Why Set Goals?… 4 Reasons And Responses
Ahh, the first week of school. Kids are
running around like maniacs thrilled to be back, swearing up and down main street because they haven’t had adults yelling at them about cursing for 2 1/2 months talking excitedly about what they had done over the summer. On the teacher side of things, it can be pretty exciting too. It’s nice to know that you have a fresh start, and in my case, with the same group of kiddos I had last year. In my first year, I was taught that you either teach your expectations about the classroom in the first few days/weeks, or you end up teaching them all year. So for the last week, I’ve been showing students how to enter my classroom, how to take notes, and how to speak to each other and myself. But one of the most important things that we did was a goal setting session for each and every class. And with my kiddos, the inquisitive group of munchkins, they’re not about to do work without complaining about it knowing why they’re doing it. So this week, one of the questions I heard over and over again was, “Why set goals?”
To be fair, they had every right to ask the question. And one of the things I love about teaching is that kids aren’t afraid to ask questions that some most adults are afraid to ask. Try asking someone where the internet came from. It makes for some interesting conversation…
So this week, I decided to go in depth, with you, dear reader, to answer the question I get every year, “Why set goals?”
Reason the First – The Obvious
Why set goals? Well, the first and most obvious reason seems to be screaming at us in the face. “If we don’t set goals, then how can we actually expect to achieve anything?”
Think about it: if I want to be able to run far, is that literally the end of the process? Or should I just say I want to run far, and then go out and run?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Having a goal is going to help you actually achieve something, because it means that you’re starting with the end in mind. Athletes use goals to figure out not just how they want to perform in a given week/month, but also to determine the trajectory of their careers. As a teacher, I use goal setting to find out what exactly it is that my kids think they can achieve (and then actually achieve). A financial planner is going to use goals to make sure that by the time their client wants to retire that they can actually do so.
So saying, ” I want to be stronger.”? Not gonna fly. Saying that, “I want to be good at math.”? I literally don’t even know what that means. “I want to be rich.”? … what?
Why set goals? Because you have to know where you’re going before you get there!
It outlines the process
Number two on the list of answers to “Why set goals” is the fact that not only will goals help yo know where you’re going to end up, but they also help lead you in a direction of planning. An example:
I have set a goal that by December of 2017, I would like to have 10,000 pageviews per month on this blog. It’s a difficult goal to achieve, considering I’m no expert in the world of blogging, but I’m chugging along as best I can. But do you think that when I set this goal that I didn’t figure out how I was actually going to achieve it? No.
I have planned out how many guest posts I need to do, and on what sites. I have a weekly plan on how I’m going to network and reach out to those blogger. I have a plan for Pinterest, for Twitter, and for Facebook, which is how I drive most of my traffic to this blog. I also have plans around SEO (and again, while I’m really no expert, I have had some success with this over the last few months). I even have a content strategy to drive more traffic.
But because I know what I want my end result to be, I’m working hard at making sure that I’m keeping up with each part of my strategy. I know how much traffic I need from Search vs. Pinterest vs. Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Direct Links. And that helps influence my weekly decisions.
But using goals to outline processes does not just end with bloggers. I guarantee you that body builders know exactly how much they need to lift in a given session, how many calories they need to consume, and what their breakdown of macro-nutirents has to be to get more swole then the Hulk. I promise you that a Fortune 500 CEO has certain metrics that he/she has to deliver on on a quarterly basis in order to maintain profitability and keep shareholders happy. I’m sure that the local pizzaria owner knows EXACTLY how many pizzas (and what kinds) have to be sold in order to put his daughter through college.
So goals aren’t just a pretty thing to have posted somewhere in your office. They’re vital in informing daily/weekly decisions.
It makes you record things
Alright, so you’ve set a goal for yourself. You’ve even outlined the process that you’re going to go through in order to achieve that goal. But here’s another really great answer to the question, “Why set goals?”:
It makes you write things down.
