There are quite a few naysayers out there who don’t believe in the power of setting goals. I’m not one of them. In fact, I refer to my goals quite frequently and use them to help guide me as I make decisions. And I think that’s a major difference between those of us who believe in goal setting and those who don’t. Those who don’t probably don’t understand how truly powerful they are.
If you are setting goals because this is a job requirement once a year and never look at them again till the next year’s review, there is no wonder that you don’t receive much benefit from them. Goals are meant to be engaged on a regular basis. And they should be personal—something that you want to do, something you hope to achieve, and not driven by others.
It helps to understand the power of goals before you can put them to good use—and this story about MBA graduates may be enough to change your mind. In 1979, Harvard MBA students provided feedback about their goals. Only 3% had written goals, 13% had goals but had not written them down on paper, and 84% had no specific goals. Eight years later those 13% who had unwritten goals were making twice as much as those 84% that had not set any goals. That’s quite impressive. But even more impressive are those 3% who had written goals—they were making 10 times more than the other 97% combined!
Now I’m not stating that making money is the best indicator of success. In fact, I could argue that it’s not. But it is a tangible figure that can be tracked and measured—and one that shows the power of goal setting.
We need to set goals constantly throughout our life. As we attain one goal, we’ll need to set another. Aldous Huxley eloquently captured this process: “Every ceiling, when reached, becomes a floor, upon which one walks as a matter of course and prescriptive right.”
Look at goals as a tangible way you describe what you want to achieve in your life. You may want to be higher on the organizational ladder, or owner of your own business, or make enough money so you can retire early. The devil is in the details. How will you go about achieving that? What do you need to do first? What skills do you need to acquire? Thinking of answers to questions such as these will help you identify the goals as steps required to get you where you want to go.
Next, think of those goals that are most important to you now—that are attainable but a stretch. You can’t focus on trying to do too many things at one time so narrow your choices. And now comes a crucial step—write these goals on paper.
When you physically write your goals on paper, you actually give them a reality and solidity. Putting your goals in writing can increase the odds of your attaining those goals by 90%! This statistic is only applicable if you refer to your goals regularly—weekly or every month. You need to keep them top of mind and tweak them as things change or as you make accomplishments toward your goal.
If you are still a nonbeliever, I suggest you move outside your comfort zone and give it a try. Goals don’t have to pertain just to work—they can be anything. This time of the year, many people set goals to lose weight. Yet most of us never do. However, you improve the odds that you will if you write down that goal and include the steps that will help you achieve it. And then refer to this list with regularity, adjust as needed, and reap the benefits of achieving your goal.