8 Steps to Setting Highly Effective Goals

By Ahmed Al Akber

How do some of the greatest leaders in their fields achieve such grand things? By setting goals and taking action.

Arnold Schwarzenegger typifies what it means to set and achieve goals that are larger than life. Born in a depressed, post-war village in Austria, he got into body building and won seven Mr Olympia titles while moving to the US. He then got into acting and became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, including becoming a business and real estate mogul. And along the way, he became governor of the state of California, the world’s seventh biggest economy.

Much of Arnold’s achievement can be attributed to the discipline and vision he had in setting and pursuing his goals. He would usually write his annual goals on New Year’s day. He would get motivated and fired up when people doubted him. “That was the way people in Austria had reacted when I said I wanted to be a body-building champ,” explains Arnold in his autobiography Total Recall. “In Austria, we become ski champs,” his friends would reply. And that was the way Hollywood agents would react when Arnold explained he wanted to be an actor. “Why don’t you open a gym?” they’d say.

According to Brian Tracy, a leading authority on goal setting, “Only about three per cent of the population have written goals, and everyone else works for them.”

Here are some steps you can follow to set, keep track of, and achieve your goals:

1. Decide what you want. The clearer you are on this, the better. If you are exploring something, then that’s a goal. But if you want to achieve it, that’s another.

2. Write down your goals. Simply writing them with a pen and paper triggers a whole new thought process around whether it can actually be achieved, what resources would be required, what further information is needed, and so on. This helps crystalise the goal in the mind even further.

3. Set a deadline. This helps motivate and drive you forward, avoiding procrastination.

4. Make a list of actions. Write down everything that needs to be done in order to achieve the goal, no matter how big or small. Don’t be overwhelmed – how do you eat an elephant? The answer is of course one bite at a time.

5. Prioritise your actions. Using Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 principle), what 20% of your efforts would lead to you being 80% closer to achieving your goals?

6. Commit to achieving them mentally. Written goals are mostly not accomplished when the commitment to achieving them isn’t there. Should this happen, re-look at point one, and determine if the goal is in fact what you want.

7. Put yourself in front of people who have achieved similar goals. Arnold was excellent at this – he learnt about body building from the then Mr Austria and went on to compete against him, and then exceed him. He got acting roles with great actors like Lucille Ball and James Earl Jones that offered to coach him on how to be a better actor. In business, he worked closely with Joe Weider, a multimillionaire businessman, who had several international companies. And in politics, besides marrying into the Kennedy family, Arnold befriended and later became chairman of president George H W Bush’s Sports and Fitness Council, including helping him with 1988 presidential election campaign.

8. Take action. Making a habit of posting your goals on a wall so they’re not forgotten, reading them everyday in the morning and at night, and speaking about your goals will also help here. Taking action is simply about constantly reminding yourself of what you need to do to achieve the goal, and doing it!

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