You can’t get anywhere without clear, specific goals. Here’s the ultimate guide to writing crystal-clear goals that will help you improve any area of your life: career, financial, physical.
- Is it your goal—not someone else’s goal or expectation?
- Does it have a strong, emotional “why”? In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart.
- Is it specific?
- Is it measurable? For example, $100 each month for 12 months or 3 workouts a week. Anything that’s tracked usually grows.
- Is it attainable? Reach and dream, but understand what you really need to do or have to achieve your goals.
- Is it relevant to your values or a bigger vision? This goes back to your “why”.
- Does it have a deadline? Giving yourself a deadline helps you reverse engineer your goal into smaller, easier-to-comprehend pieces. For example, if you want to save $1,000 in 6 months in a vacation sinking fund, then you need to save $167 at a minimum each month. Also, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Time management is largely psychological. We naturally pace ourselves to finish a project in the nick of time, for example, clean the whole apartment in 90 minutes. So giving yourself a deadline could subconsciously make you complete your goal on time.
- Is it written on paper or typed? You become 42% more likely to achieve goals just by writing them down on a regular basis, according to a psychology study from Dominican University.
- Is it somewhere you can see it every day?
- Did you share it with another person? An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found you have a 65% chance of completing a goal of you committing to someone.
- Did you list specific tasks you must complete to achieve the goal?
- BONUS: Is it written in the present tense? In No Excuses, Brian Tracy writes: “Write them down in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them.” For example, replace “I will earn $100,000 a year by 2021.” with “I earn $100,000 a year by December 31, 2020.” These goals activate the law of expectation and law of attraction, Tracy states. He believes your subconscious mind is only activated by goals that are stated in the personal, positive and pretense tense—the “3 P’s.”
- BONUS: Did you list potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them? In Exponential Living, Sheri Riley writes “Preparation is the key to getting through the NOs, and getting through the NOs is the key to victory. Preparation equals expectation. To prepare is to have a plan. That means thinking about the obstacles you might face ahead of time, and having contingency steps ready to implement when those obstacles arise. You will face obstacles; the key is to not let those obstacles come as a shock to you. … if you mentally prepare for obstacles and have a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll be able to remain engaged.”
Here’s an example of a clear goal:
Goal: As of Dec. 31, 2020, I have $12,000 in savings because I set up a savings account at a bank that doesn’t house my checking account, set up automatic deposits each paycheck of $500, went without some wants and prioritized savings in my budget.
Why? I want to be able to cover 4 months of my family’s expenses in case we lose our income. I want to have peace of mind and a greater sense of security by planning ahead. I don’t want my family to be a burden on others.
Written or typed? Both.
Shared with: Bae and Instagram friends.
Daily reminder: On phone and nightstand.
Obstacles: Dipping into the savings account for wants or other goals.
Solutions: Save in an account with withdrawal limits and rename the account “Family Freedom Fund” to remember my “why.”
This is all backed up by science.
Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than halfway there) compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.
Participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.
Group 1 was asked to simply think about business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success).
Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.
Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal. Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.
Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.
There you have it! Use this checklist to get started on your goals today. Happy goal-setting!