5 Vital Characteristics of Effective Goal-Setting

Most of us have a vague idea of what we’d like to accomplish, but few have true, concrete goals. A goal is analogous to a target.

Without a goal, you’re just drifting along hoping for things to improve. With a goal, you have a definite direction and purpose.

“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.” ― Sylvia Plath

Though we’ve all been told how important targets are, few of us have ever been given specific directions regarding how to formulate an effective goal.

Effective Goal Setting Characteristics:

1. Specific. Acquiring a new car isn’t specific. Acquiring a 2015, silver Honda Civic with the navigation package and luggage rack is specific.

• Be as specific as you need to be, but not more. If your goal is to meet the man of your dreams, does he really have to be over 6 feet tall and have a dimple in his chin? It’s important to have a clear target, but too much specificity limits your options. Stick to the important characteristics.

2. Time-bound. Without a timeline, you might find yourself waiting for a long time because you’ll be unlikely to ever get started. Having an endpoint date creates focus and urgency.

• An effective endpoint date is no more than 12 weeks into the future. If your goal will take longer than that, break it into smaller goals. Anything beyond 12 weeks will cause your focus to wane. It’s far too easy to procrastinate with goals set too far in the future.

3. Possible. If you don’t believe you can achieve your goal, you won’t pursue it. What would be the point? Start with a goal small enough that you believe it can be done within the timeframe you’ve set.

• Do you have the necessary resources and time to reach your goal before the deadline?

4. Measurable. If you can’t measure it, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? How will you know if you’re making progress? Goals that deal with money or bodyweight, for example, are easy to quantify. A goal to take a trip to Hawaii is also easy to measure, because you either did it or you didn’t.

• Goals that deal with less quantifiable characteristics, such as money, can be a little more challenging. You might have to develop your own measuring scale. Ensure your goal can be measured before you get started.

5. Reviewed regularly. One of the most effective ways to prioritize your goals is to review them at least daily. With so many thoughts and ideas flying around in your head, a daily review of your goals will help them to rise above the noise. Take a few minutes each day to review your goals at least once.

• Take enough time to re-write, read, and visualize your goals.

After you’ve created your goal, make a list of actions that will lead to attaining your goal. Too many of us spend too much time in our head to be successful.

Things only change when new actions are taking place. Start at the end and work your way back to the present. What step could you take today toward reaching your goal?

When you’ve completed all of the steps, your goal should be a reality.

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Goals are the key to reliable achievement. Ask your successful and unsuccessful friends about their goals compared to their results in life.

Those with goals regularly outperform those without. If you don’t have any goals, hurry up and make a few. If your life isn’t fulfilling, a few goals can make the difference.

Photo: David Goehring/flickr

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