- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
We’re often told to set goals for ourselves for our professional and personal development. But most of us are not taught how to set goals beyond imagining some distant dream. Today, let’s take a look at how you can set goals wisely and how to ensure that those goals continue to motivate you rather than drag you down.
GOALS MUST BE REALISTIC
Firstly, always make sure your goals are realistic or actually achievable. It’s all too easy to set goals for yourself that are so far in the future or so far beyond your current capabilities that you’ll inevitably become disappointed. You may eventually drop the goals when you don’t achieve them in a reasonable timeframe.
For instance, becoming the leader of your own company is an achievable goal. Becoming the CEO of something like Amazon is so far above what most people could expect that setting it as your goal is a little foolish.
The point is that achievable goals are better for maintaining motivation. If you feel you can actually reach your goal in the future, you will be more likely to keep taking steps to reach that benchmark. The reverse is true if you set a goal that’s out of your reach.
This isn’t to say, of course, that you shouldn’t dream big or have ambitious lifelong goals. But when setting goals for your career or professional development, keep things realistic. It never hurts to have bigger goals in the back of your mind, but that’s where they should stay for the most part.
SET GOALS YOU CAN MEASURE
It’s also a great idea to set goals you can measure in at least one tangible way. For instance, say that your goal is to save up $200,000 to buy your own home. This is a fantastic goal because it’s both achievable and you can measure your progress toward the goal all the time – just check your bank account!
Being able to measure a goal is very important for maintaining motivation. This is particularly true for goals that may take some months or years to achieve – even the most motivated individuals find that their desire for their goal can run dry if they don’t have tangible benchmarks to remind themselves of their progress so far every once in a while.
The great news is that most goals can be measured in tangible ways. For instance, you can mark your progress toward getting a job by keeping track of how many applications you send out. Or you can mark your progress toward your college education by tracking how many credits you’ve earned currently and how many credits you have left.
KEEP YOUR GOALS SPECIFIC
We’d also recommend that you keep your goals as specific as possible. Goals that are too generalized are:
- harder to track measurably
- harder to envision
- harder to see as achievable
A specific goal is one that you can plan for. This, in turn, makes all the other aspects of goal setting easier and will help you stay motivated over the long-term.
This is also great for ensuring that you set the right goals, as mentioned above. Setting a goal that is unachievable is a lot harder if you have a specific goal in mind. Specific goals are easy to break down into their component steps so you can really feel all the effort required to reach your ultimate objective.
GOALS SHOULD MOTIVATE YOU AND EMPLOYEES
If you’re a manager and you’re trying to come up with goals for your company, said goals should motivate both you and your employees. In other words, the goal itself should be motivating rather than just the end result.
For instance, you could set a goal for your company to open a new branch or bring on a new host of clients. Done correctly, the goals themselves will be motivating since they directly relate to how well your company develops, how much money you’ll be able to bring in (and put toward your employees’ salaries), and how your employees will feel their careers are progressing.
Motivating goals for one of the best ways to drive productivity in a company and ensure that your company is constantly progressing down a good path.
Of course, the results of your goals should also be motivating. Trying to make a set amount of money in a given business quarter can be motivating in and of itself depending on the industry and whether your employees will see a direct reward from that boost in income.
On the flip side, setting a goal like an arbitrary financial metric for employees that won’t see a bump to their salary is likely to demotivate them instead of keeping them motivated even further.
WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN/KEEP A CHART
Furthermore, you can write your goals down or otherwise make a chart visualizing the different steps needed to reach your objective. This is good for two reasons:
- it helps motivate you to keep going
- it allows you to track your progress and alter your plan if need be
Writing your goals down is a great way to feel if they’re achievable and if you can reach your objective within a reasonable timeframe. But the benefit of being able to look at your action plan and alter the steps required to reach your goal shouldn’t be understated.
Sometimes plans need to be adapted for changing circumstances. This is a lot easier if you have all the steps written down and don’t have to come up with a new plan on the fly.
TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR GOALS
Lastly, we’d recommend telling people about your goals. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s always more difficult to back out of a goal or give up on a dream if you’ve already told people about what you want to do. It’s a bit of social pressure you put on yourself to keep going when tasks become difficult.
Ultimately, setting goals is something of a skill that you will gradually become better at the more you do it. As you practice setting realistic and smart goals, you’ll achieve more success and, fortunately, find setting future goals even easier than before.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell