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The Art and Science of Setting A Goal

Are there more effective ways to think about what you have to do?

Surely, one of the most prominent time wasters is preoccupation and worry about a project or unresolved situation. This is significant because it doesn’t just take time, it saps your energy, it distributes your focus and it takes extra effort to do this negative thinking. Thinking without doing is not very effective.

Does your mind ever think about work that is ambiguous or complex in nature? It will require enhanced and repeated focus over time. It is necessary to engage in effective and efficient ways with that kind of work.

Everyone knows how important goal setting is. Most people will claim that they have set goals, or that they are working toward their goals. But, do they know exactly what that means?

On the other hand, some people actually avoid goal setting. Perhaps a past experience of wanting something and not getting it, or watching someone else go for their dreams and not achieve them clouds their vision, which subtly undermines the positive momentum that could be happening.

An important technique to practice and ultimately refine is the ability to refocus faster. Holding the lens to what is possible is an important quality to model and to lead with. Building consistency using this tool can take time and may require a change in habits.

Begin by identifying one specific area in your life you want to enhance. Choose an event or project at work that has a due date and timeline. Or, pick something you’re working toward in your personal life. The important thing is to choose one thing to practice this goal-setting strategy.

It is possible to overthink, over plan and then underachieve. If you constantly spend precious time, energy, and focus recalibrating, consider editing the subject, outcome and/or timeline of the goal you’re working to achieve.

It’s easy to enthusiastically identify all the things you want to change, do, fix, have, etc. In almost all instances, the first phase of goal setting includes excitement and a feeling of empowerment.

Then, you are offered an opportunity to test your results. Health goals are usually met with an opportunity that is unhealthy, while financial goals face an expense that is out of the  ordinary. Relationship goals see a circumstance that could negatively affect one or more of the people involved in the original goal.

So, what do you DO when your goal-setting and goal-achievement begins to roll off course?

One, use your self-talk mechanism to your advantage. By first noticing there is a constant stream of conversation going on upstairs, we can acknowledge what we are saying to ourselves, and redirect our thinking toward the positive. This scientific approach gives you the opportunity to experiment with the effect of directed thinking toward successful outcomes.

Two, think with an orientation toward action. This is the art of goal setting and achievement. One of the most effective tactics I know of is to “pick smaller verbs.” All too often, big goals can cause one to slow down, focus on the big picture and perhaps even procrastinate. By choosing a “small, easier to-do” you can get momentum and move into the project more successfully.

The solution is to build a framework to assimilate all the areas of experience and focus into a manageable and inspirational program. Clearly define what your own success would look like in specific areas of your work (and your life). The most effective way to think about what you have to do is imagine what you’d like to experience, and then take consistent action in that direction.


Jason Womack invests his time, energy and focus serving as an agent of change. He is an advisor and consultant to companies and governments, the author of blogs, articles and books on productivity, business performance and teams managing through rapid change. Learn more about Jason at Follow along at Read Jason's other posts on ALPS 411 here.

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The Art and Science of Setting A Goal

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