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Patrik Edblad

The 3 Essential Elements of Successful Goal Setting: The What, The Why & The How

in Goal Setting

Have you ever felt like you’re adrift in the world? Like you work hard but still don’t seem to get anywhere?

If so, one likely reason is that you haven’t taken enough time to consider what you want from your life, and turned these wishes into goals.

When done properly goal setting can be a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future and turning this vision into reality.

Goal setting helps you choose where you want to go in life. And when you know exactly what you want, you can concentrate your efforts.

Instead of drifting around, you can start to say no to distractions and take massive action on what is truly important to you.

Let’s explore how to create effective goals. Specifically, let’s look at the three essential elements of successful goals: The ‘What’, The ‘Why’, and The ‘How’.

Essential Element #1: The ‘What’

Most people have an idea of what they want to achieve, but more often than not, it’s painfully vague. ‘I want to lose weight’ is not a goal — it’s a wish.

To qualify as a goal, a statement needs to meet certain criterias. It needs to answer EXACTLY what it is you’re going to do.

And the best way to uncover this is to use an acronym there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with; S.M.A.R.T goals.

When you’ve taken your goal through the S.M.A.R.T. process, you can be sure you have the first essential element of your goal down. You’ll know exactly WHAT it is you’re going to do.

Specific — State exactly what it is you want to achieve. If your goal is to lose weight, write down exactly how much you’re aiming to lose. Clarity breeds achievement.

Measurable — If you do not measure your progress, you’ll have no idea of how you’re doing and no way of getting the small wins necessary to build motivation and momentum. Know exactly what your goal is on a yearly, monthly, weekly basis. Whenever possible, create a minimum daily quota to aim for.

Attainable — Your goal should be challenging enough to get you excited but not so hard that it causes you to consistently miss your mark. It’s usually a good idea to start small and increase the effort as you go.

Relevant — This is a very important criteria that a lot of people neglect. Before you set out to try to achieve your goal, ask yourself if it’s truly important to you or if you should spend your precious time elsewhere.

Timebound — Lastly, give your goal a specific deadline for its completion.

By considering these criterias, you’ll turn your vague intention into an actionable target.

For example, ‘I want to lose weight’ becomes ‘By December 31st, 2016, I’ll lose 22 lbs’.

Now you have a goal.

Essential Element #2: The ‘Why’

Once you’ve decided exactly WHAT it is you’re going to do, the next step is to get very clear on WHY you’re doing it.

This is the element of your goal that will provide you with the burning motivation you need to execute on it consistently, especially when things are not going your way.

There are two ways you can uncover your Why: by considering the pleasure you’ll gain from achieving your goal and the pain you’ll have to deal with if you don’t.

To build the necessary drive to constantly take action on your goals, ask yourself:

Pleasure questions:

  • If you change this now, how will your life be?
  • What will you gain?
  • What will it mean for the people you love?
  • What will it give you?

Pain questions:

  • If you don’t change this now, what will this cost you?
  • What has it cost you in the past?
  • What will you miss out on?
  • What does it cost the people you love?

Based on your answers to these questions list out at least three massively compelling reasons for why accomplishing this goal is an absolute must for you.

Also, list out three specific awesome things that will happen if you do, as well as the three worst things that will happen if you stay on the path you’re currently on.

And don’t be afraid to use big words. Be honest with yourself about what achieving this goal will give you, as well as the pain it will cause you if you don’t.

The pain and pleasure you associate with your goal is your fuel for achieving it.

The ‘How’

And finally, you need to have a concrete plan of action for reaching your goal. The ‘how’ will depend a lot on the type of goal you’re going after. Here are a couple of strategies that are always worth considering:

  1. Find the necessary resources and tools. Ask yourself where your knowledge gaps are for your goal as well as what tools and equipment would be helpful for creating and sustaining it. Write down a list of stuff you need.
  2. Design your environment. Alter your surroundings so that you’re taking action becomes easier and procrastinating becomes harder.
  3. Get accountability. Involve others in what you’re doing. Get a coach, mentor, trainer, tutor, accountability partner or someone else to help speed up your progress and hold you accountable.
  4. Create short-term rewards and consequences. Set up a token economy to celebrate your small wins and build momentum. Use commitment devices to ramp up the immediate consequences for procrastinating.
  5. Schedule it. If your goal is truly important to you, it deserves a spot on your daily schedule. Carve out the time you need to make it happen.
  6. Set up daily reminders of your why’s. If you don’t keep your goals front of mind, you’re very likely to get caught up in everyday life and quickly forget about them. Keep your most compelling ‘Why’s’ somewhere you’ll revisit them daily. Put them on your computer desktop, your screensaver, inside the cover of your journal, or whatever else works for reinforcing your goals daily.
  7. Create a weekly review. Use this time to keep track of your goal, celebrate your progress and adjust your approach as needed.

Enough drifting. What’s your what, why and how?