We all know how important goal setting can be to achieving your dreams and getting what you want out of your life. Like a slightly misquoted Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland, "If you don't know where you're going, any path will take you there.”
The problem is most people suck at goal setting. We’re never taught it. It’s just something we’re supposed to find out on our own.
But there’s no need to fear, it’s an easy fix. Follow these 5 laws of effective goal setting and you’ll be well on your way to achieving even your most ambitious dreams this year.
Law #1: Get Specific
Don’t set ambiguous, hard to define goals. If you are too ambiguous in your goals, it’s going to be hard for you to tell which direction you should be going.
Always set specific, quantifiable goals. It lets you know when you’re succeeding and when you’re failing and what you’ll need to change to get where you want.
For example, one of my goals this year is to learn how to speak Spanish. “I’m going to learn Spanish” is too general of a goal however. How will I know when I’ve succeeded and how much progress I’m making?
Instead the goal I’ve set is to be able to understand any program on Spanish TV stations by the end of the year. At any point I can turn on the TV and see how I’m progressing and what I need to work on to get there.
Law #2: Dream Big But Think Small
Dreaming big is great and it’s an exercise everyone should do, but it doesn’t inspire action. End of the year goals are too far away to inspire action. It’s also easy to get frustrated starting, since you don’t know how you’re going to completely change your life.
The solution is to break your big goals down into smaller, more manageable goals. Monthly goals are the best for most people. They are long enough to provide an inspirational end point, but they are short enough to have a deadline and inspire action.
In my example, a good monthly goal is to be able to understand a children’s television show by the end of the month. The characters speak much slower and use vocabulary that is much easier to understand and follow than a complex “telenovela”.
Law #3: Get Quick Wins
Getting quick wins and progressing towards your big goals is incredibly important for your motivation. Without any progress in the right direction, you’ll ultimately become discouraged and quit. Quick wins give you the momentum that you need to stick with your goals throughout the whole year.
This is yet another reason why smaller goals are so effective.
For Spanish, my first quick win was being able to talk to a native speaker on Skype for a short simple conversation for five minutes. It isn’t fluency, but it did show I was making steps in the right direction.
Law #4: Write Down What You’re Going to Do Tomorrow
This is a secret that many people don’t know or use. But it’s incredibly effective not only for goal setting, but for productivity in your work or life.
Write down three or four simple things that you’re going to get done tomorrow before you go to bed at night. Make them one step tasks that you can complete and have the day feel like a success. It will help you focus on what you need to do and give you momentum for the rest of the day.
In my example, three things I might decide to do are: study flashcards for ten minutes, watch a few TV clips with the Spanish subtitles turned on, and spend 30 minutes reading a Spanish language website.
Law #5: Write Down Your Goals and Keep Them With You
Writing down your goals and keeping them with you is one of the most effective ways of achieving them. According to a study at Dominican University a group that wrote their goals down accomplished significantly more than those who didn’t write their goals down.
Find a simple piece of paper and write down your short and long term goals and stick them in your wallet or purse.
What To Do Now
If you want to make your biggest goals for your wellness, career, or life come true this year, these 5 simple steps will make sure you have the greatest chance of success