If you had to cut down a tree, would you rather use an axe or a baseball bat?
Obviously, the answer is an axe. Why? Because when you focus energy into a small point, the resulting force is more powerful than when it’s spread over a wider area. An axe takes the full strength of your arms and puts it all into a knife-edge. You could never punch a tree down with your fists, but you could cut one down in a matter of minutes.
When you set clear goals, it’s sort of like focusing the full force of your willpower into a potent knife-edge. Put simply, setting goals lets you get more out of your time.
Most of you have probably heard the story of the Harvard class of 1979. In case you haven’t, here’s how it goes: The Harvard Study
In 1979, researchers asked each Harvard graduate one simple question: “Do you have clear goals for your future?”
· 84% had no goals, either written or unwritten
· 13% had clearly defined goals, but not written down
· 3% had clearly defined goals written on paper
That’s it. Then 10 years later in 1989, the same researchers followed up with the ’79 class and asked them another simple question: “How much did you make this year?”
The answers were astonishing:
· The average Harvard graduate made $115k per year
· The 13% who’d set clear goals, but not written them down, made 2x more (on average) as the 84% with no goals
· The 3% of the class with clear, written goals made 10x more than the 84% with no goals. Every single millionaire was in the 3%.
Now, if you do a little research, you’ll find that most people don’t believe this Harvard study ever actually happened (just Google “Harvard goals study myth”). But, even if this particular study is fictional, countless other studies have shown the exact same result.
Why Are Goals Important?
Okay, we know that setting goals increases chances of success, but why?
· Goals Give You Something to Shoot For
· First and most obviously, setting goals gives you a clear objective to work towards.
· Goals Keep You Accountable
· Setting goals makes it much harder to slip into bad habits.
Your goals will serve as a plumb line – something to measure your actions against. If you’re ever doing something that’s not in line with your goals, then you’ll have a much easier time getting back on track.
Put simply, goals keep you accountable. They force you to recognize when you’re not doing something that gets you closer to achieving them.
Goals Give You Something to Fall Back On
You’ll get depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged, or all of the above. Trust me; it’s REALLY easy to get “stuck” in that negativity. It’s easy to let it spiral out of control, until weeks later you realize how much time you’ve wasted.
Setting written goals and keeping them in front of you makes it much easier to avoid that negative spiral. When you recognize yourself veering off course from your goals, or when something goes really wrong, just fall back on your goals.
How do you fall back on your goals?
It’s easy – set aside time to review your goals and get them back to the forefront of your mind. You’ll remember what you’re trying to achieve and why. And, you’ll be able to trust that in the end, your goals will get you where you want to go.
Writing Down Your Goals Cements Them in Your Brain
Several recent studies have compared knowledge retention between college students who type their notes in class and those who write them down on paper.
Without exception, the students who write down their class notes with a pen and paper perform better on tests and get higher grades than students who only type their notes on a computer.
Therefore, we write our goals down because it makes them part of you. When you write your goals down, they become sticky – they become much harder to forget about.
The Power of Visualization
The other big reason that we set goals is to harness the power of visualization.
Before you roll your eyes, no, I’m not talking about the kind of stuff you to read in The Secret. I’m not talking about projecting a “positive aura” or “sending positive thoughts to the universe” to get what you want.
I’m talking about literal visualization – you see yourself doing something really well in your head, then it makes it easier to do that thing really well in real life.
Competitive weightlifters do this all the time. For example, let’s say a weightlifter is attempting a new personal record on the bench press in a competition… Before ever touching the weight, he’ll visualize himself completing the lift. He’ll imagine what it feels like to lift the bar off the supports, how heavy it feels in his hands. He’ll visualize the feeling of his muscles contracting as the bar is lowered to his chest, and what it feels like to push the bar back up with proper form and perfect muscle control.
It yields real results. Scientists have shown that this method of visualization can help students increase test scores, employees improve productivity, salesmen make more sales, and athletes perform better on game day. Pickup artists even teach single guys to use visualization to get more women
In other words… GOALS = SUCCESS
Your goals should be divided into at least three categories. Those three main categories are:
Your Short-Term Goals are the ones that you are focusing on right now. They’re the ones you want to achieve within the next 1 – 3 months.
Your Mid-Term Goals are the ones that you will be able to reach by achieving a sequence of short-term goals. Instead of 1 – 3 months, you will reach these goals in 6 to 12 months.
You could also call these your dreams. Your Lifelong Goals are exactly what they sound like. When you are 80 years old, what kind of life do you want to have lived?
Something to note about these goals is that they are all directly under your control except for the last one. Your Short- and Mid-Term goals should always be things that you have direct control over achieving. Your dreams/long-term goals are so far off that just about nothing you could put there will be under your direct control, but that’s okay because these goals are meant to be more motivational than anything else.
And remember, you can refine your goals as you go.
How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
I’m sure that some of you have heard about SMART goals before. If not, here’s what you need to know:
SMART is an acronym for a set of 5 rules that you should follow when setting goals for yourself. In my experience, SMART works best for setting mid-term and short-term goals. Here’s what each letter stands for:
Specific – Your goals should be very clearly defined. You want to set goals that tell you exactly what you’ll do, why you’ll do it and who you’ll do it with.
Measurable – Ideally your goals are measureable by some metric. Your goals shouldn’t be subjective; there should be a hard number or condition that you can look at and say, “I’ve met my goal,” or “I still have work to do.”
Achievable – Have you ever heard the saying, ‘shoot for the moon and at least you’ll hit some stars’? The truth is that an unrealistic goal won’t do you any favors. Yes, your goals should be challenging, but if you can’t realistically see yourself achieving your goal, you’ll quickly lose motivation and slide backwards into inaction.
Achievable also means that your goals should be under your control.
Relevant – Is your goal worthwhile? If you achieve your goal, will it have a meaningful impact on your life? When your goals are highly relevant to both your current and future life, you’ll remain motivated to achieve them.
Time-bound – A number of studies have found that setting deadlines increases the likelihood that people complete their goals. If you give yourself an open-ended goal with no clear end-point, you make it a lot easier to procrastinate meaningful progress.
We have definitely set our goals. What are waiting for? Share with us your goals or the method you are using.