Mankind is by nature a goal-seeking creature. To live happily, achieve success and be loved are goals shared universally by all people. Everyone has goals, even if they are better understood as “wishes,” “dreams,” “targets” or “ideals.” Why, then, do some people achieve success consistently, while others rarely or never get where they aim to go?
The answer is largely the method used to identify, set, plan and manage goals through to completion. Many people have no formal goal-setting method at all. Others use methods that miss one or more of the key ingredients in a sound goal-management program.
The best method for setting and reaching goals is one that meets each of the essential goal management principles described below.
“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.” – Earl Nightingale
Seven Essential Principles of Goal Management
• Pursue goals selectively
Not everything one seems to want proves to be worth the time, money and energy involved in making it happen. When one trims his or her goal list down to the ones that really matter, there are more resources to dedicate to each one. For each goal considered, ask, Does it inspire one to take action right away?
Does it seem likely achievable, or is there a smaller version of the goal that fits better now? Finally, are you willing to sacrifice other goals to achieve this one?
• Keep goal information well organized
Ideally, there will be goal management software designed specifically for this purpose. The next best way to keep goals is to establish a tree of folders on a computer and keep the goals in text documents with any additional image or other files required. Using paper and pen is effective only if one has extraordinary amounts of time, patience and organizational skill. Most pen/paper goal lists lack consistency, and are quickly outdated and set aside.
• Set SMART goals
Test each goal against the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) criteria. Specific, the goal has a clear focus and the desired result is communicated with precision. Measurable: One will be able to know whether the goal has been achieved or not because there is a way to measure the results. Achievable: Based on the present stage, one foresees that it is reasonably possible to achieve the target result within the time constraints. Relevant: The goal makes sense and is inspiring. Time-based: There is a date set for completion.
• Plan goals thoroughly
Goals are destinations one aims to reach. How, and if, one achieves goals depends on the quality and degree of planning put into place for the goal. Take into account the time, money, energy and other primary factors involved in reaching each goal.
• Review goals regularly
The more often one considers the goal, the more often he or she will have ideas on how to achieve it. Review time can be used to update the goal plan, add notes about progress, check off lists of tasks related to the goal, and add new action items to the goal. Reviewing goals is the ongoing process of caring for and managing the goal through to its completion. Some simple goals will need a little review, while complex major goals may require daily review for several years.
• Involve others in goals
The support and encouragement of others is critical to success. Share goals with friends, relatives, colleagues, anyone who is interested and in whom one has confidence. Many of the goals will require the products and services of other people, companies, and groups; choose these relationships carefully and embrace them as an integral component in one’s success.
• Dedicate resources to goals effectively
Just as the body needs food, water, and oxygen, goals have requirements in order to survive and grow. These requirements come in the form of resources that include time, money, skills/knowledge, and other components. Think of resources like fuel. One’s overall ability to achieve depends both on creating sufficient fuel, and distributing it where it is used most efficiently. Aim to ensure that each goal is receiving enough resources. Reform or eliminate any goals that “hog” resources without providing proportionate value.