pin board with post-its on it

Why is Goal Setting Important? Benefits and Basic Tips

What are your new resolutions for this year? Have you already set your goals? We all know this person at the office that came with these questions on the first Monday of January. The day you are still recovering from the Christmas Holidays food coma and New Year’s hangover. But still, this person had time to plan their life for the upcoming year!

Well, setting personal and professional goals is a very good thing to do. And, you always have time to do it because “your diet doesn’t need to start on Monday”.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some basic guidelines.

1 – Benefit of goal setting, the psychology behind it

Motivation, Commitment and Achievements. It is said that one moving towards goals is more likely to succeed in life. you may not be convinced by goal setting. However, when you think about it, we are constantly working toward objectives in our life. Call it purpose, project, or dream. The concept of the Goal Setting Process is just taking this idea to the next level, to increase the chance of concrete manageable and measurable achievements. This is common in corporate and businesses that use OKRs. But, what are OKRs? It is short for Objectives and Key Results, a goal-setting framework used to create and track objective and their outcomes. In the corporate world, OKRs help individuals to set ambitious goals and strive to achieve them.

Elen Houston explained the theory and benefits of goal setting in an article published in positive psychology. It seems that some people perform tasks better than others and this is mostly due to motivation. Goal setting is an effective tool to increase motivation and improve productivity. When you define precise objectives and plan how to attain them, you have more chances to succeed.

2 – Basic rules of goal setting. The SMART protocol.

If you don’t know where to start with your goal setting, you can always use the SMART methodology. You can apply it for professional goals as well as for your personal goals.

A paper with Be Smart written on it

S for SPECIFIC
Be precise, when you define an objective you should answer those questions: What do I want to achieve? When? How? Why?

  • I will run.
  • I will run 3 times a week, with a trainer, to improve my cardio and be able to run the half marathon in September.

M for MEASURABLE
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. – “Peter Drucker

  • I want to save money.
  • I want to save 900€.

A for ACHIEVABLE
Be realistic, set goals that are challenging for you but attainable.

  • I earn 1000€ per month and this year I will save 10 000€
  • I earn 1000€ per month and this year I will save 1500€

R for RELEVANT
Be relevant according to your life purpose and your situation.

  • I hate animals. This year I will adopt a dog.
  • I like animals. This year I will adopt a dog.

T for TIME SPECIFIC
Set deadlines for your goals. It is a good way to stay motivated and also important to be able to measure your progress.

  • I want to save 900€.
  • I want to save 900€ within the next 6 months.

3 – Hacks and tools to set your goals efficiently

At last! You have decided to set your goal for this year. This is the first step toward success. You have many different ways to set your objectives and how to keep track of them. Here are some basic hacks and tools that can help you in the process, to keep the self-motivation level up.

Write your goals down

You can write them on a piece of paper, in a notebook, or on your computer. It will help mentalize and remember them. You put words on your purpose, you structure your objectives and will be more eager to first remember them and then to achieve them.

In an article published in Forbes Magazine, Mark Murphy, a lecturer at Harvard Business School, and The United Nations, author of the research study “Are SMART goals dumb?”, shared the science behind the effectiveness of writing goals. It is called the encoding phenomenon. Neurosciences have proven that writing improves the chance of long term memorisation.

Murphy explained: “Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded.

Be creative

Here we are not talking about setting creative goals but use creativity in the goal-setting process. Creativity is good for motivation. You can write your objectives like ideas in a bullet journal where you not only write but draw, stamp, paste, etc. You can include photos, lists, comments to enhance your goal setting plan.

drawing of a tree with each branch representing a goal

You can use different forms to create your goal map. Some people are more receptive to colours, others to clean and simplistic lists. You can create a “goal tree”. A mind mapping technique that will help you to visually break down your main objectives into smaller sub-categories. Those smaller categories will represent the steps you need to go through first, smaller tasks to realise, to achieve your final goal.

Do your homework.

After going through the whole goal-setting process, defining your main objectives, transcribing them creatively with a clear road map, you are not done. To reach them, first, you have to constantly assess your progress. On one side, which tasks have you performed well, on the other, what are the tasks you’re having problems to achieve?

There is obviously researches conducted for every matter. You can find more about the psychology behind the facts in this study published in 2016 in Psychological Bulletin where they affirmed: “progress monitoring has a robust effect on goal attainment and constitutes a key component of effective self-regulation“.

Measure. To measure your progress, you need to look at the numbers according to the final objectives you defined. What did I achieve? What remains to be done? How long do I have to do it? By keeping track of your small accomplishments, you will be able to evaluate your progress.

Adjust. After evaluating your progress, you will be able to adjust your timelines and maybe redefine certain goals. Remember that the point is to achieve success and not run toward failure. If you know that one of your objectives is out of reach, it is no use to keep it that way. The risk is that you might feel less motivated and less committed as you know you will not be able to succeed. However, you can also come to realise that you are not putting enough efforts in reaching one of your targets. In this case, a tighter deadline can be a good incentive.

Share your goals with friends and colleagues

A great way to strengthen your commitment is to share your goals with pairs. Professional and personal goals, the objective is not to compare them but to increase your motivation in accomplishing them. You need to remember that your goals are unique as every person is. Your vision of success and purpose in life may differ from others and it is a good thing.

Apps

If you like to use Apps for everything, lucky you, there are also mobile apps for goal setting and progress management! The benefits of using an App are that it gives you a super structured and accessible tool to access your goals and keep track of your achievements. It will collect the data you need in order to assess your progress. Here are two apps you could use that are both based on the SMART methodology: Strides App and Way of Life .

4 – Short example of personal goal setting

Usually, personal goals are related to our habits or states in our life. Things we want to change, improve, stop or start doing. Health and wellbeing, wishing to take better care of ourselves. New goals in terms of relationships, self-development. It can also target dreams we wish to see coming to reality.

drawing of a tree with each branch representing a goal

Financial Goal:

See Paul for example. This year he is turning 27 and he decided that it was time to save money for the future. Starting building savings is a very good idea to look into first, but what’s the goal? “This year I will save money” is just an idea. A goal is “In the following 5 months period, I will save 900€ by cutting down on unnecessary spending. I will put 3/4 of this into a savings account and the remaining into investments”. It is specific, measurable and achievable if defined accordingly.

Habit Goal:

Paul also wants to improve his wellbeing. His new resolution, Paul wants to wake up early. Great idea! Paul will have time to meditate or go for a run before starting working with a cleared head. So Paul decided that: “this month I will wake up at 7 am from Monday to Friday and wake up before 9 am during weekends. He will also shut out all computer and phone access two hours before bed in order to help him fall asleep more easily.

Well by now I am sure you get it. Right?

Let’s wrap it up with a good old quote and a last piece of advice. Psychologist Mardy Grothe wrote: ” A life without purpose is like a novel without a plot. It wanders all over the place, is hard to follow, and in the end, doesn’t get particularly good reviews.” My advice, listen to Mardy Grothe and set goals in your life!