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Goal setting techniques

By RICHARD WARD Published 17th Mar 2014
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Knowing what it is that you want to achieve can be an important part of success in any field, so developing an effective goal setting technique can be useful, no matter where your ambitions lie.

Goals can give us a specific direction to pursue, motivate us and make our actions feel more purposeful, while also offering practical guidance by shaping the steps we take, and rewarding us with a clear appreciation of what we are achieving.

Choosing the right goal is vital if we are to be motivated and confident in our abilities to succeed. A good goal should be one that matters to the person who will be pursuing it, and which they feel is challenging but not unattainable.

The process of goal setting should begin with a period of research, brainstorming or discussion during which the individual or team can think about what they want to achieve in the short, medium or long term. They should also consider how motivated they are to achieve these goals, and what skills they will need to develop in order to achieve them. A long-term personal goal that really motivates us can make even the less exciting steps that we have to take to get there seem more important.

Once we know what we want, the first steps towards our overarching goal, or all of the steps towards a smaller, shorter term goal, can then be set out. This can be broken down into goals for the next week, month or year described in more detail than those that we hope to accomplish in five or ten years. We can update our goals as we progress, so that the path towards our ultimate, long-term goal becomes clearer as we approach it.

The final goal should be broken down into a series of specific, manageable steps that can each act as a smaller goal and as a marker of our progress towards that ultimate achievement. Each step should be a specific, actionable, achievable goal that sets out a particular task we need to accomplish, and which makes it clear exactly how success will be measured. Goals should be prioritised so they can be managed effectively and a specific time frame in which they need to be accomplished should be set.

The goals should be written down, and ideally shared with someone who will provide support and keep track of progress, which should be evaluated regularly using measurable targets. Although the ultimate goal will itself be motivating, it can help to reward yourself as particular goals and targets are met. The goals themselves should also be reevaluated as time passes, so that they can be added to, modified or even removed as necessary. You may find that you were overly optimistic or pessimistic about your time frame, that your motivations have changed, or that new possibilities have opened up. Sticking to your goals can be important, but a certain amount of flexibility is also necessary.

In summary the key is to break a larger goal down into small parts and understand what needs to be done and what success will look like. There is an old business cliché, much used to cover this; 'How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time'. Sometimes these sayings are overused, but sometimes, because they are memorable, they can help to make things more easily understood.

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