We all know that goal setting is important, this is nothing new. But WHY is it so important? What drives us to push beyond the “normal” and achieve success when we set aggressive goals? Why do we wander around rudderless when we don’t define specific goals? The importance of goal setting should not be underestimated, here’s a look at why.
“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.” —Benjamin E. Mays
The mechanisms behind a goal
In a 35 year study on goal setting theory, researchers defined four key mechanisms for how goals serve to direct our actions.
- They direct attention and effort toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal irrelevant activities.
- Goals have an energizing function.
- They affect persistence.
- Goals affect action indirectly by leading to the arousal, discovery, and/or use of task-relevant knowledge and strategies. [Source]
Let’s break each of these down a bit to help understand the importance of goal setting.
Goals direct attention and effort
Have you ever set clear, concise, measurable goals? Alternatively, have you ever set general goals (do my best at xyz) or not set any goals at all? If you’re like most people you have done both and know the power of specific goal setting.
When you set clear goals (SMART Goals are very effective), you provide yourself with focus. This focus helps to direct your attention towards your goal and put effort behind achieving it. Focus on a specific goal also helps you realize when you are working on activities that aren’t relevant to achieving your goals. This simple yet effective form of awareness of what you are working on is one of the most powerful forces behind goal setting.
They have an energizing function
“Whatever beginning goals you set for yourself, following through on them will build momentum and a sense of achievement and those small successes will point the way to bigger ones.” —Pamela Glass Kelly
Most people find that making progress toward a goal provides greater energy and focus to keep working towards the goal. Even making one small step can trigger a sense of accomplishment and momentum, which leads to taking further action to help achieve your goals.
Some ways to create energy behind your goals:
- Write them down and break them into small steps. Achievement of even the first smallest step will create energy to continue on to the next steps.
- Declare your goal to others. Creating a sense of accountability behind your goals is a great way to start and retain momentum.
- Make them visible. Having a visual reminder of your goals (printout, sticky note, white board, etc.) is a great way to keep the energy and focus going.
- Set a deadline. One way to focus your energy on a goal is to create a deadline. Tight deadlines help focus your effort and keep you working towards only one thing – your ultimate goal.
Goals affect persistence
It’s a lot easier to work on achieving something over a longer period of time if you have the ultimate goal defined. Without a clear goal, persistence wanes – because what’s the point? Working towards a goal provides a clear path and feedback loop to your brain. You’ll find it rewarding to make progress toward your goal, which will lead you to keep working towards achieving it.
They indirectly affect action through knowledge and skill discovery
Goals not only help to focus your attention and energy, they serve you in all areas of life through knowledge and skill discovery. This fact directly showcases the importance of goal setting. Goals help you improve and become a more well rounded person – how can you argue with that?
When you set out to achieve a tough goal, it’s likely that you’ll need to develop a new skill or expertise (or enhance your existing skills) to achieve it.
For example, if you set a goal to complete a large project at work that involves other departments, budgets and deadlines – you’ll likely need to develop or improve some project management skills to achieve this goal.
Strong project management skills involve leadership, communication, organization, task management, financial knowledge, negotiation skills – the list goes on and on. Developing or improving these skills will not only help you achieve your project goal at work, it will improve your overall ability at work and other areas of life.
Goals help us live better
The mechanisms behind how goals work are very powerful, so start setting some new goals today! Leave a comment below and let us know what your goals are and how they will make you live better. Also, if you like this post, make sure to share it! You can tag us in a post with your goal progress on Instagram @realsimplegood and #TheRSGLife. We can’t wait to see you achieve your goals!
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