Maybe not literally, but it’s definitely going to force you to record your progress. Here’s an anecdote:
A few months ago, I made a very concerted effort to lift weights at least 3 times a week. And for a few weeks, I was actually doing pretty well at it (I was even sure not to skip leg day). However, I made the catastrophic mistake of not writing down any of my achievements. And after a few weeks, you know what happened?
Honestly, I have no idea. Because I didn’t write anything down!
Why set goals? Because it’s going to make you jot down your small achievements, which means you’ll actually have the data to say, “Yes! I’m on track!” or “Wow, I REALLY need to take it easy on the jelly donuts…”
And not that this is necessary, but how cool will it be to look back after a couple months, maybe a year and say, “Wow I lost 30 pounds!” or “Wow, I saved $10,000” or “Wow, I read more books in year than I did my 4 years in college (true story)!”
The research is on my side…
So… I’m a huge nerd, and a complete contrarian. I generally don’t believe anything that anyone says ever until I’ve seen proof. Not explanations, not anecdotes, not correlation: proof. With the result that I’m probably the least popular person to have in staff meetings… though I digress…
So I can sit here and tell you about why I think goal setting is great, but truth is, there’s a BUTTLOAD of research to support the act of goal setting. And seeing as I came from a business school that had a pretty heavy research emphasis, that’s what I’m about to throw down.
- Check out this piece from Harvard University that describes the ways that goals can be useful. They’re a great motivational tool, they help increase achievement, and they’ve even help push instructional design in schools. The paper also demonstrates that you’re more likely to achieve a goal if you’re the one who set it. And it’s a paper from Harvard… HARVARD!
- This article goes into more depth as to research actually done at… you guessed it… HARVARD! But this time it was a longitudinal study that basically boils down to an obvious fact: If you set goals, you’re more likely to “achieve” (whatever that actually means). In fact, those that had set goals were making a significant amount more than the non-goal setting counterparts. Sad truth…
- Sciencemag.org has this awesome article about how setting goals can lead to professional development and growth. In it, they cite an article that shows that “structured plans” (goals) was one of the few significant factors that affected postdocs training experience.
- What’s that?! You’re SUPER curious as to how setting goals actually affects brain chemistry?! OMG, THAT’S NUTS! I JUST FOUND THE PERFECT ARTICLE FOR YOU!
… and so on and so forth. If this was a blog for academics, then I could easily keep going and find some journal articles that continue so support the whole “goals -> achievement” argument. But I don’t want to bore you and besides, my jstor subscription has run out since college.
Sad times for this nerd.
Why Set Goals – The Wrap Up
I’m 50/50 on writing articles like these. On the one hand, there’s solid research supporting the fact that setting goals is going to help you in terms of achievement. In fact, if you’re the kind of person that does set goals, you’re even more likely to make more money over your lifetime than someone who doesn’t. But at the same time, I hate writing articles that sound like they could be found in any self-help book from the 80’s.
That being said, there are definitely good reasons to set goals. Here are my 4 answers to the question, “Why set goals?”:
- Goals tell you exactly what it is you want to achieve (and when)
- Goals outline the process to make those achievements.
- Having a goal forces you to record your progress
- There’s a buttload of research saying that you should do it because goals = $$$… sorta…
Alright, now I want to hear from you! What sort of successes have you had with goal setting? Do you set daily/weekly/monthly/yearly goals? If you want, feel free to share them out and tell us how you came up with them!
For more from The Code To Riches, check out:
- The Seven Steps to Avoid Being a Money Moron
- The 7 Vegetarian Meals That Are Saving My Budget
- How Much Is Half A Million Dollars?
- The 10 Best Finance Books Money Can Buy
- 9 Credit Score Hacks You Must Know
- Why I Never Want To Retire
- The Laziest Way to Riches – Investing In Index Funds
- Budgeting Basics – Allocating $$$ Like A Boss
- How to go to Harvard, have awesome sex, and be a billionaire before your twentieth birthday
- 8 Skills To Put On A Resume… That I Wish I Had
Keep trying to crack the code,
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