You don’t have to formally set goals. Let’s imagine...
Say, you wake up, get ready and leave the house with nothing on your agenda. You get in your car and start driving, but don’t know where you want to go. You may have done this before when trying to decide on a place eat or where to go for an evening of entertainment. Have you ever done and ended up just going back home?
Now imagine doing that every hour of every day, arbitrarily driving around, making turns and changing directions, but actually deciding what, when, or where…
Sounds like a big waste of time, energy, and resources doesn’t?
That’s at least the tip of the iceberg on why we need goals.
Truth is...most of us, informally set goals every day. It’s just something we do naturally. Let’s look...
If you set your alarm to get up at a specific time, that’s a goal.
If you tell yourself I’m not going to get stressed about a new work project, that’s a goal.
If you plan to get to the gym before you go home from work each night, that’s a goal.
Sure, these are basic for some of us, but for others, these are milestones for progress. Aka stepping stones to growth and change.
Now, let’s take a high-level look at why goals are important.
THE BENEFITS OF SETTING GOALS ARE PLENTY
If you’re not sold on goal setting yet, here’s a powerful list of benefits on what goals can do for us. I put them in an order I like to present as it can sometimes help support your awareness around what someone may experience in the goal setting process.
Use Goals to Appreciate Slowing Down
I know, no one what’s to hear this, but success takes time. Goals help us to appreciate this process. In order to do so, we must take the time to consider what’s to come, decide the actions we’ll take, and ponder how we should respond based on results. Each one of these decisions takes willpower and if we don’t take breaks we can drain our willpower and kill our goals fast.
Goal setting allows you to plan for breaks for your benefit. A good example of this is step 3 in Lee David Zlotoff’s, MacGyver Method, called the incubation period. An incubation period is downtime or time doing seemingly passive activities giving the subconscious mind time to go to work on connecting the dots, putting the pieces together and finding the answers that help you move forward.
Goal planning helps us strategically slow down enough to visualize, understand what success actually means to us and align the support we need to excel. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Genius is nothing but a greater aptitude for patience.”
Use Goals to Pull Yourself Forward
Goals should be connected to something that’s emotionally exciting for YOU. When we make decisions based on what others expect of us or extrinsic rewards, we’re out of integrity with our true self; we’re not aligned with our internal motivations.
A study done at the University of South Carolina Aiken states,”True motivation must come from within - it must be intrinsic.” Taking the time to understand what personal passions and areas of life excite you allows you to set goals that actually pull you to take action, change behaviors and perceive ourselves differently.
Embrace goals that give you “all the feels”, question those that don’t. These types of goals create the magnetic force that pulls us past fear and fuel productivity.
Use Goals to Own Your Deepest Desires
If you never set goals you’ll never find what you truly want. Many people avoid setting goals because of fear, guilt or shame. Goals give you the opportunity to take ownership of your deepest desires. This is called the “Endowment Effect” in which we own an idea or a goal and it then becomes “ours” by integrating it into our identity. Setting goals helps you to get clear, decide, test and filter things to find what you really love.
Use Goals to Set Your Direction
You know that feeling of spinning your wheels or treading water? That’s because you’re not clear enough on the direction you really want/need to go. Setting a clear goal is like having a map and a compass to guide you. As you decide on a destination you’ll now know where you’re headed, the expected terrain and can always correct your course if you’re thrown off track.
Use Goals to Change Bad Habits
Dr. Joe Dispenza says in his book Evolve the Brain, “A new mind creates a new brain.” Setting goals provides a vision of the future we can mentally rehearse and physically practice. It’s these repetitions that “fire and wire” new, more ideally aligned and therefore beneficial paths in the brain; eventually moving us from old bad habits to new trailblazing instincts.
In his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Dr. Dispenza goes on to say, “The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone, so that it looks biologically like some future event has already happened. Because you can make thought more real than anything else, you can change who you are from brain cell to gene, given the right understanding… ...Think of it this way: the input remains the same, so the output has to remain the same. How, then, can you ever create anything new?”
Changing bad habits starts with focusing on future goals.
Use Goals to Trigger Flow (aka Get in the Zone)
Flow is the optimal state of consciousness. Dr. Steven Kotler says, “Flow follows focus.” Goals help create focus. Goals help drive our attention to a specific step in the process, performance measure, or prosperity point.
Without a goal, you might “juggle”. Juggling is when you start a project, and before you’re finished you jump to another, and another, and another, starting many, but never finishing one. Flow is known to create much of the opposite including increased levels of productivity, creativity, performance, and happiness. Clear goals are like creating a laser focus at each step.
Use Goals to Increase Performance
Ambition is a good thing! Big goals challenge us. Studies by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham show there’s a correlation between challenge and performance. Big challenges require more from us, more focus, more energy, and more commitment. All of it equals better performance.
In another study, Steve Kerr and Douglas LePelley state, “When goals are set too low, people often achieve them, but subsequent motivation and energy levels typically flag, and the goals are usually not exceeded by very much. Difficult goals are far more likely to generate sustained enthusiasm and higher levels of performance.”
Use goal to find your “stretch” point that uncomfortable point that pushes you to your highest levels of performance without burning you out.
Use Goals to Take Control of Your Life
Studies show that writing, reviewing and sharing our goals all can help increase the likelihood of us achieving them. These studies and others show that setting goals AND the steps to get there are essential for the achievement process.
By creating our own or identifying systems and processes that work for us we can commit to the proper activities in order to learn, grow and change our way of life. Setting goals helps us to lay out important schedules and practices for ongoing sustainable success.
