Goals, goals, goals... Seems like everyone's always talking about goals... It's such an overshared topic that you'd imagine everyone to be on top of their game by now, but there are way too many "New Year's Resolutions Guyssss!!! #2020" types out there that then predictably just fall by the wayside and forget what that was all about, like a middle-of-the-night dream. Why is that? I've asked myself that a lot of times, and managed to narrow it down to two things:
They don't know what goals are.
They don't know how to make good goals.
I'd like to talk today about what exactly goals are. The What and Why. Then, later this week I'll talk about how to make good, effective goals, that just won't allow you to forget about them a couple of weeks later, so stay tuned for that.
What are Goals?
Let's get some common confusion out of the way first!
Goals are not dreams
Goals are not a vision
Goals are not expectations
Goals are not desires
Goals are not objectives
Goals are commitments. They are action-based. They are the calculable promise you make to yourself to achieve your vision of the future, to fulfill your vision. Imagine them as the steps that will lead you to your destination in life.
Goals vs Objectives
Objectives are tasks to accomplish to achieve our goals. This is the main point of confusion for most people, goals require objectives, that's why these words are used so interchangeably, and often to say the same thing. It's not to set your goals, that's just too broad, and why so many people fail. You must also set objectives alongside your goals. I will talk more in-depth about this next post, but so the concept is more easily understandable let me break it down like this:
Vision: where you want to be in life; destination. | i.e. Be in shape.
Goal: steps to take to achieve the vision. | i.e. Lose 50 lbs.
Objectives: measurable, incremental step; sub-step | i.e. :
Week 1: Cardio for 10 mins Monday, Friday.
Week 2: Cardio for 10 mins Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Week 3: Cardio for 10 mins Wednesday; and for 12 mins Monday, Friday
Broken down like this gives you the chance to take proper, actionable, and trackable steps to ultimately achieve what you need to accomplish. Take a minute now and imagine trying to just do cardio for 1 hour a day starting tomorrow.
Do you need a gym membership?
If so, do you have one?
Do you actually have 1 hour a day to do cardio, including extra time to get ready for it every day?
Can you even do 1 hour of cardio right now?
Why are they important?
Great, so we have a better idea of what goals are now. So what? Why should you care, and why should you waste your time setting them up, planning them, etc.?
Here are some of the major reasons why goals are important condensed into 4 simple reasons:
They lead to success
Improve mental health
Help motivate you
Lead to Success
Success is measured by the frequency with which one achieves desired outcomes. Success is closely tied to goal setting because goals keep you focused, they provide something to aim for rather than meandering in a general direction. They allow measured steps to be taken to follow a straight path towards your dream. Something that would otherwise take a year or more can be reduced to a few months. Further, goals help overcome procrastination.
Have you ever sat down to do some much-needed work you've been falling behind on only to suddenly get overwhelmed by tiredness, a burning sensation in the eyes and you just could. Not. Focus? Or maybe you keep getting sidetracked by all those interesting videos on YouTube that you wouldn't even consider watching in your free time? That's called procrastination. This happens when the task ahead seems just so massive it requires a good day of mental preparation to prepare for hours of it; so you leave it for tomorrow. The whole purpose of goals is to break those mountainous tasks into bite-sized chunks of little things that seem way more manageable.
Improve Mental Health
In a study by Andrew K. MacLeod, et al., the researchers compared those who completed a goal-setting exercise to those who didn't in a controlled group environment, and the results showed a relationship between goal-setting and well-being. In fact, the process of goal setting has even become a major focus in several of the current psychotherapies used to treat depression. Every time you achieve a goal or even an objective towards the goal, your brain immediately sends you a shot of dopamine, often described as the "feel good" chemical in the brain, it facilitates learning and boost motivation.
On top of this, one of the main causes of depression and anxiety is due to the brain not being able to reconcile that feeling that you are important with a lack of aim and belonging. Many people are wondering aimlessly without knowing where their life is going to lead them or even knowing what it is that they want to bring their life to. It creates a sort of cognitive dissonance within oneself because how could you know who you are without knowing who you want to be and how close you are to being that?
Goal-setting theory was studied by Edward Locke and Gary Latham, and it states the simplest and most direct motivational explanation on why some people perform better than others, and it has been the foundation of countless businesses' work cultures, school curricula, psychological aid practices, and government aid programs. The theory primarily focuses on what makes good goals rather than what the effects of good goals are, nevertheless, it strongly argues that the harder the goals the better the performance of individuals. This is because goals that you set for yourself are intrinsic motivators, this means that the motivation to achieve them comes from within, hence you won't need to constantly be listening to motivational music to keep on track, you won't need to constantly remind yourself to stop procrastinating, and your need to find the strength to actually get down and do what you have to will be drastically reduced.
Help Motivate You
Since the source of motivation to achieve the goals you set, if you set them right (more on this here), comes from within you, they themselves will help you stay motivated. Remember when you really wanted to buy that new super comfy couch? or that awesome 4k TV? so you got to work and did it? Yeah, that was a goal. And all of a sudden you didn't even think about how you had to do so much work to get it. You just did. We all have motivation inside of us, a burning desire to have something. The problem is that we don't know how to tap into it. I'm guilty of that too! But when you realize that to have that summer body you have to start cooking your own healthy meals, you won't even dare eat out anymore. That is the power of goals.
What goals do you have? Can they be broken down? If you take away anything from this, take this question. Can my goals be broken down? And I'll let you in on a secret, yes they can. There is no step too small, if you know you must go to the gym but just can't find the willpower to do so, start by putting your gym clothes on. That's it. That's your victory for today. Do it again tomorrow, and the day after. Pretty soon you'll start to tell yourself that since you're putting on your gym clothes you might as well go for a 5 minute jog. And the rest, well, as for the rest, very soon you'll be looking back thinking "I can't believe I couldn't convince myself to even get up in the morning."
Thank you for tuning in to my first blog post, this will be the first of many, but everyone has to start somewhere. Let me know what you thought of this article, what did you learn from this? What can I change about it? What did you really like, and what can I improve in the future?
Hi, I'm Matthew, my mission is to spread knowledge about motivation, productivity, and enabling people to achieve the best that they can be! I have a vast background in psychology and a passion for self-improvement. I literally can't remember a time when I didn't have a psychology book in my hands. On top of that, I've traveled around the world from a very young age, and seen many different courses of life, forming friendships with highly successful people, as well as people who are willing to do anything to make ends meet. My own life took me down a roller coaster of highs and lows, and I'm forever grateful that I've been able to overcome everything it threw at me. Now I want to take the opportunity to give back, and help others learn tools and methods for becoming who they were born to be!