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Setting Goals

Why and how to do it!


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment


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We all dream about what we want to achieve in life. Some people want a big family; some a high powered career; some to climb Mount Everest and some to get rich. Well, life is about what you make of it, and setting goals can help you to achieve these dreams.

What is goal setting?

  • Goal setting is a way of planning for the future. Setting goals allows you to get out there and achieve your dreams, instead of just keeping them as ideas in your head.
  • Goal setting involves setting specific goals and targets for yourself, and then doing your best to meet them. Many people use the acronym SMART to help them plan and meet their goals. The acronym SMART says that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. So you should: be clear about your goals (specific), have a way to measure your goal (measurable), set a goal that you can actually achieve (attainable), set a goal that is realistic (realistic), and have a set time frame for when you will meet your goal (timely).
  • Lots of companies use goal setting in a targeted way to work with their employees. The most obvious example is in sales and marketing, since employee commissions are usually based on specific goals and commissions.

READ: Let's get motivated for fitness and exercise! 

Why is it helpful?

  • People like to meet goals. You will feel a real sense of satisfaction if you meet your goals.
  • Goals focus you. Dr Edwin Locke studied goal setting in the 60s and he found that people are more likely to achieve their ambitions and dreams if they set goals.
  • Goal setting can lead to greater efforts. For example, if you simply dream of being fit, that won’t get you far. However, if you set a goal of going to the gym three times a week or walking a certain amount of miles per week, you are more likely to succeed.
    Goal setting improves mental and physical health and leads to higher levels of confidence and self-esteem.
Smart concept on a chalkboard.
Setting goals is the smart thing to do!

Types of goals

Many people like to set goals in the following areas:

  • Fitness. Some people like to set goals to motivate them to exercise, for example signing up to run a marathon.
  • Diet. Some people like to set specific goals, such as to eat a certain amount of fruit per day, while others like to be more general and just cut down on processed foods and takeaways.
  • Skills. Some people sign up for language classes, or learn to paint or sew.
  • Career goals. Some people sign up for courses that will help them to achieve career goals.

READ: When setting fitness goals, meal planning is a really important part of it. Learn how here

Top tips

  • Ask yourself what areas of your life you want to improve. School/college, finances,  relationships, career, health and fitness, confidence/self-esteem? Choose one or two areas and focus on those.
    Make sure to use the SMART acronym:
    Specific. Make sure that your goals are very clear i.e. "I will walk an hour every day for five days a week", rather than "I will walk more."
    Measurable. Make sure that you can measure whether your goal is actually being achieved. You could measure time spent on the activity, for example.
    Achievable. Set yourself a goal that you can meet. If you normally eat fast food every night, are you really going to be able to cook all of your meals from scratch from now on?
    Realistic. Similar to the above, set a doable goal. So, aim to learn the basics of sewing before you set a goal of producing three custom made dresses.
    Timely. You should have a time limit for your goal. Otherwise, you may never achieve it, as there is no finish line. A few months to a year are enough for most goals.
  • Challenge yourself; not to a crazy extent, but why not go for it and try to reach your potential fully?
  • Make the commitment to follow through with your goal, even if it gets tough. This is why it is important to set a challenging, yet realistic, goal.
  • If you are looking at a big goal, cut it into smaller chunks. So, maybe your long term goal is to become fluent in French; well, set a target of being able to communicate basic things first.
  • Be detailed and write it down. Apparently writing goals down makes you more likely to achieve them.
  • Keep goals positive. Instead of "I want to improve my crappy career", think "By the end of the year I’d like to have found a satisfying new job."
  • Look for help. You might be able to more easily achieve your goals with help, i.e. with the aid of a professional trainer, a cooking class, a careers counsellor, an evening course etc.
  • Bask in your greatness. Once you have achieved your goal, reward yourself. You surely deserve it!
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Published December 19th, 2012
Last updated March 31st, 2017
Tags goals work
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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