You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have – Zig Ziglar
Achieving success in any area of one’s life or career always requires setting a goal. Most of us set “goals” daily but for some strange reason, never seem to be able to achieve them. The simple reason behind this is that we often set weak goals as opposed to strong and compelling goals. Weak goals will produce vague results, while specific goals will produce specific results. Goals that are clear and specific also provide the motivational drive to keep going when the going gets tough and challenges arise.
The plain fact is that the quality and intensity of our goals directly affect the results we get. One of the fundamental premises of goal-setting theory is that clear, specific and challenging goals have a far greater positive impact on our performance compared to weak and unspecific goals. Once you set a specific goal, you immediately apply purpose and significance to what would have been an otherwise vague or elusive objective.
An example of a specific goal would be “making extra R10, 000 over the next 90 days”, while an example of a weak goal would be “try my best to make some extra cash over the next few months”? While the overriding objective of both goals is to earn extra income over time, the fact that they are structured quite differently has a remarkable impact on effort, performance and likelihood of success.
Firstly, the second goal is too vague and does not provide a clear means of evaluating progress. You basically have no means of knowing if you have achieved your objective or even when you have, and consequently, your effort will be weak and inadequate. With the first goal, however, because the objective is clear and specific and the time frame is definite, your brain immediately switches into solution mode and begins to think of possible ways of achieving this objective. Your mind immediately hones in on this specific objective and begins to seek out possible solutions and alternatives. Furthermore, with the first goal, it is far easier to measure your progress and one of the ways to do this is to have milestones and evaluate your progress on a weekly basis. With this feedback mechanism, you are able to see how closer you are to your goal, what’s working, what’s not working, what you need to change and what you need to do more of.
Secondly, because the second goal is not precise, it allows for a wide range of possible results as opposed to one specific outcome. As the second goal allows for a range of possible outcomes (in other words, you can make anything from R0 to R1 million, and more), your mind will not be able to focus explicitly on a singular objective, thus making your level of effort and performance non-specific and varied. However, with the first objective, there is a target and time frame and consequently, your level of focus and performance increases. In addition, because the objective of the first goal is specific, i.e. R10, 000, you achieve two things – you immediately have an idea of the extent of effort to apply and it becomes easier to figure out what actions will achieve this particular outcome.
Therefore, for a goal to be effective the objective must be specific and there must be a definite time-frame attached to when the objective will be achieved. By applying a deadline to a goal, not only do we work at a faster pace to achieve the goal, but we become capable of applying prolonged effort until the goal is achieved. Furthermore, the goal must provide a feedback mechanism that allows you to measure your progress and this is achieved by applying deadlines and milestones to your goals.
Having a powerful, specific and compelling goal always makes the difference between success and failure. Once you truly know what you want, how you want it, when you want it and how you will go about getting it, you immediately tap into a powerful side of your subconscious and amazing things begin to happen.
While the specificity of a goal is important, the most important factor by far for successfully achieving any goal is belief. We must believe that our goal can be achieved and this is especially crucial when we have ambitious and aspirational goals. It is our belief that will pull us through when things get tough. It is our belief that will keep us committed to the end. It is belief that will keep us resilient. Remember, the most successful people in the world are not necessarily the smartest. Rather, the most successful people in the world are usually those who are not “smart enough to know when to give up on their goals”. Think about it.