You need a goal to aim for. If you have no clue where you are going it doesn’t matter which road you take.
This article is the third part in my Success Formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.
The second element in my formula is goal and I am going to encourage you to embrace the power of goal setting.
I can almost hear you screaming, “Oh no! Another article on goal setting? Enough already.”
Well, yes and no.
I’m not going to discuss how to set goals, but I will look at why goal setting is so critically important to achieving success in any endeavour and I will also briefly discuss two classes of goals and why it is good to know the difference between them.
Why is goal setting so popular?
Because it works, that’s why. When you set a goal, you are making a commitment, either to yourself or to the world at large. You are setting a clear intention to do or achieve something. You should set your goals with great care. How you set and handle your goals says a lot about your character, resilience and mental toughness. Some people set goals and fail repeatedly, yet carry on until they get their big win. Other people fail once or twice then give up entirely. Many people never try anything at all. Some people go all in for the big prize whilst others are in it for the long-haul. There are many variations. By the way, I will talk more about measuring success and failure and other key goal factors in other articles.
The key message I want to put across here is that, all other things being equal, forming a well-conceived and well-designed goal will give you a far better chance of success than not having a goal at all.
We humans are easily distracted creatures. We will wander off track. Having a compelling goal gives us something to come back to when we wander, like scuba divers might use a safety line to guide them to a shipwreck then back up to the dive boat again. If we don’t have a goal we could end up anywhere. Some people are happy to drift through life like this but I’m not. I create goals for myself.
I firmly believe in and follow the tenet, “If you want to get ahead get a goal.”
There are two types of goals
There are two classes of goals I want to mention now, namely outcome goals and process goals.
Most large goals employ both classes at various times but, I believe it is important to know the difference between them and when to use each one most effectively.
Outcome goals are goals which have a defined result or target to be achieved, often within a clearly specified period. I am writing this on New Year’s Day, so it is apt because outcome goals are the ones we are all familiar with. We generally form our new year resolutions using outcome goals. They can be very powerful, but they can also carry within them the seeds of their own failure. With the very best of intentions, we all tend to set very lofty, large and distant goals, and this puts immediate pressure on us. For example, “I’m going to work out and lose 20kg in weight by the start of the summer holidays and I mean it this year, no excuses.” It has solid intention but there is no clear route to follow. As I mentioned, we humans are easily distracted. The first setback often becomes a terminal block and we feel down because we gave up. Better luck next year.
A process goal is a one where the goal is to complete certain activities or actions on a regular basis for a specified amount of time. There is no expected result as such but because you will follow a regular and repeated process you will gain your successes and results along the way. An example might be, “I am going to go to the gym and work out for an average of 3 times a week for the next 6 months.” There is flexibility here and options for catch-up if obstacles are encountered. There might be any number of outcomes, both positive and negative, through following this process and you will discover them as you work out for the 6 months. When the 6 months is up you can look back and compare your before and after status if you need an outcome assessment. Your focus will be on taking as much control as possible over the process itself and how you follow it rather than on a distant goal which you may or may not achieve.
Which goal is best?
It might look like I’m down on outcome goals. Not at all. They each have their merits when designed well and used appropriately. They each have drawbacks which need to be accounted for.
I won’t recommend a “this is the one you need” method because everyone is different. I tend to adopt process goals for my far-reaching plans as this promotes the formation of (usually) beneficial habits and long-term positive changes. For example, “I intend to go for at least one walk every day for the coming year.” I tend to use outcome goals for specific time-critical steps which need to be achieved to help facilitate the process goals. For example, “I will redesign my entire business calendar and course schedule by the end of the first week in January to enable 1 hour of walking time to be available every day.”
Experiment with both types. When you find a method which works for you, stick to it and thrive.
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