The year is drawing to a close, and if you haven’t set any resolutions yet, it’s time to get cracking. But first things first: let’s talk about goals. Goals are an important part of any successful New Year’s resolution checklist.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of January and forget just why we need goals at all—but once you have a clear idea of what success means for you and how it will look, your progress will be much more measurable than if you’re just winging it. There are so many things on the Internet about goal setting (and frankly some of them can be pretty hokey), but I’m going to share what worked best for me when I was starting out as an entrepreneur—and still works today!
Goals give you a sense of direction.
If you want to be successful at anything, you need a clear idea of where you’re going.
And if your goals are well-defined and specific enough, they’ll provide that sense of direction—and even help propel you along the way.
“Goals give us purpose,” says Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and professor emeritus at Arizona State University. “They provide focus for our efforts.” In fact, research shows that people who set big goals are more likely to achieve them. This is over those who don’t set any goals at all—regardless of whether those goals are public or private.*
So how do we actually reach our dreams? We have to start by breaking down our larger objectives into bite-sized chunks. In this way, they become manageable tasks and projects (like learning French over six months vs. learning French in one year). Once we’ve got a roadmap, we can prioritize important tasks over less urgent ones—and work toward completing them before moving on to the next step in our plan.*
A way to measure progress.
Setting goals is the first step in creating a plan to achieve your vision of success. You visualizing what you want for yourself enables you to take action. Goals are measurable, so they can be used as a reference point for tracking progress. There are several ways to measure progress:
- Create a Checklist: You can use a checklist or chart where each task has an assigned value of 0%-100%. As different tasks are completed during the execution phase, they’re recorded on this chart and marked as complete. This allows everyone involved in project management (project manager and team members) to track how much work has been done so far—how many tasks have been finished—and if all tasks will be completed by their due dates.
- Check Your Progress Against the Competition: If there’s another person or group working on similar projects as yours, use theirs as an example. Measuring against others’ performance will help give some indication of whether what works for them could work for you too. Additionally, if you’re part of a team environment, you can compare notes with your work colleagues. It’s important to know being a team player can help you with achieving success.
- Reviewing Past Performance: Did something similar already succeed before? If yes, consider looking back at what made it successful before deciding whether something similar would work again now.
Goals help you stay motivated
Setting goals is one of the most powerful tools you have when it comes to achieving success in your life and career. But, they’re also one of the most underutilized. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of working hard and putting in long hours. And if you are finding yourself working long hours without direction, it might help to also reevaluate your boundaries, and take some time to refill your own cup.
Many people find that their motivation wanes over time as they struggle through long periods without seeing any meaningful results. Having goals gives you something to shoot for during those times when there’s nothing else pulling or pushing you forward. And because everything needs some kind of stickiness factor in order to stay on track, goals are a vital part of any successful strategy.
You don’t have to set all of your goals at once. Start with one or two and build from there.
Goals are a great way to start the new year, but you don’t have to set all of your goals at once. Start with one or two and build from there.
The point is, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything at once. Goals should be manageable and attainable, so don’t worry about what other people’s goals are or how much time you think it will take for them to complete. Just set your own goals and stick with them.
I hope this article has helped to clear up the confusion about what goals are and how they can help you. If you’re still not sure, try setting some small ones for yourself and see how it goes.
Feature photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash