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Goal Setting to Jump Start Your Life

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We all have dreams, desires and goals. We all set goals in some form or another, but most people are generally not good at achieving their goals. There is a sub-group of people who are incredibly good at setting and achieving their goals. This group includes leaders in business, successful entrepenuers, professional athletes, successful actors, musicians, writers, politicians, researchers, high level educators, trial lawyers, and top physicians and health care professionals.

Most people have trouble setting goals properly. People think about goals and talk about goals, but very few write them down. Even fewer develop a specific plan of action which puts goals in motion with a time frame.

The fields of business and sport psychology have researched goal setting over the past fifty years. Over 90% of the studies on goal setting find it to be an effective technique. The trick to moving forward, setting goals and most importantly achieving them; is using a simple yet effective system. This article will help you learn the simple steps and guide you through the process.

You do this naturally already

You have probably dreamt of something you wanted to learn how to do, achieve, or own. Dreaming is the beginning step of goal setting. Dreaming is the informal skill of “visualization”. Visualization is a skill used in sport psychology of “seeing” a desired outcome in your mind. The athlete uses visualization through “seeing” the desired outcome of performance, (executing a skill, making a move, scoring, making a stop), on a daily basis. Daily practice with visualization makes it become part of their regular routine.

Seeing an outcome is important. It helps you set your course. Roy Williams, the head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina says it well “without goals you are like a ship without a rudder – heading in no particular direction”. Coach Williams set goals for himself and his teams every season. He has earned a national championship with his teams at UNC as well as been in 7 final fours, as well as been in 20 consecutive NCAA tournaments (University of Kansas and University of North Carolina).

Your mind is naturally processing information all the time and heading you in a particular direction. This happens whether you realize it or not. The unconscious mind is always thinking and processing and moves you in a direction even when you have not actively chosen one. When we decide upon a particular goal, the mind focuses its energy, directs our actions, can re-direct, and re-focus until we reach our target. The most important thing to remember is, “you cannot reach a target if you don’t know what it is” (Versari, 2008).

Why We Should Regularly Set and Work Towards Goals

There is a buddhist saying “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”. In order to begin a journey we have to act – take a step. The first step includes the direction we want to go.

When we define goal setting it helps clarify what the process is and what it can do for us. Locke’s (1981) goal setting theory explains the four ways that goal setting affects behavior:

  1. They direct focus and actions to important task elements
  2. They help us mobilize our efforts
  3. They help us increase our efforts and persistence
  4. Goal setting fosters new learning strategies

To explain Locke’s theory in every day terms, goal setting will help us:

  1. Define a sense of direction and purpose
  2. Move beyond self doubts and over come fears
  3. Enhance performance in all area of life
  4. Increase your intrinsic motivation – the most powerful type of motivation – where you feel an increased sense of self control and increase in self confidence

The Goal Setting Exercise

Please complete the following questions. This exercise is for you and your personal growth. You will be asked to answer questions about the process, so please answer all questions honestly. The best way to learn about goal setting is by doing it.

When setting your goals, keep the following points in mind

  1. Be specific and state exactly what you have in mind.
  2. State your outcome in positive terms.
  3. Be in control – your outcome must be initiated and maintained by you. It does not depend on upon other people having to change themselves in order for you to be happy.

#1. Write down everything you want to achieve, have, feel, do and share in your life. Don’t worry about how you will achieve them, just write them down. Remember that the key to goal setting is “you have to see it to achieve it”. Let yourself visualize your targets. Write them here.

#2. Go over your list and write down a time frame next to each goal. This is the time frame by which you will achieve your goal. It might be 3 weeks, 3 months, 1 year, 10 years.

#3. Pick the three most important goals you want to accomplish within the next year and re-write them here.

Goal 1

Goal 2

Goal 3

#4. Make a list of the resources you will need in order to accomplish your goals:

#5. Make a list of the resources you already have:

#6. Describe the kind of person you would have to be to attain your goals.

What qualities and character traits would you need to have as a person to achieve all the goals that you desire?

#7. What qualities do you already possess?

#8. What prevents you from achieving your goals now? What are obstacles you place in your own way?

#9. Who do you know that is getting the results you want? Find a role model and ask that person what is their secret to success and how do they do that? Ask them how and write down their suggestions.

#10. Our actions determine whether or not we succeed in achieving our goals. To guide our actions we need a plan. The best plans are step by step plans that clearly state each step we need to take. Write down 3 actions per outcome and 1 action you can take by next week:

Goal 1: Action 1

Action 2

Action 3

Goal 2: Action 1

Action 2

Action 3

Goal 3: Action 1

Action 2

Action 3

#11. Now, make a list of the things you have been putting off and start doing one now!

#12. Post this list of goals with your action on your mirror, door, in your day planner so it reminds you of what your targets are and what actions you need to take. Seeing the plan in writing throughout the day reminds you of what you want to accomplish and helps you know where you are headed.

#13. At the end of the week evaluate how you are doing. If you are making progress and moving forward, congratulations! If you find yourself not taking action, examine what forces within have you keeping still. Don’t throw out your plan, re-evaluate your plan, your commitment and start with a smaller step.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have not yet moved to action; instead focus upon taking a small step and achieving that success. Then move to the next step. Remember “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.

The more you stick with this action based system of setting goals, the better you become at achieving them. Remember to post your goals and actions plans where you will see them during the day as well as to evaluate your progress each week. Following this simple plan will help you make setting goals and achieving them a life habit.


Versari Ph.D., Cristina, San Diego University of Integrative Studies on Goal Setting.

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