For most people, goal setting takes place at the end of the calendar year. It’s not only a good time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in our personal and professional lives, but it also allows us the chance to think about starting the next year with a clean slate full of fresh and exciting possibilities.
When looking back on the results of the previous year, you will likely note that while you had the best intentions to make large strides or accomplish certain goals, when you take stock of where you are today versus a year ago, your life has not really changed measurably. You may have a little more or a little less money, you may have gained or lost a little bit of weight, but all in all, even with visions of grandeur, your life stayed relatively the same.
Don’t feel badly. Most people are in the same boat. The reason? Most do not understand the true commitment and process required to attain goals and make life-impacting changes. So how DO people really make massive shifts in their lives to ensure they reach their desired state of professional and personal success?
First, let’s take a look at what the research says about goal attainment.
In Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goals Setting and Task Motivation, Gary Latham (University of Toronto) and Edwin Locke (University of Maryland) summarize a 35-year-long empirical research study on goal setting theory. Most of their research focused on goal setting in business, in hopes of determining what truly works for business professionals and what does not.
Here is what they found:
• The highest levels of goal attainment were found with moderately-difficult to difficult goals
• The most difficult goals produced the highest levels of effort, but did not necessarily correlate to the highest levels of goal attainment.
• Self-efficacy (the belief that one can accomplish a goal) was critical in goal attainment.
• Feedback on progress was critical to success.
• The more specific the goal, the higher the level of successful goal attainment.
• The level of importance of the goal affected the outcome
These important points mean that goal attainment has several components that can be clearly defined and used to develop a process that will increase our chances of achieving our goals.
A word of caution, however: change can be hard. If it were simple, everyone would be living the life of their dreams. Success takes personal sacrifice, the ability to overcome adversity, and a high level of personal discipline...yes, that’s right, discipline. Success doesn’t care if you were hugged enough as a child or if you grew up on the right street. Success and goal attainment are about taking full ownership of where you currently stand in life and having confidence in your own ability to make the necessary changes to produce the desired results. If you are willing to put your personal baggage and self-doubt on the back burner, read on—you may find the opportunity for REAL change and the true potential for living your dream.
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