Have you heard the buzz?

Many people have become "anti-goal setting," because they have seen a lack of proper results. Well, we know why: setting goals can be quite arbitrary and can oftentimes go wrong if not done correctly.

Setting goals can be a miraculous thing, though, if done properly. For that, it is our mission to re-examine goal setting theory in order to correct these problems.

First, we will discuss why setting goals is still awesome. Then, we will lay out five amazing principles to follow for proper goal setting. 

Why Is Goal Setting So Awesome?


why set goals?

1. Goals direct effort and attention.

By properly setting goals, our attention and effort is constantly redirected toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities. For this reason, they help to increase focus and decrease procrastination.

2. Goals energize, excite, and motivate.

The more challenging a goal is, the more it motivates and pushes the goal-setter forward.

3. Goals make you more attractive (really).

When someone talks about a goal they have set that they are passionate about, they light up! They become very charismatic, confident, and enthusiastic; this energy is very contagious and attractive to those who get to witness it.

4. Goals encourage you to take control of your life.

When you begin accomplishing goals, you are intensely reminded of the power you have to rule your own life; oh, and it is so rewarding.

5. You begin craving more accomplishments.

One you begin setting goals and accomplishing them, you will be eager to set and accomplish more — they will propel you forward with greater ferocity!

5 Principles Of Proper Goal Setting


“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as
what you become by achieving your goals.”
— Henry David Thoreau

setting goals

Two brilliant men, Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham (Locke is more well-known), spent quite a few years of their lives examining goal setting theory — they wanted to know why goal setting worked so well for some people and not-so-well for others, and how to redefine goal setting theory so that it worked optimally for everyone.

In 1990, they published their first goal setting theory book, titled, “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance.” Within that book, they outlined five principles for successful goal setting to better direct people on how to achieve their desired outcomes. The principles go as follows:

1. Set clear goals.

Sometimes people set goals such as, “I’m going to start losing weight” or “I am going to be more active.” These goals are very difficult to achieve because they are near-impossible to measure. These immeasurable goals aren’t nearly as motivating; plus, one may not even realize it when they have been achieved!

Clear goals would be more along the lines of, “I am going to lose 3 pounds per week, for 3 months” or “I will start running a mile every morning.” This way, you know when to congratulate and reward yourself!

One way to help you set clearer goals is to use the popular SMART Goal mnemonic:

Specific — Goals should be written simplistically and clearly define what exactly you are aiming to do (what, why, and how).

Measureable — You should be able to measure your goals in one way or another; provide yourself with tangible evidence that you've completed your goal. You can even set yourself smaller, mini-accomplishments within a goal if the goal is quite large.

Achievable — Goals should be challenging enough to stretch and push you, but not too challenging to where it is impossible (these goals can be demotivating). You must know that you have it within you to achieve the goal. Establish a reasonable timeframe to reach your goal; too much stress is never fun.

Results-focused — Goals should be measured by outcomes, not activities.

Time-bound — Goals should be set within a certain timeframe. A timeframe will create a sense of urgency and help to energize you to complete it. Without this sense of urgency, the goal may never get done. However, also make sure that you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete the task!

Here are some more suggestions on how to set goals clearly and concisely:

  • Be as detailed as possible when setting your goal.
  • Consider writing your goal in the form of a personal mission statement, and even use it as a daily affirmation.
  • Think about how your goal will be measured.
  • Pay special attention to how your set goal makes you feel. Motivated? Excited? If it doesn’t make you feel motivated or excited, reconsider.

2. Set challenging goals.

We all know that challenging goals are far more motivating than mediocre, easy-to-achieve goals. The difficulty here is to try and set a goal that will challenge and motivate you, but not completely  wipe you out. It’s important to not set a goal that is so difficult that it can’t be achieved.

Here are a few more tips of setting challenging (but not too challenging) goals:

  • Develop self-discipline and a sense of persistence so that you can work through any struggles that may arise in achieving your goal.
  • If this is a group goal, create a bit of friendly, competition among the members of the group; competition is wildly encouraging!
  • Is the goal you’ve set challenging enough to get you excited? Is your interest sparked?
  • Set milestones and find ways to reward your progress along the way; this will help to motivate you until the very end!

3. Commit to your goals.

goal setting

Make sure this goal is something you are beyond willing to commit to. Write it down, post it up, or perhaps even tell a trusted friend your goal in order to seal in the commitment.

If you are working on a goal as a team, it is important to make sure that everyone on the team both understands and agrees with the goal — better yet, make sure they take a part in setting it (this will ensure much better results from their actions).

Here are a couple of tips to help you commit to your goal:

  • If working on a team, allow each different member to set themselves up a series of "mini goals" or milestones to reach within the larger goal. This will help them feel productive and as if they are moving forward. They will also feel much more committed as they will consistently see positive results and get rewarded along the way.
  • Try using visualization techniques, and imagine (as often as you can) how it will look and feel once you’ve achieved it— this will help to strengthen your will to make it happen.

4. Get feedback.

This is a great (yet highly overlooked) principle for proper goal setting theory.

Alongside setting goals, you should lookout for feedback. Feedback helps to gauge your progress; if you are moving along well, this can be very motivating— if you are not, this realization can also be very motivating.

If you are working on a goal alone, you can do this by measuring your progress and checking in with how you are feeling about the goal.

If you are working with a team, listen for feedback from the team members. This type of feedback will help you to understand the expectations each member has for themselves as well as the team. Upon listening to their feedback, you can adjust the goal as needed.

Here are a few more tips on how to gain feedback about your goal:

  • Schedule a time every week to see how you are doing. Inspect what is working and what isn’t, and make any adjustments you may see necessary.
  • Try using a phone app to help you organize where you are in your goal-achieving journey. There are many amazing goal setting apps to choose from!
  • If working as a team, make it a point to ask them (weekly, at least) for their feedback.
  • Develop the confidence to ask others for feedback on your goals, as well. How do they think you have been doing?

5. Consider the complexity of your task.

When goals are too complex, reaching them can begin to feel a bit overwhelming, and you may find yourself becoming anxious. Do not stress yourself out. It is easy to push ourselves too hard, but that misses the point. Before committing to the completion of some task, it is very important to first consider it’s complexity.

Here are some additional tips:

  • If you do end up setting a complex goal, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete it — don’t burn yourself out! Set deadlines that will encourage and challenge you but not defeat you.
  • Make sure your goals don’t stress you out. If you notice any signs of stress, perhaps allow yourself to reconsider your goal. Stress is a horrible thing!
  • If you are on a team and notice any of your team members getting too stressed out, reach out to help them, or even consider pointing them toward mentoring.

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One last thing, Mindvalley Founder, Vishen Lakhiani, has been re-thinking how we set goals, as well, and he has come to some pretty extraordinary conclusions. In this video below, he shares where many people go wrong with setting goals, as well as the three very important questions you should ask yourself befor you set your next one:

So there you have it!

Now that you know proper goal setting theory, the principles to follow, and exactly how to set goals. What are the next goals you are setting for yourself? Share with us in the comment section below!

Mindvalley Academy

Mindvalley Academy

Education for People Who Refuse to Fit into the Ordinary World

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