Everyone has goals, whether explicit or implicit. We are all working toward some end or other. Goals are important in a number of different ways. Here are a few.
1. They enable us to focus.
Life is full of things demanding our attention. When we establish a goal, we pull something out of the white noise of experience and set it above everything else. We give it priority and make it something to focus our attention on.
2. They set things in motion.
When we set up a goal, we also set up an incentive to get moving toward that goal. It gives us a direction to move in and the spark that ignites us into action.
3. They give us a place to begin.
When we have a goal clear in our mind, we instantly create a starting point and an end point. It gives us a perspective on where we are and how far we have to go.
Goals are powerful tools. But the problem is that they are often not as effective as they could be.
We have a better chance of achieving some goals than others. An important reason for this is the way we articulate our goals. Some, for example, are kind of vague and general – exercise more, lose weight, spend less time on social media. What does more mean? How much weight, and what does less time mean? If the goal is not clear, it’s hard to know if you have accomplished it or not, or even how to reach the goal.
For goals to be really effective, they need to have several elements, according to psychologists.
Goals need to be clear and definite enough so that you know when you have reached it. For example, “I will lose weight,” is too vague. How much do you want to lose? Better: “I will lose 15 pounds in three months.” This is a much more precise and concrete way to state your goal.
2. Not too easy to reach, but not too difficult.
If the goal is too easy, we really won’t be motivated to go after it because we won’t feel it’s worth the effort. If it is too hard, we also will lose our motivation because we will consider it to be simply out of reach.
3. Goals need to mean something to us.
If the goal does not mean that much too us, we really won’t make much of an effort to reach it. The goal has to matter to us; it really has to mean something. We have to care about reaching it. It has to be something that will really make a difference in our lives.