Setting clear goals and focusing on them makes us feel better. The researchers describe the most effective techniques to achieve them.
There are people who have set the same goals so many times that they no longer take them seriously; or that they know they are inconstant and no new purposes are proposed; or they prefer to live spontaneously, improvise. Having goals, for them, would be a limitation. Clearly, life is full of uncertainty and we can’t plan everything, but having clear goals helps us focus, use and develop our skills and character strengths, structure our time, and have a sense of control, accomplishment, and achievement. success.
NOT EVERYTHING IS WILLPOWER: WHAT DO WE NEED TO ACHIEVE THE OBJECTIVES?
And why is it so difficult for us to carry out our projects, even when our desire to achieve them is genuine? We tend to have the impression of going around without reaching any goal, we get frustrated, and we throw in the towel. Maybe we blame ourselves for not having willpower or we feel incapable.
Indeed, willpower is very important, but we need something else to carry out our projects. Today, there is a true science of goals that can be very helpful to us.
Psychologists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, from the Universities of Maryland, USA, and Toronto, Canada, respectively, have specialized in the study of how to set goals and the mechanisms to achieve them.
Broadly speaking, your studies reveal that you are more likely to meet a goal if:
- The goal represents a challenge. If we have the necessary knowledge and skill, we are more likely to achieve a difficult goal than an easy one. For example, if we like to run, we can aim to participate in a 10K race in the next few months, instead of running a 5K race.
- The goal is specific. It is important to have a clear and concrete definition of what we want, something that can be measured or observed. For example, if we tell ourselves “I’ll exercise more,” we don’t set a specific goal. On the other hand, if we propose to go to the gym twice a week, one hour each time, we do establish clear and measurable objectives.
- We get feedback. We need to know our progress, it is essential to give us feedback, that is, to know what our progress is. Therefore, if we are studying, it is important to carry out a continuous evaluation instead of having a single test at the end of the course.
- Commitment to achieve it. Commitment is essential to achieve our goals and we only truly commit ourselves if the objective is really important to us (not just for other people) and if we believe that we can achieve it, if we see it as something achievable.
Locke emphasizes that achieving important goals takes work, that there are no shortcuts, and that it is our values and goals that drive us to action. He also points out that fear is one of the main obstacles: fear of change, of making mistakes. It is very important to prevent fear from boycotting what we value.
HOW CAN WE SET REALISTIC GOALS?
Two types of goals can be established: approach, which brings us closer to what we want; and avoidance, which help us avoid the unpleasant.
It has been proven that when our goal is to get close to something that excites us, that is attractive and important to us, we are more likely to achieve it than if our goal has to do with avoiding something undesirable. That is why it is preferable to consider projects in positive terms.
Among specialists who focus on action to obtain results, the acronym SMART (English word that means ready) is known. This acronym is formed with the initial of the words that characterize a good goal and that are:
- Simple or small. Therefore, if we have set ourselves a difficult goal, it is essential to divide it into steps or small stages.
- Measurable. We must be able to evaluate our progress.
- Realistic. Achievable and realistic go hand in hand.
- Time. And just as it is important to quantify the achievements, it is essential to specify them in time, to set a deadline for them.
COMMIT TO YOUR GOALS
Caroline Miller, a specialist in positive psychology and goal achievement, emphasizes the importance of putting our goals in writing to increase the chances of success. It has also been proven that we are more likely to achieve something if we are “accountable” to someone.
In his book, Creating Your Best Life (2008), Miller proposes that we write down each of our goals and answer the following questions:
- Is it specific and measurable?
- Is it a challenge?
- Is it related to a value important to me?
- What steps are necessary to achieve it?
- What obstacles can I face and how will I overcome them?
- How can I increase my commitment and motivation?
- What are the intermediate achievements to know my progress?
- Who am I going to be “accountable to?
Few things give as much satisfaction as a goal achieved, let’s take advantage of the knowledge that researchers provide us in this matter to achieve it.