Goal Setting: Why Is It Important
Updated: Jun 20
Setting Better Goals - Strategies for Success
It was January 1996. I was sitting at the camping table at our caravan site in the middle of the summer school holidays with my freshly purchased diary, coloured pens and my calendar year ballet schedule spread out before me. As I sat there contemplating exactly which colour I was going to use to represent which activity, I thought about all the things I have on my ‘bucket list’ for that year. I started a note in the back of my diary:
Win state competition
Lead role in that year’s performance with the Youth Company
Live at 100%.
As I looked at my list, I started to flip through my calendar and began adding in some key dates and measurables so that I would know I was on track.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I've been a goal-setter since WAY BACK. Every year, I still fill out my diary, and every year I break down those goals into bite-size chunks. It's more of a finesse process these days, and I revisit it more frequently. I’d like to share some of the reasons I still practise setting goals every month, specifically at the end of the financial year and the new calendar year. I mean really, is there anything better than a brand new clean slate to work with?
Whether it’s a leadership development goal, a revenue goal or something more personal like a health goal, these are my insights into how to set goals like a pro.
Let's start at the beginning, by actually setting some goals. A study by Dominican University found that people who set goals are 43 percent more likely to achieve them. And the more specific your goals are the more motivated you become, increasing your chances of achieving your goals. (Journal of Applied Psychology)
The foundations of goal setting start with SMART goals, and yes, they can be clever goals, but SMART goals are written in a specific way. The acronym stands for:
Specific — Vague goals are rarely achieved. What needs to happen by when?
Measurable — Is your goal quantifiable? Add a benchmark so you know you’ve achieved your goal.
Achievable — Time to get real! Can you reasonably accomplish the goal?
Relevant — This is your ‘why’. What will change for the better if you achieve your goal?
Time-bound — To stay on track put some deadlines and milestones along the way.
Even just writing down your goal can increase your chances of achieving it. There are a few different ways you can write goals. They all have their merits and a place in the goal-setting process.
Big picture perspective
Start with the big picture in mind (12 months is always a good guidepost.) The best time for action is right now, don’t fall into the trap of waiting for the perfect time to start (it doesn’t exist).
Reflect on your last 12 months: what worked, what didn’t, and what do you want to do more (or less) of?
Now, looking 12 months ahead, what do you want your life to look like at the end of the 12-month period? You might want to brainstorm some ideas. I use sticky notes, a whiteboard and a planner to help me be really specific about my goals.
Here’s an example of a SMART goal for becoming a better leader at work:
Specific: I will ensure that my team members can count on me as a strong leader.
Measurable: My goal is to survey my team members now and in three months to see how supported they feel.
Attainable: I’ve been in this position for six months now, and I have previous management experience at my prior job.
Relevant: As our company grows, I want to make sure that I’m supporting my team so they can learn and grow too.
Time-bound: I will become a better leader by the end of this quarter before the company takes on new projects and hires more staff.
Once you’ve defined your goals it is time to set about achieving them. We do this by breaking them down into manageable steps and creating an action plan. It also helps to visualise your goals - imagine what success would look and feel like.
An important piece of goal-setting and getting puzzled is accountability. Sharing goals makes them real. Share them with your significant other, family, friends, a colleague or mentor — whomever you feel comfortable with. A study by the Journal of Applied Psychology states that presenting weekly progress reports of your goal increases your success rate by 40 percent so if you can, have an accountability buddy you can regularly update on progress.
Things that could derail your goal setting and getting:
We lose sight of why we are doing this and what we will gain from it
We focus on the reward instead of the effort
We don’t plan
We don’t anticipate problems
We overestimate time and resources.
Eyes on the prize - and the process
A successful goal is more than a result. It’s also about skills development, progress and growth. So yes, stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve but don’t be blinkered by what’s happening along the way so you can successfully navigate to the finish line!
I have created a Reflect & Celebrate workbook - it’s designed for the end of the year but works just as well for EOFY. Download your copy here.
Until next time Eat the Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird, and book some training or coaching with me!
Ally Nitschke is a Leadership Expert, Courageous Conversation Specialist and Speaker. She has been working with leaders and as a Leader for over 15 years. She is on a mission to change the way we communicate at work, to lean into those uncomfortable conversations and lead with courage. Ally delivers Courageous Conversations Programs, Courageous Leadership programs, Coaching, Mentoring and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.