This article is courtesy of lifehack.org. The original article can be found here: https://www.lifehack.org/898490/goal-setting-theory
We all have goals, whether we realize it or not. Dreams, hopes, visions of the future—these are all, in some way, a goal. The thing to remember about goals is that to be able to focus on them for the future, you have to recognize that they are goals and that they are something that you should be working towards. This is where the idea of a goal-setting theory can help you.
But what is goal-setting theory and why is it important for you to try out for yourself?
What Is the Goal-Setting Theory?
The Goal-Setting Theory was created by Edwin Locke in 1968. The main aspect of the theory was that it helped employees to feel motivated to be as productive as possible both in work and outside of work. It looks at the importance of having goals that were well-defined and set out as well as how feedback on these goals are given and received.
Locke knew that goals have to be not only realistic but also clear and defined. Many people set goals that are too vague in their nature. While this may make more sense to them at the time when it comes to achieving those goals, things are not going to be quite as easy as you may think.
There were five principles of the goal-setting theory created by Locke:
Clarity. A goal should be specific and clear
Challenge. While a goal should always be realistic in its nature, it should still challenge you.
Commitment. Your goal should have a positive outcome—a buy-in that is going to keep you looking towards it
Feedback. You should receive feedback throughout the process, helping you keep your goal on track (this will often mean that you need to involve someone else).
Complexity. If the goal is complicated and is going to take some time to complete, then it may be better to break it down into smaller goals along the way
Why Is It Worth Setting Goals Yourself?
The idea of the goal-setting theory is to help you achieve any goals that you may have. But to actually do this, first, you need to have goals in mind. You may be happy with how life is going at the moment and think that you don’t need to make any changes. But the truth is that we all have room for growth.
Here are some of the main reasons why it is worthwhile taking the time to set goals and look to your future, whether that is at work or in your personal life.
1. It Allows You to Take Control of Your Life
Do you ever feel that you are simply sleepwalking through life? That you are not in control of what you want or what you need? This may simply be because you are not in control of your own life. By setting yourself goals, you are effectively taking control of your life and where it can take you.
Of course, there are going to be things that get in the way and that can get you off track, but you are still going to feel much more ready to take control of your own life and where it is going.
2. It Gives You Something to Improve on
By taking the time to set yourself goals, you are acknowledging that there is more that you can do in your life. Complacency is not always a good trait to have. particularly when it comes to your working life.
It is always a better idea to give yourself something to improve on—to identify ways that you can make changes and build on what you know and what you can do.
Goals are the targets for those changes. They are your aim and they are what you will look forward to, even when things are not going quite the way that you want them to.
3. They Are Your Focus
We can all get distracted from time to time. Even when we know where we want to go, it can be hard to be laser-focused on whatever it is that you want to achieve.
When you have a set goal, you are giving yourself a light at the end of the tunnel. You have something that you can look at and think about for the future. This is less likely to result in you drifting off and ending up out of course.
4. They Motivate You
It can be hard to keep working towards something. Life can get in the way and put a roadblock on your plans. Motivation isn’t always something that comes naturally, and we all have times when we want to give up.
If you don’t have a goal that you are looking forward to in the future, then there is a much greater chance that you are going to give up when it gets hard.
A goal is a target, it is something that you know that you need to strive for. This means that you are definitely going to feel more motivated to keep trying and to keep pushing forward, even though it might be difficult at times.
5. They Can Impact Other Parts of Your Life
You may have set your goal for a very specific part of your life, such as your fitness or your career. However, the good news is that you can apply this to other parts of your life too. When you know how well a goal can work for you, then you will feel ready to set them for other things.
Before you know it, you will be a goal-setting expert and you will be able to change a variety of parts of your life and make sure that you are the best that you can be.
The Goal-Setting Process
Now that you have a better understanding of the goal-setting theory and know that you want to set goals and understand how they can be valuable to you, you are going to want to know the actual goal-setting process.
1. Write Down Your Goals
The first thing to do is to write down your goals. You might have them in your mind, but by writing them down, you are making them real and giving them force. This will be the driving force behind you achieving them in the end.
2. Make Them SMART
Next, you need to make sure that you make them as SMART as possible. SMART stands for Measurable, Achievable, Specific, and Time-based, which is the way wherein you can take a vague and weak goal and make it something that you can actually do in the future.
It is great to set a SMART goal, but you need to be able to actually meet its requirements. You must know how you are going to measure them along the way. How will you know when you have achieved them? Or how will you know whether or not you are on the right track?
3. Have a Deadline
You need to also set a deadline for your goal. Having a time-frame in mind will help you to create a sense of urgency, which will drive you towards your end goal. It is important that the deadline that you set is realistic and something that you can achieve.
Although, of course, it is worth remembering that if things are not quite working out how you hoped that they would, then you can make changes. You can also break down a bigger, longer-term goal into smaller chunks, which will help you to stay on track.
4. Know Your Obstacles
We all hope that we are going to be able to reach our goals with minimal issues, but there is always a chance that things are going to crop up along the way. By knowing what risks there may be and what challenges may come up, we can try to be more prepared for them.
There may be curveballs along the way, but for the most part, you should be able to identify the issues that could be there and look for ways that you can get through them.
Goals are something that can benefit us all. Sure, it is going to be hard to set them and then even harder to reach them. But it is always worthwhile trying for yourself.
While it is important to live in the here and now, it is still good to look to the future too. After all, without focusing on where you could be, how will you ever know what you can achieve?