy habits that then create more momentum as we strive to constantly and consistently improve, leading to a truly Limitless life.