Setting a goal releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which motivates us to take productive action, according to a study. But dopamine only spikes when we set a goal and again when we’re close to achieving it. That means it’s absent during the middle phase, where all the action happens.
Getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music, meditating and spending time in the sun can all boost dopamine levels. It’s a good start on your way to planning your goals and achieving them.
Setting the right goals
Without goals, you lack focus and direction. Goal setting also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.
To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it.
The 6 important rules of goal setting
1- Set goals that motivate you
Set goals that bring value in achieving them and relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. You need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude.
To make sure that your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you.
2- Set SMART goals
You have probably heard of SMART goals already. But do you always apply the rule? Goals should be:
Your goal must be clear and well-defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction.
Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To reduce expenses,” how will you know when you have been successful?
Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy.
Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want.
Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success.
3- Set goals in writing
The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. As you write, use the word “will” instead of “would like to” or “might.”
Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror, or refrigerator as a constant reminder.
4- Make an action plan
When focusing on the outcome, don’t forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal.
5- Stick with it
Develop reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals.
6- Deliberate and measured
Identifying a single grand goal, and leaving it at that, will set you up for disappointment. Instead, truly effective leaders set and manage goals in a more deliberate and measured way. They focus their eyes, and their efforts, on carefully defined milestones that mark a plausible path to their ultimate objective.
Setting goals well and clearly is essential to peak performance in virtually all professions.
A study of academic achievement published in 2015 found that pursuing “personal best goals” correlated with greater improvements in student achievement than pursuing mastery- or performance-based goals. “Personal best goals,” according to the study’s authors, are ones that aim for “specific, challenging, competitively self-referenced targets.”
They focus not on beating others, but on surpassing one’s past achievements.