The underlying principles of goal setting

Years ago when I completed my coach training, I received a list of the principles of goal setting.   I still refer to this list, when setting my own goals and when working with clients.  And, now I’ve decided to share it with you so you can apply it to your own goal setting.

1.Set goals in line with your values:

Without alignment to your values, you will never achieve your goals. Our values are the unspoken rules that govern the decisions we make and the way we live. If you set a goal this isn’t aligned with your values, you will never make decisions or take actions required to achieve that goal.

2. Write your goals down:

Unless you write goals down, they’ll stay in a fluid dream world that is forever changing and your goals will disappear.  Ever had a great thought and then forgotten it before you got a chance to write it down – the same applies with our goals.

Just the act of writing a goal down makes it more tangible and enables your mind to actively start planning and working towards it.  Capture your goal in the way that works for you: drawing, vision boards, writing, video recording.

Keep them at the forefront of your mind every day.  It’s too easy for them to disappear if you stop focusing on them.

3. Review your goals regularly:

Read your goals every day. Every morning and evening if possible.  Make it a habit. Visualise each goal for a minute or so and imagine how you’ll feel once you’ve achieved it.  See yourself as the person that has already achieved that goal.

Make sure you reflect and celebrate the achievement of each step towards your goal and replace it with the next step so you keep moving forward.

4. Make your goals specific:

This is an important step. Get really specific and break things down into smaller steps.  Is your goal to travel the world? How long for? What countries do you want to see? When would you like to go? When will you start planning and researching? etc.

5. Express your goals in a positive:

Unconsciously, your mind will focus on what you tell it.  If you express your goals in the negative, that’s what it will focus on:

  • I want to loose weight – the mind will focus on weight and give you more weight
  • I want to stop smoking – the mind will focus on smoking
  • I want to be less stressed – the mind will continue to react with stress

How to re-frame these to the positive:

  • It is 31 December and I am my ideal weight of 60kgs.
  • I now enjoy the health of a non-smoker.
  • I now enjoy feeling more relaxed and calm
6. Your goals must be measurable:

How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals if you can’t measure the outcome? Goals such as feeling better or having better relationships need to be broken down further to create a clear picture.

7. Goals must be a challenge:

If goals are too easily achievable, you won’t grow.  Growth is one of the core human needs and if it is missing you will feel bored,unfulfilled and unmotivated.  Set challenging goals that you have to work at achieving and feel as sense of accomplishment from.

8. Create achievable goals:

Goals must be a challenge but also realistic.  Training to run a marathon may an achievable goal, winning the Olympics probably isn’t.

Goals must also be in your control. If the achievement of your goal is influenced by something external by you it is hard to stay motivated as it is out of your control. Set performance goals that focus on your behaviour and your actions, not on the influences of someone or something else.

9. Create a clear time-frame:

Create clear time frames for beginning and end dates for each goal as well as markers along the way. For example, if you want to achieve your ideal weight in three months time, where do you need to be in a month, in a weeks time? This will help you stay on track.

10. Set goals for all areas of your life:

If you don’t have goals in all areas of your life, it will be out of balance. For example, too much focus on work may cause you to overlook needs of your family or your health.  Read more about setting balanced goals here.

11. Ensure your goals are legal and ethical:

Make sure your goals are good for you, good for those close to you and good for the greater good of society.

These are the principles I apply to my own goal setting and working with clients.

Applying them won’t mean your guaranteed to hit your goal – you still need to do the work.  But it will help with setting realistic, relevant goals within your control and aligned to your core values.

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