How to Set Goals That You Can Actually Complete

Setting goals are the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.

Image Credits: unsplash.com Vladislav Babienko

Psychologist John Lee Dumas doesn’t mince words when it comes to the idea of setting goals.

Dumas says so many people see goal-setting as a roadblock: “They say, ‘I don’t know how to choose the goal I’m going to focus on because there are so many things and so many choices. How do I decide or know if I’m working on the RIGHT goal?’”

The key, he says, is to follow a process that helps define your goal in a concrete way and guides you toward taking the steps to make it a reality.

For example, you’re writing a book. Your goal might be to write the book and have it published. That’s all well and good. But the way to ensure you’ll actually produce that book is to have a process in place for writing it.

The process can be as simple as below.

· Every day in the morning I write 500 words come what may.

· Every week I read at least 2 research articles that would help my book.

· Every Sunday I will get one critic review my draft

And so on…………….

The beauty in this process-based approach is that you are nipping the problem in the bud. You aren’t dealing with a fuzzy, long-range projection, and you also get consistent positive feedback, since you’re hitting concrete benchmarks on a regular basis.

And each of these benchmarks finally translates into mini goals which take you one mini step further towards the fulfillment of your life goal.

So Far so good. But you might ask a question.

I have set a goal but I don’t know how to achieve it as of now. Does that mean I will fail?

The short answer is No.

If You have set a Goal in which you strongly believe in, you will find a way(process) to go about it. But that strong belief is important. That is the 1st prerequisite of effective goal setting.

And here are some ways which can help you set Goals which you can actually complete.


Accept the Goal

Accepting a goal is the first step in creating motivation. Two primary factors that help to enhance goal commitment are importance and self-efficacy according to research conducted by Locke & Latham in 2002.

Importance refers to the factors that make attaining a goal important, including the expected outcomes. Self-efficacy is the belief that one can attain their goal.

Let us come to the Writing example. If you becoming a writer is the most important thing for you in life right now, then you are investing in the right goal.

In the same vein if you strongly believe that you either have the capability or can develop the capability to become a writer, then nothing can stop you from becoming an accomplished writer. It all begins with you and ends with you.

Retrospect yourself honestly as to how committed you will be towards achieving your goal. If you feel like “I am strongly committed to pursuing this goal.”, then you are on the right path.


Make Goals Specific.

A goal must be specific and measurable. It should answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the expectations of the goal. Specificity and measurability provide means to gauge progress. Removing ambiguity allows one to focus on precise actions and behaviors related to goal achievement.

Taking the writing example, don’t make a goal like “I want to be a Writer”. That is too broad and vague. Instead, do this.

· I want to write 500 words every day for the next 30 days.

· I want at least read 2 research papers every month for my new book.

· I want to learn 2 new words every day.

And so on………

The more specific the goal, the more explicitly performance will be affected. Specific goals lead to higher task performance.


Make the Goals Constructively Discomforting

Robert Leahy, a psychologist and an author of many books, shared a story about when he was in graduate school. He took Judo from Insoo Hwang who had been the National Champion in Korea. Insoo Hwang told that in Korea they would practice outside at noon during the summer — when it was the hottest — and during the early morning in the winter when it was coldest.

In the same lines, Vygotsky argued in 1978 argues that learning is most effective within the “zone of proximal development.” I know this sounds like a psychology lecture so, in simple terms, it is the space slightly beyond a learner’s current knowledge base and skills level, but a place where learning is still within a person’s reach.”

In simple words, we are talking about discomfort here. Constructive discomfort.

Think about discomfort as a means to accomplish your goal. Reward yourself for tolerating a little bit of discomfort every day. Do something every day which is a little bit away from your comfort zone but can be accomplished with a little bit of effort.

Taking the writing example, your goal is to write 500 words a day but you can write 500 words only if you stretch one hour beyond your normal sleeping time. This is discomfort for you but you are willing to do it.

In a nutshell, Goals should be set high enough to encourage high performance but low enough to be attainable. When this sweet spot is achieved, goals are proven to be effective.


Get Regular Feedback

Feedback is necessary in order for goals to remain effective and retain commitment. Without feedback people are unaware of their progression or regression; it also becomes difficult to gauge the level of effort required to pursue the goal effectively.

Feedback is most effective when it is directed at setting more challenging goals. Effort and productivity will increase when performance falls short of goal achievement. Similar to goals, feedback must also be specific to offer constructive information on how to meet objectives.

And Feedback can be both positive and negative. Your ability to achieve your goal also depends on how well you are able to take negative feedback.

If criticism sticks in your craw or gets under your skin, how do you handle it?

Do you retort back or do you take it as an improvement?

John Irving hits the nail when he says -:

Listen very carefully to the first criticism of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the reviewers don’t like; it may be the only thing in your work that is original and worthwhile.

Just because someone slams your writing, even in a hateful way, does not mean they are wrong, or somehow against you. This sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. The problem with criticism isn’t always what it said, but how it is said.

You may need time and space for a clearer perspective to review the criticism. Your critic comes to your topic with fresh eyes. Really listen! Try to hear the merits of the criticism. Think about any changes you can make that will address your critic’s concerns.

Always remember Your attitude and not your aptitude will decide your altitude.


And Lastly, Be Good in Setting Priorities

If you know how to set priorities, you will be a pro in reaching your goals. Simple as that!!!

If you are good at setting priorities, you will be better prepared to decide on goals, and in so doing, manage your stress levels more effectively. As stress increases, we are often forced to prioritize our commitments and decide which things can be put to one side and which can’t.

This means that some aspects of life inevitably receive less attention than others. But be sure not to ignore any one area entirely. This could be the area which keeps you sane! Let your priorities evolve as the need arises.

Think about your personal values. What’s your dream? What’s your mission statement? What’s realistic? This will help you spend more time focused on the things which will make a real difference.

On a daily level, organize your schedule according to the importance of each activity. Use stars, arrows, or a numbered list, or devise your own system. Of course, it’s tempting to leave the most painful task for last, but think how pleased and relieved you’ll be when it’s complete.

Learn to say no to people who try to make you change your agenda against your wishes, but allow some margin for unpredictable interruptions and delays.

Plan to maximize your sense of accomplishment while creating space for relaxation too. And congratulate yourself on what you have achieved every day!.

Marcus Aurelius, the Great Roman Emperor had rightly said.

Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.”.

About the author-:
Ravi Rajan is a global IT program manager based out of Mumbai, India. He is also an avid blogger, Haiku poetry writer, archaeology enthusiast, and history maniac. Connect with Ravi on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.

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