Goal Setting: "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail"
- Benjamin Franklin
In today's fast moving world it is imperative to set goals for ourselves, consciously or subconsciously. These could be personal development goals, group/community/team goals which can either be short term or long term. Just take a moment and ask yourselves, would you have reached where you currently are, had you not set goals for yourself? It is our very nature to set goals for ourselves, isn't it?
Normally people believe that; the way in which one executes his plans, defines his success or failure. However, numerous studies reflect that, if the planning or goal setting isn't effective, the person/ organization is more likely to fail irrespective of efficient execution of those plans. For instance, lets say an individual decides that he wants to become physically fit and hence without putting a second thought to it, starts running everyday for three kilometres, without dwelling too much upon how he should go about it, thinking that "people who plan a lot end up failing in execution". What do you think is more likely to happen? Some might argue that he has an objective and he is working towards it, doing what is needed (efficient execution), so he is likely to succeed. But again, the question here is would he actually go the distance without actually spending time and setting a proper goal for himself? The objective here is not to judge a particular approach towards physical fitness, but to take your attention towards the impact of effective goal setting which:
-Motivates behavioral change
Studies show that all the above attributes are a result of executing a well established goal. Let's see how this must be done:
- Brainstorming within a group is one of the most effective yet a highly underrated practice. It makes the mind question certain actions, generate different perspectives towards the same situation and also encourages creative problem solving. (Continuing with the above example, practicing a quick brainstorming session with a couple of friends/ colleagues, who happen to have similar interests and experience, would help him consider an overall approach towards becoming fit, setting goals not just for physical exercise, but also for a timely and healthy diet, his sleep routine. All these aspects are vital towards the overall fitness of a human being)
- Prioritizing of the established objectives is crucial as our mind has the tendency/ desire to execute a lot of things simultaneously, especially after a nice brainstorming session. This can be overwhelming and hence one must categorize each on the basis of the value and importance it brings to the final goal. (Having a list of numerous objectives that will help in becoming fit, be it towards the diet combinations, combining running with yoga and meditation, etc. can be overwhelming hence he must see which ones would add most value to him personally and how much importance the same has. Needless to say the ones' with the highest value and importance must be chosen)
- Alignment of individual goals with a broader vision creates an attitudinal shift which is vital to keep a person highly motivated to stay put with the execution. It not only inspires an individual but also encourages hundred percent commitment owing to the sense of purpose and fulfillment attached to the vision and broader impact being created. (Trying to think that physical fitness with lead to better energy levels and mental hygiene, further leading to better relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and also better decision making at work ultimately impacting every aspect of ones life.)
Once the final list of objectives are in place after being prioritized and aligned, there are a few characteristics of effective goals that must be analysed before execution:
- Challenging or stretch goals indicate that the goals are not within a comfort zone and must always push the person and extend his comfort zone. This is crucial to ensure one achieves more than what he thinks his potential is, which is ultimately what makes the success even sweeter. However, one must be aware towards not stretching the goals beyond a feasible limit. The goals must be practical and feasible, given the resources and other limitations one has. Stretching the goal way too much may lead to being overwhelmed and can sap ones motivation. Maintaining this balance can be tricky and is a skillful art than can be mastered with practice over time. (Based on past attempts and prevalent health/fitness), he might think his ability is to run for three kilometres daily, but if he stretches the same to an additional one kilometre and achieves it, that might just make his day, however being too ambitious and trying to run twice the estimated potential can lead to failure and the subsequent fatigue may also lead to discontinuation of the pursuit).
- Balanced goals in terms of quality and quantity is also crucial. Majority of the people tend to focus only on the quantitative aspects of a goal, ignoring the quality of the way the goal is being achieved. It is crucial to maintain this balance for various reasons, however majorly because of the volatility of the quantitative goals. If one considers the qualitative aspects and gives them equal weight-age, a deviation from the quantitative goal will not hamper the overall satisfaction of the individual. Furthermore, qualitative goals helps to shift the focus on enthusiasm levels, fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness, etc. which ultimately does result in increased productivity. (If only quantifiable things such as consistently running a certain distance, eating a certain amount is focused upon, he will get disheartened as these will keep on fluctuating, everyday is different, and so is the energy level or appetite. Giving importance to how satisfied one felt during the day, or towards overall enthusiasm, and happiness quotient will help balance out any shortcomings in the former goal type.)
- Clearly expressed goals help ensure the objectives are clearly expressed and can be evaluated upon these metrics post execution:
Specific and clear definition of what needs to be accomplished.
Measurable to be able to gauge the success towards qualitative and quantitative goals.
Action oriented and can be achieved through a specific approach, behavior and processes.
Realistic given the limitations and existing resources.
Time bound and within a given set of time frame (short term of long term)
S.M.A.R.T. goals ensure that the goals are stated clearly and are not parameters used to determine which goal must be pursued. One must not confuse them with the process of setting up a goal as this can not tell whether a goal is a good idea or not. (Specific definition of what his fitness goal is, how he will measure his quantitative and qualitative achievements, what actions he will take towards achieving them, are the targets set realistic given his personal constraints and within what time line will he achieve his fitness goal)
So, if you want to go ahead an achieve something, sure, go ahead, but spend some time and ponder upon all the above points. Follow the process, ensure you set your goals with the right characteristics and be SMART.