How Successful People Set Clear Goals

How Successful People Set Clear Goals And Follow Through

If you had to choose two things in this world that you are good at it, would you chose being good at setting goals and following through with them? Most of you wouldn’t, but after all, if you’re good at setting goals and following through with them then you can pretty much learn everything else and thereby guarantee your own success!

Empathy, leadership, commitment, and Java can all be learned if you’re willing to put the time in and that’s something that’s far easier to do if you know how to set and live up to your goals. So that’s what we’re going to focus on today.

We’ll start with goal setting.

How Successful People Set Clear Goals And Follow Through


Smart is an acronym for goal setting that you should internalize and execute every time you’re working on your short to medium term goals (What you need to do with long-term goals we’ll get to a little bit further down).

The acronym means:

  • Specific: When setting any kind of goal you have to make certain that it’s not some dreamy–eyed pipe dream that you never know if you’ve succeeded at or not. So ‘be successful’ is not a good goal. Neither is ‘get rich’. They’re too broad.
  • Measurable: And they’re also unmeasurable. And what’s the point of a goal if you can’t measure if you’re succeeding at it? Often if you can’t measure it, it ends up becoming a moving target and you never get the satisfaction of pulling it off. So, instead, choose something that you can know you’ve succeeded at, like ‘get promoted’ or ‘have 100,000 dollars in the bank’.
  • Attainable: Make certain the goals actually matter to you as in this way you make certain that they’re actually attainable, as you’ll be willing to put in the hours and the effort to focus on getting there.
  • Realistic: The next step is to make sure it’s realistic. Don’t choose a goal ‘have a million dollars in the bank by Tuesday’ when that’s not actually something that can be done. Then the goal becomes pointless.
  • Timely: And finally, you need to set a time for when you want to achieve the goal by. Because if you don’t do that it becomes far too easy for you to simply put off the goal indefinitely. So, set a timeframe by when you want the goal to be achieved.


Stretch Goals

For the long term, you need to set something known as ‘Stretch Goals’. In his book Smarter Better Faster, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg explains that the problem with SMART goals is that they can actually limit your ambition as instead of shooting for the moon you end up setting smaller goals. That obviously isn’t the goal (sorry, bad pun).

Instead, you need to set ambitious long-term goals, that seem close to impossible, but are still possible (So no shooting lasers out of your belly button). So these might be ‘become a millionaire’ or ‘have a post go viral’ or ‘climb Mount Everest’. In that way, at least if you really care about achieving the goal, you’ll end up stretching yourself in order to achieve it, which will pull you from the mediocre into the elite.

Combine the two

Then, when you’ve got your stretch goal set, outline steps that you’ll need to achieve it and approach those, in turn, with the SMART goals outlined above. Not all of them, mind you, just the first step along the way.

Then, when you’ve achieved that goal, start setting SMART goals to reach the next step. In that way, you’ll strike a nice balance between the goal-setting systems, with the SMART goals basically serving as the stepping stones that you need to get from where you are to where you – as you stipulated in your stretch goal – want to be.

Motivation through publication

The next step, of course, is how to make certain that you’re going to follow through with your goals. The first thing that you need to do is write down what your goals are. Don’t just think about them. That, as the world renown psychologist Robert Cialdini explains in his book Influence isn’t enough. Write them down on a piece of paper, as the very act of writing it down will mean that you’re more likely to actually commit to them.

But don’t stop there.

The next thing to do is make the world aware of what you’re doing, as committing to a goal publicly is far more likely to get you to carry through. Why? Because now you’re not just using ‘want’ to get yourself to complete the goal, you’re utilizing guilt and shame as well. And though people think of these as negative emotions, that’s just because people haven’t been using them correctly.

If you equip them to change your behavior for the better (Something you do far more often than you realize unconsciously) then they can be immensely positive emotions as they will help you become a better person.

Use rewards

Another great move is to set those goals with rewards in mind. The bigger the goal you reach, the bigger the reward you give yourself. And don’t leave the reward vague, either. Instead, set something concrete and that you really want.

This will have several advantages:

  1. It will motivate you all the more to get the goal accomplished
  2. You won’t engage in the reward before you achieve the goal (something that can save you a lot of time or money).
  3. You’ll enjoy the activity all the more when you do engage in it as this time instead of being a hedonistic indulgence, it is a reward for something that you’ve managed to do – something that will change your perspective entirely.


Stick with it

Yes, it’s utterly obvious, but still, it needs to be said. If you don’t strive to complete your goals you’ll never be successful. That’s not actually what I’m getting at, though. There is another more subtle point as well. Discipline is something that is learned, just like everything else in life. So perhaps that’s where you should focus your attention as you consider goal setting for success. Because every time you manage to stick with a goal, you’ll develop that little bit more discipline until eventually working towards and achieving your goals becomes second nature.

And I’m not kidding here. I can speak from personal experience.

In fact, it’s far more hopeful than you might imagine as an undisciplined person. You see, learning discipline might seem like a constant uphill struggle from where you’re at. And in the beginning, it is. It’s struggling against your own nature. But as you struggle, you’ll find yourself changing and things that were hard, become easier. And the hill becomes less steep. Until finally, you read a tipping point and becoming more disciplined actually becomes easier than slacking off.

All you’ve got to do is get there.

So, may I suggest that the very first stretch goal you set for yourself is that you get to the top of that hill? The view from up here is quite lovely. For from up here you have all the rest of your successful life to look out upon.

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