Self Improvement Skills

How To Set Good Goals


0. Set SMART Goals


Specific: Focus on a specific area - What do I want to accomplish? Why? Who is involved? Where? What else do you need/lack?

Measurable: Quantify what success will look like - 'lose 10 pounds in two months'.

Achievable: How realistic is the goal based on other constraints?

Realistic: Does this seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? Do you have the resources?

Time-related: When the result(s) can be achieved. What can you do today?


1. 'Why' goals vs 'What' goals: We form a goal in 'why' terms or in 'what' terms. E.g. 'I'm trying to ensure a better future for my kids' vs 'I am working 60 hours a work handling telephone support.'


Thinking in 'why' terms motivates us, helps us motivate by showing us the big goals/the big picture, and is about the desirability of something; on the hand other hand, thinking in 'what' terms helps us think about specifics, which is useful for complex or unfamiliar tasks, and is about the feasibility of something.


2. Positive thinking is helpful, but only if it's realistic. So, visualize yourself succeeding, and see what obstacles you found along the way. Make a plan to deal with those obstacles.


3. People whose goals are about getting better tend to succeed more than people whose goals are about showing how good they already are.


4. Planning is a very important task for successfully achieving goals. Strategies like 'if-then' rules work especially well, and should be thought out before we start working on the goal.


5. We can achieve goals more if we practice self-control/willpower.


6. We perform better when we believe in our abilities and, more importantly, believe that our abilities 'can' improve. We will also perform better when we believe our skills and abilities can improve and are not fixed quantities.


7. Intrinsic motivations like connectedness (feeling connected with people), autonomy (feeling like you control what you're working on), and competence (feeling like you're good at what you do) are more effective than extrinsic motivations (money, threats, etc.). Extrinsic motivations often undermine intrinsic ones.


8. Goal-setting rule: People will do what you ask of them, and rarely more.


So, set the bar high. Don't tell them you want them to do their best. Tell them a specific goal - 'Increase sales by 50% this year.'


9. Being Good vs. Getting Better: There are two principal types of goals - those where we want to show how good we are at something ('performance goals') and those where we want to get better at something ('mastery goals').


Performance goals: All-or-nothing goals. Either show you are good or you were just bluffing. Performance goals help people do better when tasks are easy and rewards are at stake. People keep working as long as they are winning, but you can be dejected easily too and quit. Short-term thinking can only last so long.


Mastery goals works for people as long they keep improving, and they also do better at harder tasks.


10. Optimism vs. Pessimism: Optimists tend to focus on optimizing/maximizing gains ('promotion goals') while pessimists focus on avoiding/minimizing losses ('prevention goals').


When we are after a 'promotion goal', our motivation increases as we get closer to success. When we are after 'prevention goals', we become more wary/vigilant with every negative feedback.


'Prevention goals' help us conserve goals, whereas 'promotion goals' help us follow best practice sand role models.


11. Goals and Happiness: Goal experts say we seek three things - relatedness (connected with other people), competence (skills), and autonomy. Goals that satisfy all these three make us more happy than goals that do not, that is, goals involving pursuit of fame, money, acceptance and other 'desires/wants' don't make us that happy in the long run.


12. Dealing with tough goals: Divide hard goals into a series of specific steps. Think about the big picture, why you are pursuing that goal.


13. To improve grit ('a combination of both long-term commitment and persistence'): Focus on getting-better goals that emphasize progress and improvement. Grit decides whether (or when ) we will give up on our goal/s.


(Source: Adapted from 'Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals' by Heidi Grant Halvorson)


Thank you for reading.
If you found this guide useful, please share this with your friends and family. 

There are 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life in The Success Manual. Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.