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How to set and achieve goals
How to set and achieve goals

Goal setting is an integral part of life: we set goals for career, health and tomorrow, sometimes without even thinking about it, but, of course, it is still better to do it correctly and consciously.

It seems that modern society literally encourages us to constantly think about the next milestone as soon as the previous one has been achieved, but we do not always think enough about science and strategies for achieving goals. Made up instructions that will help you set goals correctly - and achieve them.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is the act of choosing an attitude, aspiration, reference point, intent, or goal that you want to achieve.

However, if you take achieving your goals seriously, it’s important to rely not on what you want to achieve and how you define success, but on what you are willing to overcome on the way to what you want. It is easy enough to have a goal - many people want to lose weight, get a promotion, or write a bestseller - so the real challenge is not determining whether you want a result, but whether you are willing to accept the sacrifices necessary to achieve it.

Thus, goal setting is not only about choosing a reward, but also about those material (and not so much) expenses that you are willing to pay for this.

Goals are like a rudder: they set the direction and determine where you are going. If you're aiming for one goal, the steering wheel stays in place and you keep moving forward. If you switch between targets, the steering wheel moves from side to side, and if your targets are chaotic, one day you may find that you have been driving in circles all this time.

Thus, there is a mechanism along the way that is even more important than the steering wheel - the gas and brake pedals. If the steering wheel is your goal, then the pedals are your way of achieving it, a kind of system. While the steering wheel determines your overall direction, the pedals determine your progress. You will never get anywhere, just holding the rudder, you have to step on the pedals.

  • If you're a writer, your goal is to write a book, and your system is the timeline you follow every week.

  • If you're a runner, your goal is to run a marathon, and your system is your training schedule for the month.

How to set goals that you will actually accomplish

There are three basic strategies that work great when setting goals.

Eliminate some targets ruthlessly

In psychology, there is a concept of "goal competition," according to which one of the biggest obstacles to achieving goals is the other goals you have. All goals compete with each other for your time and attention; each time you start pursuing a new goal, you need to shift focus and resources away from other activities.

One of the quickest ways to make progress towards your goals is to simply hit the pause button on other, less important things and focus on one goal at a time. Sometimes it’s enough to just reorganize your priorities a little, and suddenly progress is much faster because you are now fully committed to a goal that you used to give only a moderate portion of your attention to.

What often looks like a goal setting problem is actually a goal selection problem. In reality, what is needed is not global goals, which supposedly will motivate every day, but better concentration. One must choose one and ruthlessly eliminate everything else. Here are some strategies to help you prioritize and focus on one thing:

  • The 25-5 Rule is a three-step productivity strategy proposed by Warren Buffett.Start by writing down 25 of your goals, then go through the list and select 5 main goals. The next step is to ruthlessly discard the remaining 20 targets. Items 6 through 25 are definitely what you care about, they are important to you, so it will be very easy to justify the time spent on them. However, when you compare them to the 5 main goals, these points are distracting. If you waste time on secondary priorities, you get 20 unfinished projects instead of 5 completed ones.

  • The Eisenhower Matrix is ​​a simple task organization strategy that categorizes all goals and activities into four categories. The first is urgent and important (done immediately), the second is important, but not urgent (what you plan to do later), the third is urgent, but not important (delegate to someone else), the fourth is not urgent, it does not matter (then to be eliminated). In terms of goals, the Eisenhower Matrix is ​​useful because it helps to ask if an action is really necessary, and if not, then it can be easily transferred to the "Delete" category and no longer waste your time. It is certainly not a perfect strategy, but it is a useful decision-making tool for increasing productivity and eliminating behaviors that require mental energy, waste time, but rarely get you closer to your goals.

Group your goals

In one study, researchers found that people who clearly articulated when and how much they would exercise during the week were 2-3 times more likely to exercise than a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior. Psychologists refer to these specific plans as “implementation intentions” because they indicate when, where, and how you intend to implement certain behaviors.

