The Importance of Goal Setting

By: Professor Colin Black

“If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Why set goals? Simple – without a roadmap you will never reach your desired destination.

Professional athletes, movie stars, successful businesspeople and top achievers in all fields set goals. Goal setting provides you with a vision of your future, motivation to achieve each stepping stone toward success, and an incredible sense of self-worth. Here are 5 reasons why setting proper goals is important:

1. Helps discover your purpose

Often when we make a weak goal we don’t really reflect on what we really want. We think we want more money or more free time, but we don’t truly understand what the driving force behind those thoughts. When we decide to do anything, we should always ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” or “Why is this important to me?” Asking these questions will help you find the true reasons behind your actions. If that reason is not aligned with your own personal principles or values, then your life will feel out of sync. Proper goal setting requires that you self-reflect on your principles and values. Those principles and values then guide you on your course toward success.

2. Helps you direct your own success

Most of us don’t hop in our car and just start driving without a destination in mind, a GPS system to help us navigate, and enough snacks and music to make the trip successful. Setting specific definable goals helps you map out all of the twists and turns (or mini-goals, benchmarks) along the way and keeps you directed toward the end goal. Developing a series of incremental stepping stone goals will help you understand what you need to do each day, week, month, year until you finally reach your ultimate goal. Further, reaching each mini-goal or benchmark is an accomplishment worthy of celebration and reward that can further encourage and motivate.

3. Helps you get clarity and focus

We are all familiar with the typical pattern that comes with working toward our vague New Years’ resolutions, whether it’s exercise more, eat less, be nicer, or make more money: on January 2nd, you get excited and work like mad — and then — your motivation begins to wane and by February 1, the gyms are empty again, the chocolate is back in the cabinet, we forget to hold the door for a stranger and we fail to push for that raise. Having clear, specific, definable and measurable goals provides clarity on what you need to do and helps you focus. Visualizing these goals also helps you connect your goals to your values and provides the necessary motivational energy to help work through periods of waning focus.

4. Helps you keep track of your progress

If we don’t know where we are, how can we know where we are going? The GPS in our vehicles is constantly tracking our movements and updating us on our location and alerting us if we take a wrong turn. Setting specific and measurable goals helps us determine whether our daily, weekly and monthly actions are aligned with our goals. And we take a wrong turn, we can quickly make minor adjustments to get ourselves back on track. Keeping ourselves accountable for our actions helps prevent us from succumbing to distractions or address hurdles that we find in our way toward our goals.

5. Helps generate peace of mind

How many times have you felt so harried about all of the things you have on your plate? School, work, family, friends, health, keeping up with your Netflix binges, etc. It can be overwhelming and stressful. Setting proper goals with specific manageable benchmarks helps you see the full picture of your obligations. It also helps turn the mountain of “stuff to do” and turns it into smaller trails and hills that you can easily walk and accomplish. When we get control over our obligations then the mountain doesn’t seem so insurmountable. As a result, our stress level decreases and our senses of accomplishment increases. Furthermore, achieving goals builds character, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.