7 Tips You Should Know If You Find Goal Setting Doesn’t Work

1. Goal setting is a skill that can be learned and must be learned

We humans are goal oriented creatures. We seldom do something for no reason at all. And the reasons behind our behavior are usually where our goal lies. Regardless whether we realize it or not, we are setting goals and working on them day in and day out, no matter how trivial they may be. It is worthwhile to learn how to be more effective in setting and reaching goals and getting the real results we want. To achieve success in almost anything we do, we not only need to get better at goal setting, but we really must do so.

2.Goal setting is a process, not a thing done in a few hours

Many people tend to think of goal setting as a sort of session or activity that is done in a few hours time when we sit down and think, and maybe write down our goals, and perhaps make some kind of plans. But this is a poor understanding of truly effective goal setting, because it fails to realize what it involves AFTER that initial session is over. The things you do after that session is far more important than whatever you do during that session, because what you do afterwards is what’s really required for making a goal happen.

Just like taking a vacation in Hawaii. Sitting down and spending a few hours to make plans for the trip is only the very first step. We can’t expect it to be the whole vacation if we simply leave at that step and do nothing next. After we make our plans, we need to follow up and execute the plan, such as buying flight tickets, preparing for the trip, going on the plane and getting there, spending our days on the island, and coming back home. That’s the whole process. The same is true with goal setting.

3. Partial success is still better than no success at all

The number one frustrated thing that we feel about setting a goal and trying to reach it is that we fail to reach it. That’s why most people say goal setting doesn’t work. For example, we set a goal to lose 10lb. After 2 months, we find that we didn’t reach that goal, and we only lost 2lb. Or, suppose we set a goal to increase income by $2000 per month. After six months, we find that we only managed to increase it by $200 per month.

When we look closely, it’s true that it usually didn’t work in the way we wanted, but still it worked at some level, resulting in some progress, some success. It is just not exactly what we initially expected. But, to think rationally, wouldn’t you agree that it’s still better than no success and no result at all? Wouldn’t losing 2lbs, having $200 extra money per month, still be good for us, still some success?

4. Take small incremental actions to accomplish big goals

Goal setting makes sense and is worth the trouble only if we use it to achieve big goals, goals that when accomplished, can make real difference in our life. Goals that can take our entire life into whole new levels.

However, usually those kind of big hairy goals may often seem very difficult, if not impossible, to reach, especially when we look at them from where we are now. That’s when we need to find ways to put things into perspective and make sure we’re not easily discouraged. Most importantly, we must learn to not quit so fast.

The only meaningful, realistic and sustainable way to accomplish big goals is through taking small steps. How small a step should be? It depends on your goal and yourself.

What I find useful for determining this is to see if I would get discouraged or frustrated by taking this one step. If I did, then it means that step is still too big for the current me. I will need to further break it down, until after taking a small step, not only do I feel relaxed and confident,  but also motivated to take another step. That’s when it’s the right step size.

Of course, after taking a few steps, we would often find it easier to take a little bigger step.

5. Build habits and adopt systems to work on goals automatically

Sticking to a worthwhile goal usually takes a lot of effort, especially the mental discipline, or willpower if you will, to stay on track. Be it willpower or mental discipline, we human beings have only so much for dealing with all the things we want to accomplish.

That’s why you see President Obama can’t quit smoking, Oprah can’t keep her weight down, even though they may have tried many times. It could be that they may have used it all up for other things that they are so successful at.

We need habits and systems to guide our actions so that we don’t have to exert so much mental energy to keep track of everything. A habit is like a powerful mental “engine” that drives us to operate many many things completely on automatic pilot. When we have it, we simply do whatever needs to be done, without giving it a single thought, which means energy. When we save energy, we will have more for handling other more challenging tasks.

6. Incorporate learning and education in your goal setting process

We seldom get to accomplish a stretching goal without having to learn something and improve ourselves first. We often need better skills in doing certain things, more knowledge, more understanding about the subjects relevant to our goals.

We often have to become a different kind of person in order to achieve certain kind of goals. If we are not that kind of person, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to reach those goals that seemingly can be easily achieved by certain people.

7. Enjoying the current step is the best way to reach your goals

Sometimes we may not know exactly what we should do, or how we should do it to reach a certain goal. But one thing for sure is that we must stick to the plan, take the next step, and find ways to actually enjoy it. Like climbing a high mountain, we don’t need to always look far and up, and keeping telling ourselves how far away we are. The best strategy is simply focusing on this single step and enjoying it. Before we know it, we are already at the peak.

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