Most people can see the wisdom in this, but many still put off setting goals and memorializing them in writing. "I know what I want," the say, "so why bother with all that goal-setting crap?"
I know what they say, because I used to be one of the people saying it. But since I've become a fulltime freelance writer and editor, I've found myself being won over by the whole idea of setting specific, measurable, action-oriented, reachable, and time-limited (SMART) goals.
Goal-setting has several advantages.
1. It separates your intentions from your wishes and dreams.
T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, one said, "All men dream, but not equally." We all have things that we'd kind of like to do, but not badly enough to work to make them happen. Then, there are those dreams we would do anything to make come true. You can make these dreams your goals--your intentions--and figure out the steps you need to take to make them come true.
2. Goal-setting gives you an end point.
If you've ever been on a road trip with a small child, you know that the four most annoying words in the English language are, "Are we there yet?" When we don't set specific goals, we put ourselves in the same position as a bored, travel-weary child. We don't know when we're getting close to our destination, and we don't know when we've reached it. Suppose, for instance, your goal is to reduce your weight. Would you be "there" if you lost half a pound? Probably not. "I will weigh 135 pounds by March 31, 2012," lets you know exactly where you're going and how close you are to getting there.
3. Goal-setting challenges you to be just a little better than your current best.
Why set a goal to do something you're already doing? Instead, challenge yourself. If you normally write two hundreds words of your novel every day, try writing 500. If you cold call ten companies a day, make a goal to call 20 or 25 instead. Or, better yet, make a goal to try a new kind of marketing like email or direct mail campaigns.
4. Goal-setting helps you chart your course.
Once you know where you are going, you can think back from your desired end result and establish the steps it will take you to get where you want to be. If this feels overwhelming because you have a large goal, try breaking it down into several sub-goals and then break each of those goals down to specific behaviors you can take each day to bring yourself closer to the grand prize.
5. Goal-setting keeps you honest.
If you have a written goal that you review every day, there's no wiggle room when it comes to results. Unlike a dream, you can't just let it slip from your mind. Although it is appropriate to abandon goals that no longer suit your values or needs, you should avoid giving up on goals just because the path to achieving them is rough. Re-committing to your goal each day keeps you headed in the right direction, one step at a time.
6. Goal-setting reminds you of what's important.
Do you really want to have that piece of cake, or would you rather remain true to your goal to regain your health by losing fifty pounds? Having a written goal you can look at during moments of temptation can make all the difference in your ultimate success or failure.
7. Goal setting allows you to experience success.
When you reach a goal, take the time to celebrate, reward yourself, and bask in the warm glow of success. Of course, there will be other goals, but for now, just relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done.