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Goal Setting: Why Should I Set Goals?

The fact is that goal setting works! Research studies have shown a direct link between goals and enhanced performance in both sports and business. Earl Nightingale put it this way, "People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It's as simple as that."

Top Reasons to Set Goals

1. Goals can give you a target to aim for. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of the classic Psycho-Cybernetics, said that human beings have a built-in goal seeking "success mechanism" that is part of the subconscious mind. This success mechanism is constantly searching for ways to help us reach our targets and find answers to our problems. According to Maltz, we work and feel better when our success mechanism is fully engaged going after clear targets.

All we have to do to use this mechanism is to give it a target. Without one, our success mechanism lies dormant, or worse, pursues targets we didn't consciously choose.

Goals provide your success mechanism with clear targets of your own choosing based on what is most important to you.

2. Goals can help you concentrate your time and effort. One important reason goal setters achieve such outstanding results is that they have learned how to focus and concentrate their time, energy, and resources on a single objective; even if it is just for a few hours at a time. Their concentrated power can produce results that are much greater than those achievable through the diffused and unfocused energy many people use to get through their days.

A clear example of the power of the concentration and focusing of energy can be seen in a simple magnifying glass. The light from the sun arrives at the Earth as diffused energy.

We know the energy is there because we can feel the heat from sunlight on our skin. When this diffused energy is concentrated through a magnifying glass, and then focused on a specific point, it can easily burn a piece of paper or wood. The same amount of energy that in one instance could only produce a very slight increase in temperature, when focused can start a fire.

Another example is the laser beam. When all the light waves from a given source are concentrated so that they are all in phase, we end up with a laser beam. When a laser beam is focused on a given target, the results can be astounding: the light waves from a powerful laser beam can easily cut through a thick piece of metal. When we focus and concentrate our time, energy and resources, we can similarly cut through many of the challenges and obstacles that are standing in our way.

One major time management challenge we are facing today is that there are more things available for us to do than anyone could possibly attempt, let alone accomplish, in an entire lifetime. If we are not careful, it is very easy to diffuse our time and energy with many different trivial pursuits, aimless distractions, and general busyness.

Goals provide a way to focus and concentrate your time and energy into carefully chosen targets that are designed to make significant positive impacts in your life.

3. Goals can provide motivation, persistence and desire. Most significant accomplishments are riddled with obstacles, struggles, and failures. It is estimated that Thomas Edison failed over one thousand times before he finally discovered a way to make the light bulb work. It is very rare for something important to be accomplished successfully on the very first try.

If you want to achieve anything significant, it is likely that you will struggle and fail many times before you finally reach your target. High achievers keep picking themselves up after each fall and continue working steadily toward their targets until they finally reach their goal. Struggle and failure are often part of the price you have to pay for high achievement.

As you can see, any major accomplishment requires motivation and persistence. Where does this motivation come from? It comes from your desire and purpose, from the reasons why you want to accomplish it.

It's been said that a person with a big enough "why" can bear almost any "what" or "how." When your "why" is big enough, you find a way to reach your targets, even if you have to struggle and try many different things to get there.

One of the main reasons people give up so easily in the face of failure is that they lose sight of their "why." Goals can help you remember your "big why" when you need to pick yourself up and keep going in the face of adversity.

4. Goals can help you establish priorities. You will find many forks in the road between where you are now and where you want to be. Instead of just going with the flow and letting the "current" or other people's interests determine where you end up, you have to consciously decide which way to go.

Goals and the missions, visions, and dreams that inspire them, provide a natural framework to help you identify and establish your priorities and make the "right" choices based on the long-term view of what is most important to you.

5. Goals can provide a roadmap to take you from where you are to where you want to be. A well crafted strategy with an accompanying set of intermediate goals provides a framework to reach far away targets. One of the best ways to deal with large or seemingly "impossible" tasks is to break them up into a series of intermediate achievable steps and get to work on each piece. As Brian Tracy likes to say, "By the yard it's hard, but inch by inch it's a cinch!"

Your intermediate goals give you valuable feedback: they tell you whether you are making progress or not, and can warn you if you are getting off course.

