Goal Setting: The More Specific, the Better 

People often talk about setting goals. But how specific do we get when we are doing goal setting? What is a goal, anyway? Merriam-Webster.com defines a goal as “something that you are trying to do or achieve”.

That’s pretty vague. Something I’ve noticed over the years is that the more specific one’s goals are, the more likely we will make progress toward their achievement. If goals stay general, they are almost never helpful. 

Consider the following with regard to making goals more specific:

  • What do you actually want to accomplish, in measurable terms? For example, if you want to lose 10 lbs., that is specific. Saying, "I want to lose 10 lbs. in 3 months" is even better. Saying “I want to lose some weight” is pretty vague. To put this another way, is your goal specific enough that you will know when you’ve reached it?
  • Do you have a deadline? By what date do you want to reach your goal? By when do you want to lose 10 lbs? Setting a date gives the goal some focus, a sense of urgency that reminds us our goal is important.
  • To have an action plan is critical! What steps will you be taking in order to reach your desired end? If you develop a specific, written plan for the achievement of your goal, you have a road map!

For more information about the importance of being specific and committing goals to writing, take a look at this link.

Important Considerations for Goal Setting

In addition to these factors, it is important to consider that

  • The effort involved in determining the what, when, where, and how of your goal will in itself help you get more focused on your outcome
  • Writing goals down will get you thinking about other, similar areas in your life in which you can progress--the mind works by association!
  • When you get more specific about your goals, you are able to see--and celebrate--your progress. Vague goals can leave us wondering if we’ve really made any progress at all
  • You will more clearly see the action steps that you need to take as you make progress toward the goal. For example, if you set a specific goal of losing 10 lbs in the next 90 days, you will be clear exactly how much further you need to go at any point
  • Be flexible. There will be times when you realize that your original goal was unrealistic, or perhaps not challenging enough. Take a look at your written goals once weekly or more
  • If you wish, write down any obstacles that may stand in the way of your reaching the goal. However, if you do this, you need to also have a plan for how you will overcome this obstacle. (Example: an obstacle to weight-loss could be your sedentary job, or a physical inability to do much aerobic exercise. In these cases, you’ll need to think of specific ways to work around this limitation, such as more attention to diet, drinking large amounts of water, or other strategy)

If you find that you need support in setting and clarifying your goals, consider one of these two things:

  • Get some clarity on your values. This can be done through journaling, introspection, or even by doing a Values Card Sort exercise
  • More information and insights on clarifying what is important to us on the personal values page
  • Talk with a mental health professional, particularly one that has experience with helping people clarify and work toward specific goals

Balance is Critical when Setting Goals

As you think about what goals to set, consider the importance of balance in your life. By this, I mean balancing attention paid to the following life areas:

  • Social life
  • Spiritual
  • Physical well-being
  • Mental/Emotional health
  • Any other major life areas that you feel need attention

Ideally, you would have at least one written goal in each of these areas. Setting and taking steps toward goals in these areas will help you attain some balance. As mentioned before, consider seeing an expert in the fields listed above if you feel stuck (pastor, fitness coach, doctor, mental health counselor, etc.).

In addition, the self-care page can give you some valuable insights about attaining balance in your life. 

Need a Goal Setting Template?

Good news! If you find that having a template would help you get started in committing your goals to paper, the image below is a simple example that you could use or modify to your needs. Many other examples are available online by Googling “Goal Setting Templates”.

However you write your goals down, please make them specific. As you do, they begin to come alive, especially if they are meaningful for you. Take some time with this process. Goal setting is critical in determining the direction we are going in our life. What could be more important than that? 

Finally, I must conclude by stating that I've been amazed at the power of goal setting in my own life, and that of others. The time and energy is easily worth it, and pays HUGE dividends in our lives!

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