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Realistic Goal Setting: Make Steady Progress in the Best Direction 

-   James Stevenson (MSc, IEA) - Coach and Psychologist

The importance of realistic goal setting and when you'd be smart using it

What is realistic goal setting? How can we tell if our goals are realistic? The point of a goal is to create motivation. A good goal that is both realistic and challenging achieves this.

An unrealistic goal sadly does not create motivation. Like a vague dream, it may be nice to think about but it doesn't stir our inner resources towards changing reality.

There are two aspects to realistic goal setting:

  • We should be able to measure our success easily. Nothing is more real than actual fact. Aiming towards a very clear definite target is encouraging.
  • Also our goals should be just difficult enough to make us take consistent action that wasn't happening before. 
Emerson quote about what lies withinThat which lies within. Can we find it? Reveal it?

1. Can we measure success?

Making our goal measurable means quantifying it so:

  1. We know exactly when you have completed it.
  2. We know how far away you are from completing it and therefore how much effort you will have to put in to complete it. The increased accuracy of a measurable goal means that you can reflect and adjust your goal accordingly, enabling you to find an optimal target. The combination of the impending date, and the effort required within the that time creates motivation. We suddenly start wanting to take action, we suddenly come up with great ideas to help us find a way to complete our goal.

To take a simple example: running a lot can't be measured, whereas running 3 times a week, 5 km each time, can be measured very accurately.

The purpose of me setting a goal is to cause us to move. If a goal doesn't lead to action perhaps it isn't attainable, or is too easily attainable.

2. Do we feel that if we try our best we can honestly achieve it?

If we set a goal that is way too difficult we tend to not even bother starting because what's the point, we're never going to get there anyway.

Or perhaps we start powerfully then realise it's unsustainable and give up feeling like we have failed. On the flip side if the goal is too easy we may think, no rush, I'll do it later. Both are not ideal.

Having an attainable but challenging goal really is the ideal. It is completely dependant on the person. Challenging for one person might be to eat a piece of fruit every day whereas that could very easy for some.

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