In almost any endeavor, you will need to make adjustments to your plans and overall strategy as you learn from your mistakes, face and overcome obstacles, and experience unexpected setbacks. As the old adage states, "No plan survives first contact with the battlefield."

Your strategy will also need to change and adapt based on the situations and circumstances you experience.


Note that in all the five reasons above, I say that goals can help you in various ways. In order for goals to help you, they have to be the right kind of goals and you have to use them in the right way. The rest of this website is designed to help you do that.

Top Six Reasons People Don't Set Goals

Experts estimate that only 5-10% of people bother to think about their goals on a regular basis, and only 1% to 3% have clear written goals. If goal setting is such a powerful tool, why don't more people use it?

1. They don't have a good reason to set goals. Goals can help you get what you want, but they won't help you figure out what that is! You have to be clear about what you really want before you can use goals to help you get it.

See How to Figure Out What You Want for some tools, exercises, and ideas to help you get started.

2. They don't know about it. Another reason people don't set goals is that they don't realize the power and value of goal setting as a tool for success and high achievement. Maybe they were never introduced to goal setting. After all, it is not something usually taught in our school system. If you don't know about a tool, you can't use it.

3. They don't know how to use it. Many people think they have goals, but what they really have are just wishes. You ask them what their goals are and they say something vague and generic like "I want to be rich," "I want a better job," or "I want to be healthy." Those are good dreams to have, but they are not goals (learn more about the difference between wishes, dreams and goals.)

Others say that they tried goal setting and concluded that it doesn't work. They tell you something like "I tried setting a New Year's resolution a few years back, but I didn't even last a week!" What they don't realize is that most New Year's resolutions are merely vague wishes, not real goals. People almost never write them down or prepare a plan for achieving them.

Imagine someone trying to use a power drill without knowing that you have to plug it in, and then telling you that power drills don't work!  Goal setting is a tool that helps you achieve what you want step by step, but you need to know how to use it properly or you won't get anything from it.

4. Fear. Fear is a powerful emotion that can help us in many circumstances, but can also be destructive and paralyzing in others. Goal setting often requires us to overcome several deep rooted-fears: fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of the unknown. Failing to overcome these fears leads to mediocre goals that produce mediocre results, or worse, to not setting goals at all.

5. They feel too busy & disorganized. A common reason people don't set goals is that they are too busy and disorganized to even consider taking on new challenges. They reject the notion at a subconscious level and come up with excuse after excuse of why they can't set goals right now.

They just can't fool themselves into believing that they will be able to achieve their goals when they already feel stressed and overwhelmed just trying to cope with their current demands.

One common excuse is "I'll set goals  someday when things settle down a bit and I get more time," but they never end up finding the time. You have to make time for goal setting.

6. They get overwhelmed. Many people get inspired to try goal setting because they read about it or hear it on the news. They want to be more successful and achieve better results, and they understand that goal setting can help them.

A large number of them fall into a common trap that quickly leads to overwhelm and frustration, and they often end up abandoning goal setting before they even get started.

The trap I'm talking about is trying to set a large number of goals for every aspect of their life. They grab a piece of paper, write the word "Goals" on it and then struggle to come up with anything to put down. They are trying to juggle in their mind everything they want in all the different areas of their life before committing to any one thing. No wonder they can't find it.

Or they may come up with too many goals for everything from health, fitness, spouse, kids, community, spiritual, learning, career, money, toys... and quickly realize there is no way they can handle it.

Think of goal setting as a muscle. Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets, but you have to be gradual about it. What would happen if you go into the gym and try to bench press too much weight? You would strain or tear your chest muscles. To get stronger, muscles need gradual increases in resistance.

Goal setting is the same way; you have to start small and gradually build up. New goal setters should limit themselves to one small "warm-up" goal that they can pursue from beginning to end in a matter of a few weeks or months. After completing their first goal, they can increase the resistance by pursuing one or two larger goals.

Eventually, most people can simultaneously pursue one or two large goals in every important part of their life without feeling overwhelmed. They just have to get there gradually to avoid straining their goal setting "muscles."

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