Strategies for Effective Goal Setting

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Goals are one of the most important aspects anyone can have in their life.  It gives you a sense of direction, something to look forward to, something to do, and something worth doing.  But also keep in mind that a goal without a plan is JUST A WISH!  Plan your goals out wisely and you’ll be rewarded handsomely.  Whether your goals are in sports, relationships, work, or school… setting goals can lead to increased motivation and a sense of accomplishment when those goals are reached.


Here are some things to keep in mind when setting goals:

1.     Your goal should be challenging… but realistic.

Your goal should not be so simple that you do not have a sense of accomplishment once the goal is achieved.  If you set a more challenging goal, it is more likely that you will improve your performance, as long as the goal is not so difficult that it is impossible to achieve.  If your goal is too difficult to achieve, you may fail to take it seriously or you’ll experience a sense of failure and frustration when you don’t meet the goal.  Therefore when you set a realistic goal, you will experience more success and feel more competent which builds self-confidence as well as reduced a fear of failure.  It is important to keep in mind that you should set goals that are achievable in relation to your skills and abilities.

2.     The goals should be specific and measureable.

Setting a specific goal is more effective than having a general goal.  The goal clearly states what      you would like to accomplish as well as how you will be able to measure the performance that relates to that goal.  For example a specific and measureable goal could be, “I am going to reduce my golf score by two strokes every round of golf that I play by concentrating more before I putt.”

3.     Goals should be expressed positive terms rather than negative terms.

It’s better to set goals that are positive rather than goals that are negative because it helps you to focus on success rather than failure.  For example a negative goal would be, “I do not want to strike out as much during my game.” A better way to turn that into a positive goal would be to ask yourself, “What needs to be done instead?”  For this example, to make the goal positive rather than negative, you could say, “I’m going to get at least one hit per game.”

4.     Set short-term AND long-term goals.

It’s important to have long-term goals, but it’s also important to break down long-term goals into short-term goals so that you’re able to feel a sense of achievement and success.  Having to wait a long time to achieve a long-term goal can decrease your motivation and lack of continued effort to achieve the goal.

5.     Identify specific ways in which you plan to achieve your goal.

You will never achieve your goal if you do not identify the specific ways in which you plan to meet your goal.  For example, you decide that you would like to lose ten pounds, but how are you going to do that?  Make sure to identify specific ways in which you plan to lose the weight which can include going to the gym three times a week, meeting with a nutritionist and developing a meal plan, or only drinking water.  Be as specific as possible!

6.     Record progress by setting a target date and when the goal is achieved.

Once you have set your specific goals and identified specific ways in which you plan to meet your goal, you then need to set a target date for when you want to achieve your goal.   Your target date should be written down someone where in a calendar or planner so that you are reminded of the target date often.

7.     Reward yourself when the goal has been achieved.

It is so important to reward yourself when you have achieved your goal.  Rewarding yourself reinforces the hard work that you put forth to achieve your goal and makes it more likely that you will be motivated to set and accomplish more goals in the future.  You can reward yourself with smaller things when short-term goals have been achieved (going out to eat at your favorite restaurant) and you can reward yourself with larger things when a long-term goals has been achieved (going on a vacation).

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Kimberly Wagner, Psy.D. PSY 25460
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May 2024
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