How to Set and Achieve Effective Goals

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Goal-setting is one of the key traits of successful people. If you ask any successful person in the world “how’d you get to where you are today?” Chances are they WON’T say “I just winged it.” Goals give you a clear objective to work towards, which is why learning how to set and achieve effective goals is crucial to success in life, financial and otherwise.

In today’s post, you’ll learn how to craft a vision for your future, set goals that align with that vision, and achieve those goals. To take charge of your life right now, read on!

Vision

stepladder in empty room in new building; how to set and achieve effective goals
Life is like climbing a ladder

Imagine you’re climbing a ladder to reach the top of a wall. You motivate yourself and push yourself to climb faster and climb harder. Eventually, you reach the top of the wall triumphant. You’ve made it… All of a sudden, a cold chill runs down your spine as you realize that all your hard work was for nothing. The ladder was placed on the wrong wall.

So many people go through life exactly like this. They are “busy” and always working hard and know the value of hustling, but never really know where they are headed. When they reach their destination, they realize that they’re unfulfilled and unhappy with their choices. This is why vision is so important.

Having a vision enables you to work towards something which is worth your while. Something which enables you to look back and say “I’m happy with my decisions.” You can excel at all your goals but without a vision, your achievements won’t mean anything to you.

Take some time to really form your vision. Put yourself in your own shoes on your deathbed. Can’t go that far? Then put yourself in your own shoes 20 years from now. 10 years from now. 5 years from now. Ask yourself “what will I have needed to accomplish to truly feel fulfilled at this point in my life?” Only once you’ve got that answer can you begin setting meaningful goals for yourself.

OPP You Know Me

Many people clump all goals into one category: goals. If this were the case, why do these two goals sounds so different?

  • My goal is to spend 20 minutes working out every day
  • My goal is the win gold in the national bodybuilding championship

They’re both goals and both related to bodybuilding, but their difference lies in something called OPP. The first time I came across OPP was during a session with the provincial golf team mental coach (thank you, Charles.) He introduced this idea of there being different tiers to goals. These tiers are:

  • Outcome
  • Performance
  • Process

Outcome is something that you can’t control. This is the stuff you toss onto your dream board. In the case of golf, it would be something like “I win this year’s Masters.” No matter how good you play, if somebody plays better, they’ll take the trophy. An outcome goal is something that should motivate you to get out of bed and work towards it every day. This is the highest level.

Next up is performance. Performance goals are measurable things that can be worked towards. In sports, this would be things like stats: free-throw make percentage, skating speed, running speed. For golf, I chose something like “putting at 6 feet is at 60% make percentage.” Accomplishing performance goals will put you closer to achieving your outcome goals.

Finally, we have process. Charles was obsessed with process. He even said himself “90% of all the answers to my questions will be ‘process’.” In hindsight, he had good reason. Process is the only thing we can control. These are day-to-day tasks that we can do that will help our performance goals, and in turn, put us one step closer towards our outcome goals. “Practice one hour of golf every day.”

SMART(S) Goals

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How to Set and Achieve Effective Goals

When setting goals, we should aim to have one big outcome goal and many performance and process goals that support it. That’s a good start, however, this doesn’t account for exactly HOW to write your goals.

When setting goals, you’ll want to follow the following criteria for the most effectiveness:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-Oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
  • Self-determined

Specific goals are ones that are clearly outlined. “I want to feel better” –> “I want to get in better shape”

Measurable goals are based on metrics that can be easily identified. “I want to get in better shape” –> “I want to weigh 80lbs with 1% body fat.”

Action-oriented goals are focused on doing rather than wanting. “I want to weigh 80lbs with 5% body fat” –> “I workout to reach 80lbs with 1% body fat.”

Realistic goals are ones that can feasibly be achieved. “I workout to reach 80lbs with 1% body fat.” –> “I workout to reach 130lbs with 13% body fat.” (this example is totally dependent on who you are and your own capabilities.”

Time-bound goals have a timeline on them. “I workout to reach 100lbs with 10% body fat.” –> “I workout to reach 100lbs with 10% body fat by December 31, 2021.”

Finally, self-determined goals are ones that you come up with yourself. No matter how powerful the goal, it won’t be effective if someone forced it upon you. Self-determined goals are WAY more likely to actually be followed through on than goals that are given to you.

Less is More

As is with most things in life, you have a certain bandwidth when it comes to goals. Set yourself too many goals and you’ll end up achieving none of them. The less goals you have, the better. Personally, I structured my goals around 5 areas of my life that I deeply care about:

  • Education
  • Physical health
  • Relationship with family and friends
  • Giving back / charity
  • Athletics

For each one of these areas of my life, I only chose one big outcome goal that I will work towards. This means that for the new year, I only have 5 goals. But I know that if I achieve all 5, I will feel immensely satisfied.

Examples of Effective Goals

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Here are a few examples of effective goals that might help you get started.

Physical Health

  • Outcome goal: I workout to reach 100lbs with 10% body fat by December 31, 2021.
    • Performance goal: I am able to run 1km in 10 minutes by August 1st, 2021.
    • Performance goal: I am able to bench press 130lbs (7reps) by October 1st, 2021.
      • Process goal: I workout for 20 minutes every day
      • Process goal: I eat 3 healthy meals every day

Financials

Education

  • Outcome goal: I graduate in the top 10% of my class by June 20, 2024
    • Performance goal: I have an 80% average or above in all of my university classes by June 20, 2021 (adjust and repeat every year)
      • Process goal: I dedicate 2 hours to doing homework and completing psets every day
      • Process goal: I read 10 pages ahead in all my textbooks every day

Set Your Goals!

Goal-setting is crucial to achieving anything in life. It’s the one common theme amongst all successful people and now you know how to set and achieve effective goals too!

To recap:

  • Have a long term vision of where you want to be
  • Use OPP to set goals in line with your vision and to have applicable day to day steps
  • Use SMARTS to get the most out of your goals
  • The fewer goals you have the more likely you are to achieve them

You now know the importance of goal setting, and exactly how to do it. What are you waiting for? Start setting your goals! Looking back, you’ll be glad you did after achieving them ?

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Thanks for reading through How to Set and Achieve Effective Goals. To learn about how to build income opportunities as a student, head over to this post here. If you want to learn more about me, head over to this link here. Finally, if you want to get exclusive updates and tips, drop your email in the “get updates” box (might have to scroll up a bit.) Let me know what your new year’s goals are in the comments!

8 Comments

  1. Great post! And great timing too, since the new year has just begun. The “Outcome, Performace, Process” thing is quite smart. I’ll certainly use it for my own goals. In fact, I’ll add it to my own goal-setting post, which I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

  2. Fantastic post Jeff! Wish I would have read it about a week ago when I was setting my 2021 goals, haha. Keep up the good work!

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