Why Goal Setting is Important for Personal Development
What is personal development and how goal-setting helps?
Let’s first attack the question – What is personal development? There are numerous scientific journals that define personal or self-development. The best one so far is given by K. Moore:
“Self-development is a glorious quest. It’s the desire to find your own freedom, to connect with your own sense of worth, and integrity, and happiness. To enjoy abundance.”
The above definition gives us the essence of personal development. It means to improve in all aspects of our life continuously by discovering who we really are and striving to become who we really want to be.
How does goal-setting come in the picture? Let’s put it this way – in your journey of personal development, goals act as your sails and rudder. They give you direction and help you when the waters get rough. If hard-work is your strong point, then a smartly set goal is your key to success.
We all know that a goal gives direction to our life. However, the road to personal development is riddled with obstacles, hence a clear set, strategic goal will make the journey easy. Let’s understand the 3 ways in which goal-setting helps you do it.
#1 Effective and strategic goals can improve chances of success
Setting goals can be like making investments. There is no fun factor at the beginning because you are parting with something. While making an investment, you need to part with your money for a specific period of time, and while setting goals, you have to sacrifice your time and resources. But one thing is sure; both will give excellent returns in the long term, if you set it strategically.
So, how does goal-setting help in personal development?
Personal development can be made easy through efficient goal-setting, as goal-setting helps you cultivate the necessary stamina, determination, and habits needed for personal development. Success in personal development is a result of focussed and deliberate efforts on our part, and carefully crafted goals help you do that.
What are some ways in which goal-setting acts like a fruitful investment?
When we set strategic goals in a smart way, it can prove to be a worthwhile investment that gives us long-term returns in the form of:
- Achievement of our purpose
- Control of our future
- Satisfaction and happiness
- Renewed hope
- Changes in our behavior and habits
Goal-setting is a good investment because it sets you on the path to positive performance and success. According to a study conducted by Locke and Latham in 1991 (based on Locke’s goal-setting theory), the only reason why some people perform better than others is because of their goals. According to this study, there are two attributes that define your goal: the content of the goal, and its intensity.
The content of the goal refers to how specific and clear your goal is, and how difficult it is. Goals that have clarity make a complicated task easier to achieve and thus improves focus, commitment, and the final outcome. The vaguer a goal is, the more are the chances of failing. If the goal is difficult, we tend to strive harder to achieve it. The content of a goal varies from person to person, and so are the efforts, and the final outcome.
The intensity of the goal refers to the mental and physical efforts put into designing the goal and achieving it. It also refers to the efforts we take in developing a strategy for our goal and the secondary help that we gain from others.
Unless our goals have the content and the intensity, our goal-setting will never work for us. The biggest return that we will get by setting goals is success in all areas of our self-development. Og Mandino said:
“The Victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting and achieving goals.”
Now let’s move on to the second reason why goal-setting is an important step towards personal development.
#2 Goal setting makes you a better person – since you compete with yourself
Isn’t it true that our life is like a competition, filled with people who are either confident and ambitious or self-absorbed and conceited? The biggest drawback of competing with others is the unhealthy desire of winning that can give rise to the stress of failing, and the fear of defeat. Also, the feeling that others are always better than you can eat you up.
All of this is counter-productive to the idea we are discussing because personal development is more about making yourself a better person, and not a bitter person.
How does goal-setting help you with this?
The core belief of the school of goal-setting is measuring your present progress with your past and chalking out your future. In this article, we had discussed the importance of why your goal should be SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goals revolve around the idea of discovering yourself and not competing with others.
When you set strategic goals, you are effectively competing with yourselves. You are setting your own goalposts and testing your own boundaries. You understand that winning is not about who crosses the finish line first, but the efforts you take in the journey and the satisfaction it gives you even if you don’t always win. Most importantly, by setting goals, you prove your worth to yourselves, and not others.
Another advantage of setting goals is that you redefine your success. When competing with others, you put yourself up in a race where success means beating others. But when you compete with yourself, you raise the bar, and success is no longer about beating others but beating yourself. In short, success becomes your skill and a part of your personality. Setting up your own race means you challenge yourself every day and achieve the satisfaction that comes from it.
In this race, failure won’t be a reason to get sad, but a stepping stone to learning.
The above two points help us understand the concept of goal-tracking. When we set measurable goals, it becomes easier for us to quantify our efforts and make improvements along the way. As repeated efforts become a part of our personality, we start seeing subtle changes in our habits and our overall demeanor.
Recommended: Personal Development Starts with Self-Awareness
This in turn helps us in understanding another important link between goal-setting and success – our habits.
#3 Goal setting acts as a trigger for habit change
There is no shortcut in the highway to success. We all need to spend time, effort, and make sacrifices to reach our goals. Our habits play an important role in achieving our goals, and hence we need to shape our behavior to align them with our goals. But this cannot be achieved overnight. We need to improve little-by-little, bit-by-bit every single day to bring out a marked difference.
To cut the story short, our behavior determines our habits, and habits lead us to our goal.
Habits are our automatic behavior, which forms the basis of our daily decisions and outcomes. To understand this better, Charles Duhigg, the author of The power of habit: why we do what we do in life and business, explained the process of the creation of habit, which is interesting to the concept we are discussing.
There are three key elements in a habit loop:
- Trigger – that initiates a behavior
- Routine – that maintains the behavior
- Reward – that awards the behavior
When you set a strategic goal, it acts as the first element – the trigger. When you act on your goal, you set a routine, the second element. With a commitment to the first two elements, you are bound to achieve the third element – success as your reward.
Trigger: You read the benefits of weight-loss in a health magazine and decide to reduce 6 pounds in three months.
Routine – You make and follow a diet plan, spend less on junk food, customize your kitchen, and wake up early and follow the exercise routines judiciously for 2 months.
Reward – The weight scales after 2 months shows you lesser by 6.5 pounds!
Recommended: A Strategic Approach to Building and Breaking Habits
The above process will repeat itself as the reward and trigger for your next goal. Hence, once the above flow begins, it then works in a cyclical manner with each reward for one goal acting as the trigger for your next goal, and so on.
Did you notice how setting a goal triggered the change in your habits? In the course of 2 months, you changed your eating habits, your sleeping habits, your exercise habits, and even your spending habits! If someone sets a goal, the trigger will automatically help him change the habits necessary for achieving his goals.
If you need a tool that can help you set the trigger and establish the routine, then we recommend you to try Habitify. It is a user-friendly app that helps you set daily habits and achieve them seamlessly.
In the end, when you change your habits for the better, you are effectively improving yourself, and getting a long way into the path to successful personal development.
Our brains have been uniquely designed to anticipate the outcome of our efforts. Personal development becomes easier to apply when we keep our eyes on the prize. One thing that we all need to remember is that there is no magic solution to personal development. Each of us has our own journey and our own demons to struggle.
Some of the information discussed above can give us a clue as to why goal-setting plays an important part in personal development. Henry David Thoreau gave a statement that sums up our discussion:
“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”
Let’s do our best to forge ourselves, and gain mastery over our habits through effective goal-setting. Start with Habitify from now to build your high-performance habits, set your own goals, and better in the journey of personal development.