The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Development
Isn’t it true that we are a product of our choices, decisions, and goals? We all get inspired by goals and believe in them. But we reach many dead-ends when the time comes to act on them. This article will deep dive into the concept of goal-setting and the time-proven ways to successfully achieve them.
Why is personal development necessary?
We may achieve many things in life, but if we really look into our achievements, we realize that we have just scratched the surface, and much-untapped potential is lying dormant – waiting to be unleashed! As we grow through life, we take on new roles, additional responsibilities, and face unique challenges.
We can be successful in all these aspects of our life by undergoing personal development, which can be achieved by making the right moves throughout the journey.
Confucius, the celebrated Chinese philosopher who lived in the 5th Century BC, gave the ultimate key to personal development:
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential….these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
These words are true even after 2,500 years of human history where mankind has pushed the limits of progressiveness to a whole new level. What will help us to achieve the happiness and satisfaction that comes from a life well-lived? It is by setting the right goals, at the right time, and with the right strategy in mind.
Our primary purpose is to convert our dreams into goals, goals into actionable plans, and our plans into reality. With this in mind, let’s learn the four-step approach of how to set such goals that lead to personal development.
#1: Set a Vision
None of us know what the immediate future holds for us. Everything is unknown and uncertain, and most of our plans are dependent on these uncertainties that lie ahead. But, what helps us to keep a measure of control on our future?
A personal vision.
What is a personal vision? A personal vision statement is a description of what you would like to achieve or accomplish in the long-term future. A vision is an anchor of all your strategic plans and outlines your ultimate purpose, thus giving you the motivation to carve out a road-map for your journey towards the vision.
As Tobi Delly said, “A vision is your first creation of the future” Any goal that you set needs to be aligned with your vision in life, and your vision should be an accurate reflection of what your values in life are. While thinking for the short-term is practical, but keeping our mind for the far-stretched future can help us keep long-term goals.
The importance of a personal vision statement was also mentioned by Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. In the section of the second habit, he said that highly successful people create a personal vision statement as a part of their future in mind.
How to set a personal vision statement?
The first step in creating a vision statement is to take an honest look into your life to understand what’s most important to you. Many people call it as “searching for your call”, or “finding your purpose”
The process of discovering yourself transcends the process of soul-searching. It is a strategic step where you discover your strengths, weaknesses, talents, financial constraints, circumstances, roadblocks, etc.
Many people find it difficult to focus their minds to come up with a vision statement. Scott Jeffrey, the founder of CEOsage has devised ‘The Mastery Method’, which is a guided process to help focus the mind using brainwave entertainment technology, which can be used by busy individuals to help calm their minds.
Recommended: Personal Development Starts with Self-Awareness
Now that you are relaxed you need to design your vision.
Craft your vision
The best way is to write down what you want to achieve in life and prioritize the most important one to you. Ask the following personal questions while preparing the vision statement:
1. What do you want to achieve in life?
2. What talents do you have that can help you achieve it?
3. What talents do you need to cultivate to achieve it?
4. Can you quantify your vision and put a deadline to it?
5. Can you see the final outcome clearly in your mind?
If you can think over for the answer to all the above questions, you can craft a relatable and practical vision statement for yourself.
When you have a clear vision in your mind, you are capturing an image of your future, and when you reinforce this image; it helps your mind to develop goals that lead you to success. In fact, as you progress through life, you may also find the need to adjust or revise your vision according to your circumstances.
With a clear vision, the next step is to build a master plan around it.
#2: Build a master plan
The realization of our vision depends on the goals that we set along the way, and the fulfillment of goals depends on the plans that we design for them. Creating a master plan for our goal helps achieve the following six personal goal-setting questions:
1. What do I exactly want to achieve?
2. Why do I want to keep this particular goal?
3. How do I measure my performance?
4. When do I perform my best?
5. Where am I now, and where do I want to be at the end of 3/5 years?
6. Who can help me improve my performance?
Before we create a master plan, we need to ensure that we have set clear short-term and long-term goals for our vision statement. This article will help you understand why goal setting is important and how to set SMART goals. Once you have ensured that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, you can create a master plan.
