At the beginning of every new year there is a cultural drive to make this year better than the last, spurring on goals and resolutions of all types and varieties. But while many resolutions will fall by the wayside, there are ways of setting those big-picture intentions and being able to see them through. In this article, we’ll dive into goal setting—how to do it effectively, why it’s important, and how you can find success for your big plans this year.
What is goal setting?
While many people use the term goal setting interchangeably with making resolutions or forcing some sort of life change, the reality is that true goal setting is far more simple—it is the process of consciously evaluating objectives you want to achieve in a certain period of time, and creating an actionable plan for accomplishing them.
Why is setting goals important?
For anyone looking to make legitimate changes in their lives, including large goals and creating new habits, goal setting is a way to help them think through what they want, why they want it, and how they will make the change actually happen.
Fortunately, there is long-standing science to back the importance of goal setting. In 1979, Harvard MBA Business School produced a study that found that of graduating students, 84 percent had no specific, stated goals; 13 percent had goals but never wrote them down, and the final three percent had concrete goals that had been not only thought through, but also written down. Ten years later, the study revisited those same people and found something remarkable: those in the 13 percent made twice as much as those in the majority class, while those elite three percenters were making ten times as much as the other two groups put together.
Similarly, a University of Scranton study of people who made New Year's Resolutions reaffirmed how hard big goals can be: after two years, only 19 percent of the study group had reached their goal successfully.
So why is setting goals important? In short: people who set realistic, concrete goals are far more likely to achieve them, and once they do, they become part of an elite group of people who can hit big targets.
How do you set goals?
While completing big goals can be tricky, planning for them doesn’t have to be. In fact, there are a lot of different methods for goal setting and planning. So, in order to streamline the process for you, here are a few ways you can start goal planning for a new year.
Use the 5W1H method
Also called the “questioning method,” the 5W1H is a format used by everyone from journalists to critical thinkers, project managers, and many others, and not just for goal setting. This method is a great way to dive deep and break a complex idea down into smaller, more manageable parts, which is what makes it so easy to use.
Utilizing the 5W1H method is easy; simply ask yourself the following questions:
- What. What do I want to accomplish?
- Where. Where will this happen? Is it location sensitive?
- When. When do I want to do this by?
- Why. Why do I want to do this? Why will it matter to my life?
- Who. Who all should be involved in this goal? Who do I have at my disposal? Who can help me?
- How. How will I get this done? How do I move forward?
As you go through the questions, write down your answers and really think about them. By the time you get to “H”, you should be ready to start putting an action plan together and determining what your next steps will be.
Make your goal SMART
As you set goals, how you write them down can have a big impact on how effective you are at achieving them. To give yourself the best chance possible, make sure that each goal you write down (and we’d recommend no more than eight large goals each year), is SMART:
Break it down
Once you have your big-picture goals in place, make sure you break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks, or milestones. For example, if you set a goal to “Pay off three credit cards”, you may want to set milestones at the total amount paid off, or even each card. If your goal is to “Lose 10 pounds by the end of summer”, then you’ll want to set out the increments over the first few months of the year.
By doing this, not only are you more likely to achieve your goal because you are constantly watching it and hopefully seeing progress, you can also break it down into the actual tasks that it will require to get the job done. A recommendation: break down each goal into months—that way you know each month the things that it will take in order to accomplish your goal, and you’ll be able to keep progressing, step by step, to a successful end.
Whatever your goals this year may be, we at Spero are grateful for your membership. If we can ever help you work toward achieving something new, we’re here to help. Call us or come in to one of our convenient branches for more information.
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.