How To Make Goal Setting Work for You

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

How To Make Goal Setting Work for You

By Andrea Novakowski

Are you one of those people who makes New Year’s resolutions year after year without ever accomplishing them? Wish you could grow your business, but it’s not working out that way? Maybe it’s time to transform your dreams and wishes into concrete goals.

Here’s how setting goals can make things happen.

  • Goals motivate us. Pioneering studies by leadership and motivation expert Edwin Locke showed that goals actually consist of two parts: the idea of the desired end (happiness, peace, success) and the tangible object sought (a job, a sale, a performance level). The idea guides your actions so you attain the object.
  • Goals help you figure out what’s important. When I first sit down to think about what I want to accomplish, my list is extensive and daunting. I know there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all this done. This leads me to a sorting process to determine what’s most important, which in turn requires me to examine my values. Which means more to me – fun and family time, or financial freedom and security? Would I rather take a fabulous vacation or build my retirement account?
  • Goals provide clarity. Our ideas of what we’d like to accomplish can sometimes be vague or undefined. You say you’d like to start a company, but you haven’t gotten any further than that thought. Or you’d like to double the size of your business, but you don’t even know what your numbers are for this year. If you’re not really sure what you want and it feels like you’re pulling goals out of the air (maybe because others are doing it or you think you should), it’s a good time to ask if these are dreams or true goals. A dream starts out as an abstract notion. When you change it to a goal, you add structure, increasing the likelihood that you’ll achieve it. If you decide this is the year to finally write that book, make that your goal and schedule time to write every day. Your goal is much more apt to happen than if you just kept talking about it without taking action.
  • Goals give you a road map. Studies show that people who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who didn’t. The act of writing something down makes it more tangible than just keeping it in your head. This can prompt you to pursue that vision and turn it into a reality.

Is goal setting the right tool for you?

My client, Michael, wanted to get into better shape, so he set himself the goal of losing 25 pounds. But he found that simply making a goal didn’t motivate him. So instead he created a vision of being healthier. That intention guided his actions – when he thought healthy, he turned away from the cookies, he went for a walk instead of plopping down in front of the TV.

If you find yourself resisting the rigor of goal making, try setting intentions instead. There have been years I’ve chosen not to lay out specific goals and instead created a more generalized idea of what I was shooting for. Some years this worked, and the freedom felt good. Other years I could feel myself drifting and knew it was time to build in the structure of goals.

Debbie is a big list-maker and likes to know where she’s heading. She sits down at the end of each year to create her annual goals and then makes quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals, checking in regularly to make sure she’s on track. The process keeps her accountable. Maurice, on the other hand, is a big-picture thinker. He sets goals, but then he keeps them in the background, using them to guide his decision-making process in a more unstructured fashion.

Are you more of an intention-setter or a detailed list-maker? Determining what works best for your style increases your likelihood of success. Sure, there are studies, but there’s also your own experience. I recommend you choose what works best for you!


Ready to get clear on your goals for 2016? Download my free Goal-Setting Kit and check out the new eBook, Achieve Your Goals: 10 Practices for Getting from Here to There, designed to help you envision your goals and make them a reality in the coming year.