Achieving Goals

Why Goal Setting May Be The Surest Route To Achieving Your Dreams

Learn how setting goals can benefit your life and your finances.

July 06, 2016 • 3 minute read
BrightPlan Blog

Some people just seem to have a knack for accomplishing whatever they set out to do, whether it’s starting their own company or buying a beach house as a vacation home. If you’re wondering how you can increase your own likelihood of achieving success, then we’d like to introduce you to the power of goal setting. 

Professor Edwin Locke, widely considered the academic authority on goal theory, summarized studies of goal setting that included over 40,000 people on 4 continents. He found 88 tasks in which goal setting proved successful, with time frames from as short as a single minute to as long as 25 years. 

Locke’s research has been leveraged in academics, athletics, businesses, and organizations to help people improve performance and reach their goals, so read on to understand why goal setting is likely to help you, too.

Goal setting increases motivation. 

By setting clear goals, a person is held accountable to their aims, which increases motivation in the short term. Surprisingly, one way goal setting can improve motivation is by making you a happier person.

Writing for Psychology Today, Timothy Pychyl found that “to the extent that we're making progress on our goals, we're happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives.” He found a virtuous circle existed between goal achievement and well-being. 

Progress on goals led to greater well-being, which improved motivation to continue achieving goals. For the chronic procrastinator, the key to entering this positive feedback loop is setting specific, measurable, achievable goals. These goals facilitate tracking, which enables you to enjoy progress and stay motivated to keep moving forward.

Goal setting clarifies your priorities. 

In our highly connected world awash with distraction, having clear goals is more important than ever. Most of us know what it feels like to sit down at a computer with a task in mind, look up 45 minutes later, and realize we forgot about the task altogether. Living with goals in mind gives us the laser focus necessary to chase a dream in the midst of a host of distractions.

One of the best ways to live your priorities is to write out your goals. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found in a study that people were 42% more likely to report substantial progress towards their goals when working with written, actionable goals than those with unwritten goals. By writing your down goals and checking on them regularly, you can get and stay on track.

Goal setting improves performance. 

People who set challenging goals put in a greater effort and get better results. In Locke’s research, he found that setting specific, challenging goals led to greater outcomes than unspecified or easy goals. Interestingly, goals could be set by oneself, another, or a group, and in any of these scenarios, goals increased achievement. 

Business author and leader Jim Collins appropriated this concept by introducing the idea of the BHAG or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal in the early 1990s. These ten to thirty year goals set by innovative companies improve performance by stretching the limits of their potential. Examples of corporate and individual BHAGs include:

  • Henry Ford’s dream of democratizing the automobile
  • Elon Musk’s plan to put a person on Mars by 2024
  • Facebook’s goal to make the world more open and connected

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals aren’t just for corporations. The stories that captivate us most are often about people who transcended their potential and accomplished a goal they never thought possible.

So what do you want? Do you aspire to get into the best shape of your life, accomplish more at work, make more money, or travel the world? Link an aspiration with a goal, write it down, and start working towards achieving your dream today.

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