Your personal master plan needs to be a written road-map of your goals. It can be a chart, a book, or a diary that captures what you want to achieve in a certain period of time. Once those are clear, your master plan will then include a breakdown of your goals into actionable plans and tasks that you will undertake every single day till you reach your goal.
An important thing to understand about any master plan is the concept of “foreseeable future”. While a vision statement can embrace your whole life term, your goals and your master plan should reflect your actions for your nearby future, preferably for 2 or 3 years. Your master plan need not be just for one particular goal, but for your secondary smaller goals too, as we cannot ignore other aspects of our life just for one specific goal.
How can you create your master plan?
The process of creating the master plan begins in the same way as with developing the vision statement, and that is writing it down.
Your master plan book
Your master plan book, diary, or chart will be your blueprint for the years to come. To create a plan, you need to first list down the things in your life that impact your vision. This article will help you with a few meaningful goals that you can set in your life. Some of these things can be:
- Personal Skills
Once you have written your own list, analyze what is the most important aspect, and create a plan around it. Once you have analyzed it, ask yourself as to what you want to realistically achieve in the next three years. Your answer will be your final goal post, and now the real work of reaching to it begins.
If preparing a diary or chart is not your thing, the best way is to buy a goal-setting planner, such as the Passion Planner, that helps you organize your work and focus on your goals. You can also start your own bullet journal to help you on your journey.
Recommended: How Many Goals Should I Set At Once?
Break down your goal
In this article, we had discussed that not converting goals into daily actions is one of the biggest reasons why we fail to achieve them. Now that you have made sure that your goal is SMART, this is the time to break it down into actionable micro-goals. If your ultimate goal is three years away, then your micro-goals would be yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. Clearly define your objective and plan for each micro-goal.
Once you have written down all your micro-goals, you need to review them to ensure if they qualify as SMART goals, and are exciting enough to make you push yourself.
A superb strategy to help you break down your goals is the 1-3-5 goal setting technique. According to this unique strategy, you set 1 goal, followed by establishing 3 priorities and designing 5 strategies for each priority to achieve them. Your goal, priorities, and your strategies need to be specific.
Once your master plan is in place, you need to get started as early as possible, preferably the next day. As a part of your daily routine, review your personal master plan for a few minutes when you start your day, which will prepare your mind for the tasks you have laid out in the plan.
Once you have reviewed your day’s plan, start working on the most important tasks for that day and schedule a time for breaks and non-essential items. To keep you going, use the Pomodoro timer that lets you time your task for 25 mins and then take a break for 5 minutes. Once you have established your daily routine, you will find yourself enjoying your work.
Stick to it
Another important aspect to consider while making any plan is the determination to stick to it. Many people’s plans just fizzle out because of putting more energy into the thinking of the plan rather than its execution. Also, many people fail to accomplish what they have planned as they give up too soon on them. Our plans should include a contingency route too so that any unfavorable circumstances can be compensated. Lastly, it is important to discipline ourselves and cultivate good habits to make our plans and goals successful.
You can use the Habitify app to create daily mini-actions and move forward on the tasks with daily reminders. You can also use the timer feature to schedule your time and breaks.
Now with your master plan ready and rolling, it is important to go to the next phase of goal-setting, i.e. track your progress.
#3: Measure your progress
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”
This famous line by the management Guru Peter Drucker sums up our section.
We human beings have an urge to reach the finish line at all costs. Not all goals can be completed in a day, or in the manner we expected, and hence we need to continuously keep tracking our progress. A visual representation of how you have performed will help trigger your competitiveness to work harder and harder.
If you are making good progress with your goals, then you get the confidence of moving ahead. This is the most important reason why your goals should be measurable.
Many people suffer from what we call ‘completion bias’, which means that our brain seeks pleasure only in completing tasks. However, this can be tricky as your brain will focus only on completing smaller tasks to get that pleasure. This keeps people away from completing bigger tasks, and many give up on such tasks.
When you review your progress, it gives you the needed motivation to keep working towards its completion.
Now that you have a master plan, you need to set aside time every week to review the progress you have done, and course-correct your plan. You can call these as your ‘private tracking sessions’. When you track your progress, it will help you to:
- Stay committed
- Build consistency
- Develop accountability for your actions
- Identify your weaknesses
- Work smarter
- Evaluate progress
Remember to start tracking your progress from the first step and not in the middle of your journey, where things become difficult to manage.