One interesting way to use this knowledge is through a strategy that might be called habit accumulation. To start using habit building, simply fill in the blanks in the following sentence: "After / before [current habit] I'll be [new habit]." For instance:

  • Meditation: After brewing my morning coffee, I will meditate for one minute.

  • Push-ups: Before I take my morning shower, I'll do 10 push-ups.

  • Acknowledgment: Before dinner, I will say one thing that I am grateful for today.

Habit building works because you not only create a concrete plan for when and where you will achieve your goals, but you also link your new goals to what you already do every day.

Set the upper border

When we set goals, we almost always focus on the lower bound, that is, we think about the minimum threshold that we want to achieve: “I want to lose at least 3 kilograms this month”, “Today I want to write at least 500 words” and so on. … These goals, but with an established upper limit, will sound a little different: "I want to lose at least 3 kilograms this month, but no more than 6", "Today I want to write at least 500 words, but no more than 1500".

Why is this needed? There is a magical zone of long-term growth in many areas of life. As you move towards your goal, you definitely want to put in enough effort to keep progress, but not so much that your goal becomes weary. This is where it can be useful to set an upper limit. Upper limits allow you to maintain progress and keep moving forward, which is especially important at the very beginning, when you are just developing the habit of moving towards a goal.

How to consistently achieve your goals

Effective goal setting requires consideration of the surrounding system. Too often, we set the right goals in the wrong system, and if we have to fight the existing system every day to make progress, it will be difficult to achieve consistent results. The environment must be aligned with ambition.

While most of us have a wide range of choices, many of the decisions we make in our professional and personal lives depend on the options around us:

  • If your phone is next to your bed, checking social media and email as soon as you wake up is probably the default solution.

  • If you keep alcohol in your kitchen, a glass of wine every night is probably the default.

  • If you are holding dumbbells next to your desk, taking a little break during breaks is likely to be the default solution.

  • Finally, if you carry a bottle of water with you, then drinking enough water is likely to be the default solution.

Scientists refer to the influence that attitudes and settings can have on decision making as the architecture of choice. Whether you achieve your long-term goals or not depends a lot on what types of influences are around you in the short term. In a negative environment, it is very difficult to maintain positive habits.

The following will help you design a better architecture of choice:

  • Simplicity. It is difficult to focus on a signal when you are constantly surrounded by noise. When the kitchen is filled with unhealthy foods, it is harder to eat healthy foods. It's harder to focus on reading a blog post when there are 10 tabs open in your browser.

  • Visual cues. In supermarkets, placing food on the shelves at eye level makes it easier to see and increases the chances of purchase. Outside the supermarket, you can use visual cues, such as posting reminders, plans, diagrams, and motivating photographs, to create an environment that visually nudges you in the right direction.

How to measure your goals

Another key to achieving long-term goals is measuring them. The human mind loves to receive feedback, one of the most inspiring things we can experience is evidence of our progress. What we measure, we improve, only by numbers and clear tracking can we understand whether it is getting better or worse. The trick is to understand that counting, measuring and tracking is not a result.

Here are some techniques for setting measurable goals:

  • The paperclip strategy was invented by clerk Trent Dearsmead, who called customers daily, marking each call by transferring one of 120 paper clips from one jar to another. Diersmead's experience shows that success is often the result of repeated adherence to basic principles; in essence, it is a mechanical and visual way to consistently perform the required actions. Want to do 100 push-ups daily? Start with 10, buy a dozen paper clips, and put them between cans throughout the day each time you do a push-up. In the evening, get a clearly recorded result.

  • Reverse measurement - we usually measure progress by looking towards the future (“Increase income by 20% over such and such a time”), but you can do it differently. Instead of planning your activities ahead of time, take the time to sit down and assess what you did in the past week to reach your goal. This way, you can easily understand if you are moving in the right direction and use this knowledge to update the actions that you plan to take in the new week.

Having goals and working towards them is an important part of human existence. The path to them is not always smooth or easy, but having goals, large or small, is part of what makes life exciting, gives a sense of meaning, indicates the direction in which we want to move, and makes us interested and involved in what is happening. has an extremely positive effect on the overall feeling of happiness and contentment in life.

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