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A Note on Goal Setting

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Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals but not others?

If you are not sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. The intuitive answer that you were born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others is really just one very small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggest that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do, also some help on luck, timing and opportunities.

Here are four tips on how to set and achieve your goals.

(1) First, get specific about what you want to achieve. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you’ll get better at responding to email is too vague. Be clear and precise: “I’ll acknowledge every email within 24 hours” leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do and whether or not you’ve actually done it. It is harder to measure how you are doing if the goal are not specified, plus, specification will give you merits on which your performance are measured.

(2) Second, decide where and when you will act on your goals. Given how busy most of us are and how many goals we are juggling at once, it’s not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers. Again, be as specific as possible. Block out time in your calendar. For instance, you might decide that if it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday, you’ll spend 30 minutes at 9:00 a.m. researching new sales leads. Studies have shown that this kind of planning will help your brain detect and seize that opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

(3) Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, our physical aptitudes are fixed—that no matter what we do, we won’t improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves rather than developing and acquiring new skills. Try to shift your mindset to a “get better” mindset instead of holding yourself to impossible standards of perfection. If everything is perfect, then, there’s no room for improvement !

(4) Finally, focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do. Research on thought suppression has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. For instance, if I tell you not to think about white bears, then all you’ll end up thinking about is white bears. The same holds true when it comes to behavior. By trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habits get strengthened instead of broken. If your goal is to overcome a bad habit, like losing your temper at work, focus on what you’ll do instead. For example, if you’re trying to gain control of your temper, you might make a plan like, “If I’m starting to feel angry, then I will take three deep breaths to calm down.” By using deep breathing as a replacement for giving in to your anger, your bad habit will get worn away over time, until it disappears completely.

Remember, you don’t need to become a different person to become a more successful one.

It’s never what you are, but what you do.

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