What Are You Working Toward? The Importance of Goal Setting
Do you feel like you are just going through the motions, moving through your days on autopilot with no real sense of purpose or direction? If so, you are not alone. A 2017 survey found only about a third of Americans have an actual plan for their life.
Like most people, you have probably spent some time thinking about what your life might look like years down the road—daydreaming about having a cushy job, a big house, a fancy car, and a happy family. Unfortunately, these things are unlikely to fall into your lap and typically require focus, determination, and a little (or most likely a lot) of hard work.
To get where you want to be in life, you will need a clear vision for your future so you can set the appropriate goals that will help you succeed. But, as you will soon see, goal setting actually helps you create that vision, and is important because it keeps you motivated, improves your performance, and ultimately provides a clear path towards success.
Goals are great motivators
Having goals to work toward is a great way to both get and stay motivated. Since we were children, goals, and the benefits of reaching those goals, have been a major source of motivation—and it remains true throughout our adult lives. “If you get straight As, you can have X amount of money,” is the same as “If you make the most sales for the quarter, you will get a big promotion”—whatever the case may be, research shows having a goal and benefitting from its achievement can be a very effective motivator.
Even without external recognition, praise, and/or reward, through the achievement of goals, we gain a sense of accomplishment, elevated self-confidence, and enhanced self-efficacy that serves to make us want to challenge ourselves even further when setting our future objectives. Plus, the closer we get to where we want to be, the more likely we are to remain motivated to keep moving forward.
Goals improve performance
Setting goals has been shown to improve performance, and the more difficult the goal is, the higher the level of performance that’s required to accomplish the goal. Harder goals require a greater effort, focus, and energy in order to achieve. Thus, through pushing ourselves to accomplish the goals we set, we are not only able to hone and elevate our existing skills, we are also able to gain a new perspective on our potential capabilities.
With these enhanced capabilities typically comes greater opportunity and seizing on these opportunities can serve as a shortcut on a path to success. Whether they come in the form of a small raise, a big promotion, or a total career change, the benefits of improving your performance cannot be overstated.
Goals provide a roadmap to success
Without goals to focus on and work toward, we would likely lack direction and could end up wandering aimlessly through life. Thankfully, we can take control of where we are headed instead of just going with the flow. Having goals gives us a greater sense of purpose while providing a roadmap to success.
As we mentioned earlier, the closer we get to where we want to be, the more likely we are to keep moving forward. And the closer we get to our destination, the more clearly we can see where we will end up. This clarity can help us decide if we are, in fact, headed down the right path, or if we have made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. What we thought we wanted at one point in time may no longer be desirable—and that’s okay. When we achieve a goal, we have set and are left feeling unfulfilled, we have the opportunity to reevaluate the path we have chosen. Reaching our goals allows us to refine our vision for the future and confirm or correct the path we are on.
Finally, being goal-oriented is great for helping you get what you want out of life, and it’s a character trait shared by many of the most successful people. While goal setting alone will not guarantee your success, it is invaluable for helping you realize your dreams and aspirations for the future.