The Six Secrets of Effective Goals

I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.

– Zig Ziglar

Learning to set effective goals – goals that actually get done – can make or break a successful life. While bulldog-like tenacity puts you well on your way, it can only do so much. Although it can counteract deadweight goals to a point, the time will come when badly-crafted goals will overwhelm the most persistent perseverance, and the planner will be stagnated.

When, however, you combine these two powerful elements, strong goals and determined tenacity, great things can be done.

Carefully design goals containing all of the six potent attributes and enjoy the difference.

#1 Specific

Unless a goal is fully understood, it is impossible to accomplish it. Formulating your goals with specific, detailed clarity will make it attainable.

If you have trouble thinking of details for your goal, try answering some of these questions:

  • How?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • To What Extent?
  • Why?

Good Goal

Read five nonfiction books each month.

Bad Goal

Become more intelligent.

#2 Measurable

If your goal is not measurable, you cannot ever be sure that you achieved it. When a goal is specific enough, it will usually automatically become measurable.

Sometimes, however, a goal can be specific, yet still not measurable. For instance, “Increase productivity at work by 41%”. How do you measure productivity? A better goal might be, “Complete three non-essential improvement projects each week”.

Good Goal

Increase website sales by 50% through email marketing.

Bad Goal

Sell more online.

#3 Achievable

The best goals straddle the line between impossibly challenging and boringly easy. While an easy goal holds no excitement (more on that later), an overly-difficult goal plans for failure. Do not choose a goal you are 100% certain you can accomplish, but at the same time do not choose a goal you are 100% certain that you can not accomplish.

Also, remember that we all have different levels of understanding and experience, so what is attainable for you may be impossible for someone else and vise-versa.

Good Goal

Bicycle a complete century.*

Bad Goal

Skin dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

*See number six for further improvements on this goal.

#4 Time Bound

Managers and professors give you deadlines for a reason… they work. When something has a deadline, we are exponentially more likely to complete it (and probably within 24 hours of the cutoff point).

With a normal goal, you are forced to choose daily between success today and success “tomorrow”. Placing a time restriction changes the question. Now you are forced to make the much more powerful choice between success today and failure tomorrow. Is it any surprise that deadlines work?

Good Goal

Before the week is over, finish an article on goal design.

Bad Goal

Write an article on goal design.

#5 Exciting

It may seem obvious, but we, as humans, are drawn to activities we enjoy and repelled from activities we dislike. While this tendency can be (and often must be) overcome, complete efficiency can only be achieved when we find a way to make a goal exciting.

If you are unable to make a goal exciting, you really only have three choices:

  1. Do it immediately.
  2. Seriously reconsider whether the goal is necessary.
  3. Set an extremely strict deadline and hope you keep it.

Good Goal

Double vegetable intake.

Bad Goal

Find and use fast, tasty recipes that will double vegetable intake.

#6 Actionable

If a goal is too large, simply deciding where to start can be overwhelming. When put into practice, however, this presents a problem. Often, the large goals are the most important: starting a company, reading one thousand books, or founding a nation are undeniably somewhat large goals, yet all are quite important.

Thankfully, there is a solution. Actionable steps.

By breaking a large goal into multiple smaller goals, you can avoid the pitfalls normally present in large goals and maintain forward momentum.

Good Goal

Find a good training program, practice regularly, then bicycle a century.

Bad Goal

Bicycle a century.

Call To Action

Rather than move on to the next part of your day and forget all about these six secrets of effective goals, take the next three minutes to craft one single goal that includes all six of these attributes.

Then, go out and do it!

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