Use Goals to Set Boundaries
Setting goals helps create a system for organizing and prioritizing the good, the bad and the ugly. This helps you to know when to say “no”, prevents distractions and minimizes procrastination.
Setting goals in this way is a very important part of the equation. Arguably one of the biggest barriers to goal achievement is the other goals you’ve set. Psychologists call this “goal competition”. Prioritizing goals helps you to lock in on what’s most important right now. Organizing by priority allows you to know what you should be doing, when is best to do it, where it will happen and who needs to be involved. Everything else is a distraction.
This may sound strict, but the boundaries set by priority allow us to be more spontaneous by getting more purposeful things done in the first place. This helps build confidence and minimizes the guilt and shame tied to tough decisions. Goal setting provides both an endpoint and the boundaries with which we can work within to be most effective.
Use Goals to Measure Progress
When you don’t have set goals you have nothing to measure progress against. Our brains need to “see” progress in order to maintain motivation. By setting a goal, you then know where you’re trying to get to and once you know the “end game” you can set a schedule and commit to the process of achieving them.
Each time you evaluate or re-evaluate your goals, you’ll see just how far you’ve come, how well you’re doing, and how much you have left to work on. This isn’t anything new, however, this is a type of feedback our brain uses to see change, growth and measurable progress.
Most jobs make you do this, however, what may be new here is owning the process yourself. Setting goals helps you to measure improvement in the areas YOU want.
Use Goals to Move Mountains
Have you ever set a goal that just seemed too big, even “impossible”. Sure you have. When most people set the goals they don’t set easy ones, they’re ambitious (for them) and go big. Unfortunately, when we set goals like this we’re only looking at the end point. And that endpoint looks sooooo far away it’s difficult to get excited and can even be discouraging.
Goals help you to chunk it down into smaller, more consumable “bites”. If you’ve done all of the things I’ve already listed up to this point then it’s much easier to see just how doable a big goal is when we use goal setting effectively. Set goals to achieve the “impossible”.
Use Goals to Hold Yourself Accountable
No one can hold you accountable. No coach, no manager, no one. They can audit your progress, however, accountability is up to us individually. No one really knows what you are doing when you’re alone, only you.
However, studies show sharing our goals with supportive friends, family members or even a coach periodically has proved to ramp up progress. Setting goals is a great method for creating personal accountability. Goals are a personal reality check.
Have you ever looked back on a goal you set 3, 6, 9 months back?
How did you feel when you were reminded of your achievement?
How did you feel when you look back on one you failed to put the work in on?
When we fail, it's disappointing, even humbling. It’s like a slap in the face, a real wake up call that something's been “off” (to put it nicely). You know something needs to change if you’re ever going to get what you truly want. Set goals to keep you on track.
Use Goals to Enjoy the Journey
We’ve all heard the saying, “Success is a journey, not the destination.” That’s the premise of this point. There’s never really an end to setting goals...once we achieve one we’re on to the next endeavor or at least thinking about what’s next or where we go next.
As much as goals tend to be future-focused, it’s just as important to enjoy the moment, appreciate how far you’ve come and celebrate your victories. Studies show there are many benefits to celebrating such as stress reduction, improved cognitive performance, and happiness.
I like to look at goal setting as adventure planning. I can literally lay out a path of all the things I’d love to explore and celebrate such as learning new things, acquiring important skills, and meeting like-minded people. Set goals so you’re able to enjoy exciting experiences.
Use Goals to Maximize Results
Setting, planning and achieving goals allows us the opportunity to analyze everything. We can pinpoint even the tiniest inefficiencies and create new, more specific goals.
The clearer the goal the better we can streamline the process to get there, outline detailed steps, and apply deliberate practice to maximize performance. The results...even better.
Think of the top players in any sport, Olympic athletes and elite experts in any field. They work to improve even the smallest thing in order to thrive in their arena, industry or field. You can do the same.
THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON…
As you can see there are plenty of benefits to goal setting. However, there is one reason that most people don’t set out for, but rather stumble upon.
I believe goal setting is about creating a life in which we live in the context of our deepest desires every. It is in this practice that we find how to develop and manage our ego, understand and unleash our talents and serve the world in our own unique ways.
All the benefits I’ve previously mentioned above won’t be as fruitful if this one reason isn’t realized...
Use Goals to Free Yourself
Goals help free us from inauthentic lives by discovering who we REALLY are. They help us have the courage to act on a vision in which we find the truth and create the versions of ourselves we want to be. They create such clarity in our mind and spirit that it leads us to achieve our highest potential.
Without goals, we fall into patterns of beliefs and actions that are drawn from our past experiences, good or bad. We default to thoughts and routines that are rooted in fear, insecurity, worry and more. All of them designed to play it safe and remain comfortably in the predictable. We miss out on finding important gifts the world needs from each and every one of us; gifts we are incapable of giving without pursuing these goals. We can enjoy big, happy, fulfilling lives if only we are willing to set goals, learn from the process and become our highest selves.
Goals allow us to give up any illusion of helplessness and own our dream; taking responsibility for the lives we truly want. If we deny goals we are denying ourselves; we are preventing ourselves from growth and our infinite potential.
Goal setting is not a project. Goal setting is not about self improvement. It's a system that that help us find and honor what is really true about each one of us. We have everything we need to claim our complete awakening, our highest self.
Everyone who sets goals is ready for this experience. Now, it’s your time to completely embrace it.