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Five Essential Tips for Setting Goals

“Every person’s life depends on the process of choosing goals to pursue; if you remain passive you are not going to thrive as a human being.” ~ Edwin Locke

Setting goals paves a clear path and focuses our attention towards a specific task. When done correctly, goal setting is an effective and often vital element of success.

In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

Goal setting sounds like a straightforward task as it is so commonly practice, but goal setting can be done even better with the below evidence-based tips.

Five Goal Essentials

  1. The Decision – A goal starts with a decision. When you make a decision you “cut off” other choices and other courses of action. A decision binds you to a course of action, it’s a commitment.

  2. Self-efficacy – Self-efficacy refers to your belief in your ability to achieve the task at hand. Self-efficacy is the strongest predictor of success and one of the most important elements of motivation. You must believe that you can and will achieve your goals.

  3. Intrinsic Motivation – Have you set out to achieve your goals because you have a genuine interest in doing so (intrinsic motivation), or because you are driven by a desire to satisfy external demands, such as financial rewards, recognition, pleasing others, or avoiding punishment (extrinsic motivation)? Research shows that intrinsic motivation is much more likely to lead to sustained changes in behaviour compared with extrinsic motivation. Set goals for yourself because YOU want to achieve them.

  4. Challenge – Goals must be challenging yet attainable. We are motivated by achievement and the anticipation of achievement. If a goal is challenging yet you believe it is within your ability to accomplish, you are more likely to be motivated to complete the required action. Conversely, goals that are outside your ability are not likely to be achieved, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration, and self-defeat.

  5. Count the cost - Setting a goal is one thing but taking the necessary steps to achieve that goal is another. Counting the cost involves considering what it will take to actually achieve the goal you’ve set out for yourself. For example, if you want to get into a better sleep routine, you may have to sacrifice your afternoon coffee, the glass of wine you enjoy with dinner, or scrolling through your phone before bed. What sacrifices do you need to make to achieve your goals and are those sacrifices worth it?

Reflect on your current goals, and consider the questions below:

  • Have you made a concrete decision to achieve this goal?

  • Do you wholeheartedly believe that you have the capacity to achieve this goal?

  • Are you intrinsically motivated to achieve this goal?

  • Is this goal challenging yet attainable?

  • Have you considered the sacrifices you need to make to achieve this goal? If so, what are they and are they worth sacrificing?


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