How can you successfully track your progress?
Use numbers and figures to measure your progress that will give you a fair idea of what you want to achieve. Each goal has its own measurement tool and hence it is necessary to keep quantifying our progress to make it more appealing.
It is to be said that not all goals are quantifiable. Some goals cannot be simply measured by figures and numbers and, hence you may need to create your own ‘progress rating system’ that will help you work through your goals. For e.g., if your goal is to become a kind person, then you can use a rating system from 1-5 to understand where you stand. Conduct thorough research on the rating scale and make your own definitions for each point.
Since you have already broken your goal into small tasks, and have mapped them out in your personal master plan, it is important for you to build in ‘progress trackers’ after every small task where you can tick off your completed tasks. This task management routine will help you get a good feeling of completing smaller tasks along the day.
The importance of completing each small task is neatly explained by Edith Harbaugh, the CEO of LauchDarkly:
“Starting every day from zero increases team focus generates a concrete sense of accomplishment and forward motion, and helps prevent complacency.”
The Habitify app will help you measure your performance by providing an attractive dashboard with check-in graphs to track your journey. The progress bar feature and the streak count will help you remain confident. It will also help you beat procrastination and stay on the tasks.
While tracking your progress is important, you also need to take time to review your goals and see if they are relevant to the changing times. Our last step will help you achieve it.
#4 Review your goals
The recent times have seen the evolution of SMARTER goals, which extend beyond the concept of SMART goals. The SMART methodology helps you keep goals that can be easily achieved. However, SMART-ER goals take two additional steps – Evaluate, and Re-adjust. Why the need for two additional steps?
Achieving all the goals that you set is not that simple. If things start getting difficult along the way, you may need to step back and evaluate your goals. This continuous evaluation helps you check your progress and see if your goals are relevant. Goal evaluation helps you identify the following:
- Have your priorities changed?
- Are your tasks moving ahead as you planned?
- What is preventing you from achieving your goals?
- How well are you able to manage your master plan?
- Is it time to tweak, align, or change your goals?
- Is it time to re-adjust your expectations?
Once you have answered the above questions, you need to adjust the timelines in your master plan. As you evaluate your goals incrementally and measure the progress you have made, you may need to re-adjust your timelines.
For e.g. Let’s consider that your goal is to complete your school project in 6 months. Based on this goal, you would have ideally prepared a master plan by breaking the goal into two 3-monthly sprints and then further into monthly, weekly, and daily action plans.
Now, after 3 months, when you measure your progress, you see that you have completed just 1/4th of your project, due to unexpected circumstances. Now, when you evaluate your action plans and the final goal, you will ascertain the necessity of completing the remaining 3/4th in the next three months.
With this scenario, while your goal was SMART, you now need to apply the E and the R, and re-adjust your master plan and set new tighter deadlines.
The biggest benefit of goal evaluation and re-adjustment is that it refines your habits and increases the chances of achieving the goals after the evaluation. As this article suggests, the best can be achieved if you review your goals daily.
Recommended: How Often Should I Review My Goals?
What if you have failed to achieve your goal?
We may hit this roadblock even after putting our best into our master plan. Even if we have failed, we need to remember the following famous quote:
“Never let success get to your head; never let failure get to your heart.”
With this thought in mind, you can prepare a final ‘Success/Failure Analysis’ to understand your journey and where things went unexpected. The following process will help you:
- Write a brief description of the failure.
- What aspects of the master plan did you fail to achieve?
- Were those aspects of your control, or not?
- If in your control, what could you have done to improve?
- The takeaway message for the next goal.
Be positive about the entire episode. With the answers to the above, you can be confident that the next goal that you set will have more chances of success.
To Wrap Up
Setting goals for personal development can be a worthwhile effort if we channel our efforts into designing it. There are endless possibilities for success and endless factors for failure. A good strategy helps you wade between the two and achieve the former.
While our journeys will be different, the techniques to make it successful are the same. Once we start setting them, we will see the invisible taking shape in its own sweet time.
Maybe this is the time to step up and game on. Are you ready for it? Let’s do your best to forge yourselves, and gain mastery over our habits through effective goal-setting with Habitify - a data-driven habit tracking app which helps you track, measure goals and fulfil your personal development journey.