This month we’re going to talk about a standard topic, but in a new, more brainy way. Have you ever thought about goals, why we set them, how we achieve them or why we don’t? To get good at goal setting and achievement, one must first dive into what a goal is and why humans set them in the first place.

So, here goes…

What is a goal?

A goal is a desired outcome that wouldn’t happen otherwise without some kind of intervention. A goal is a detour from the path of least resistance. In practice, we set goals in circumstances where we need to do something that hasn’t happened yet and won’t happen on its own.

Goal setting is about struggle. We want to be, do or have something that isn’t coming to us easily. You may have heard the idea of a “stretch goal” which is a goal that is a little less than probable, but if we don’t set goals in the first place then all of life becomes a “stretch goal”. A goal is a catalyst to behavior change which is a fundamental element in personal growth and development. To pursue a goal one must undertake a path that they haven’t taken before.

Motivation & Skill

Goals are made up of two parts: motivation and skill. First, one must have the motivation to make an improvement, in essence, to go from Point A to Point B. Motivation is the catalyst for all behavior change. How one derives a state of motivation is highly personal. How one maintains the motivation is highly demanding.

Think about the frequently set goal of losing weight. People are motivated to lose weight for different reasons – going to a high school reunion, feeling winded when walking, or needing to make improvements for health reasons. And sticking with it can be even more challenging because any good goal is going to take time and build new skills.

The other component to achieving your goals is relying on skills you already have and developing new ones that help you attain what you desire. Again, speaking of weight loss, a person with the goal to lose weight is going to have to build new skills such as willpower, calorie counting (if that’s your thing), recognizing unhealthy cravings, etc. while building on skills you may already have like counting, cooking, or saying no to things you’ve deemed unhealthy. Your motivation and skills will be different from those of other people.

Benefits of setting goals

One of the main benefits of goal setting is that it helps drive your focus so you can set priorities and establish boundaries around a very specific idea. When you set a goal you drive toward something that you have declared as important. Also, it gives you control of your future. Instead of watching life happen to you, you now get to firmly place yourself in the driver seat and say, “I want to go over there.” As stated earlier, another benefit is that it builds our motivation muscle and helps us to uncover dormant skills and establish new skills we will be able to use in the future. More romantically, goals give us purpose.

The importance of goal setting

Goal setting begins with the reality that goals give you a focus. Focus helps us to move from doing ALL the things to doing the things that MATTER MOST. If our definition stands that a goal is a detour from the path of least resistance then focusing on where the new path (the past of great resistance) will take us, can only happen because we have a destination in mind.

Goals help you measure progress (if you set SMART goals; spoiler alert: we’ll talk about that next week). The only way to know if you’ve progressed is to be able to measure it. Whether you just want to lose a few pounds or make $1,000,000, knowing the end goal and being able to see how you got there feels incredibly rewarding. As anyone with a performance review can attest, goals can measure your efforts and help you see how your efforts have contributed to the success of your teams and company. If you were lucky, it may have come with a bonus or a raise.

Goals help you beat procrastination. I’m sure a number of you enjoy the thrill of waiting until the last minute to get something done. I’m also certain that you probably didn’t enjoy it all that much and maybe didn’t put your best effort towards it. When you have a goal staring you in the face, it challenges you to work on it daily or weekly. It tempts you to not put off anything so that you can get one step closer and another step and another one until you’ve tasted success.

Goals help you determine what you want in life. Many of the clients that I work with have one thing in common, they all want to rediscover who they are and what they are passionate about. That’s why goal setting and action planning are a huge part of life coaching sessions. The very act of setting goals forces you to think about what you truly want out of life. When you set a goal, you are saying this is what I want to be and do during my time on this earth.

Does goal setting work?

In a word, yes. Goal setting works. Many, many studies show that when done properly, creating goals helps you to carry them out and successfully achieve them. So, what’s stopping you? Maybe it’s that you don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s that you’ve tried goal setting before and it didn’t work. Maybe it’s that you get started, but can’t stay motivated. That’s where I can help. I know how to get you started, how to help you be successful at setting goals, and help keep you motivated. Intrigued? Good, sign up for a chat sesh with me and let’s chat.