First, your goals must be in harmony with one another, and not contradictory. You canít set a goal to start a successful business and simultaneously have a goal to spend half of your day at the golf course or beach. Your goals must be mutually supportive and reinforcing.
Second, your goals must be challenging. They must make you stretch without being overwhelmed. Initially you should set goals with at least a 50% chance of probability. This level is ideal for motivation, yet not so difficult that youíll become easily discouraged.
For example, letís say that you want to lose some weight. Set a goal to lose 1 or 2 pounds in the next two weeks, not 30 pounds. A major reason why people stop working out is because they want to see more results and they want to see them faster. But anything worthwhile takes time. Choose the philosophy of 1 or 2 pounds at a time and stay at it.
Third, you need goals that you could measure objectively. What fun would a sporting event be without keeping score? You need to set targets and have a way to keep score along the way. Do your best to measure your progress. If your goal is to stop complaining most of the time, then it may be trickier. Youíll have to be creative. Perhaps you can ask your family and friends at certain intervals about your progress.
Fourth, you need short-term and long-term goals. The ideal short-term goal for business, career, and personal planning is about 90 days. The ideal long-term period for the same goals is two to three years. These time horizons are ideal for continuous motivation.
Iíve always found that a goal looks much easier to achieve when you break it down into tiny segments that seem very manageable. For instance if you wanted to read a 450 page book that you know would add lots of value to your career or family life, you may avoid buying it because youíre convinced that you wonít find time to read it. But if you said ďI WILLĒ read this book over the next 90 days, that equates to 5 easy pages per night before you go to sleep. Just a little bit of discipline and motivation and youíll finish the book and have some motivation to propel you into setting more goals.
Make sure that your goals motivate YOU! Donít set goals that others think you should have. This may work in the short-term, but in the long-run, if it doesnít motivate you then your heart wonít be in it and youíll have every incentive to quit. Your own personal goals will have the force that is needed to push you through.
Plus, it is much more satisfying to set your own goal and to achieve it. If you set out to achieve a goal that someone else sets for you, then youíve surrendered one of your greatest gifts in life: the natural ability to direct your own life. If your grandfather was a doctor and your father was a doctor, and your brother was a doctor, but youíre an engineer at heart, than become that engineer. Plenty of people fulfill goals for others only to wish that theyíd used their life to fulfill their own.
Another goal-setting rule is to be flexible. We do not live in a static world; it is constantly changing. When you set a goal, you do so under the CURRENT conditions. You canít possibly know all of the changes that are coming in the future.
Letís use an example. Say that you set a goal to run 1 mile everyday. In a static world, this would be a piece of cake. Everyday would be just like the last and you could get it done with no problem. But what if a hurricane hits? What if you break your leg? What if your baby is about to be born? The point is: You canít beat yourself up over these things. Be flexible, and when something unexpected comes up, you adjust and get back to your goal afterwards. Our ever-changing world does not adjust itself to you and your goals; you must adjust yourself to it.
The ideal life is focused, purposeful, positive, and organized so that you are moving toward goals that are important to you every hour of every day.