This is Why Goal Setting Really Matters

This is Why Goal Setting Really Matters

Welcome to 2017 and all of those New Year’s Resolutions!

Don’t you just hate when these come up?

I’m not into those sorts of resolutions. Chiefly because, well, they don’t work. Statistics show that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions. And only 8% are successful in achieving them.

Ever noticed how this happens? Most of us learned this for ourselves a good while back. I’m thinking the 45% of folks still making them are young J

But goals are different, no? While resolutions tend to be about losing weight, spending less/saving more, quitting some habit, etc., etc., goals get boiled down into something more concrete. And after that, the specific steps to achieve them.

Besides, a resolution is often about something you think you should be doing or not doing, while a goal is about something you want.

A resolution is often about something you think you should be doing or not doing, A goal is about something you want.

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Yet and still, I hear a lot of folks resisting formulating actual goals. Maybe it feels too much like making those resolutions!

So, why is it important to set goals?

As Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.

Talk about banging your head against a wall. But even Rohn’s sentiments don’t get to the heart of it for me.

There is at least one thing you truly want, right? Often more than one thing, but we all have an important goal we truly aspire to, whether it’s writing that novel, climbing a mountain, becoming the best whatever that we can be. And getting there takes more than wanting. More than passion and desire and stick-to-it-ness.

It takes a plan. A detailed one—which keeps you on track.

Because we’ve all set out on journeys that somewhere along the way fizzled out or ended up in Brazil, and usually we can’t even pinpoint where the trail disappeared.

So, what does goal setting do for you?

1). Helps You Plan the Best Route for You

Planning for a goal is like setting your sights on a destination. You put into Waze where you want to go, and you’re presented with several different itineraries. Options include the shortest route, or the one with tolls, the longer but less-trafficked one, etc. Many ways exist to get to your destination.

Planning for a goal is like setting your sights on a destination.

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Maybe you’re a type-A person, and you want the fastest path possible, even if it costs more. Or maybe the scenic route, while taking longer, includes pieces of the puzzle to your goal that you can pick up along the way.

In other words, mapping out your best road helps you to organize your time, efforts, and resources to make the most of your life.

2). But Still Provides Lessons from the Pitfalls of Others

Ever been on a driving trip to somewhere entirely new? When in our youth, a dear friend and I drove to Estes Park, CO every summer. We basically went the same route every year. Then, one time we decided we’d just up’n go to Seattle. We had never been there, and we chose what looked like the shortest track.

And yep, it was the shortest driving distance. But what we didn’t take into consideration was that we would be driving through the badlands of the desert. In the summer. You know, Death Valley and all that.

I mean, we’d never been there. And we were like 20 or so, so thought we knew, oh, pretty much everything.

Thank God we ran into friends who sent us over a far less perilous route!

Even though your road is uniquely yours, others have traveled similar ones. Might as well learn from them.

3). Keeps You Focused

Sometimes you probably take trips where it doesn’t much matter when you get there. You know, those meandering ones, where now and then you take off on a tangent and go see Niagara Falls or another wonder of the world.

Those are fun, aren’t they?

But a lot of time you’re actually heading to a planned event (your goal!), and have to arrive at a certain time, and that detour from Estes Park to Seattle really does take longer than the time you have . . .

By setting clear goals, and the steps within them, you can avoid getting tripped up by the Grand Canyon when you’re supposed to be at your sister’s wedding day after tomorrow. (Not to mention, avoiding the wrath of your mother as well!)

4). Which Leads to Good Decisions

Yep, that detour through Taos sure is enticing. Ah, the Rio Grande Gorge! Taos Mountain! And really, it isn’t that far. See the route that goes directly through there on the way to Colorado? What’s another few days?

Or, perhaps it’s 33 degrees and raining out at 5 AM, and that run you’re supposed to take in order to maintain your pace for the marathon you’re running in 3 months, well . . . We could just pull up the covers and stay in bed.

But if you’ve set a clear goal, the goal itself won’t let you. It’ll slap your hand as you’re trying to steer toward Taos and away from your real destination. And that comforter? Well, even it needles you with guilt.

But if you’ve set a clear goal, the goal itself won’t let you detour.

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5). You Can Measure Your Success

Man, we just crossed the border into Colorado! Half a day before schedule. Doesn’t that feel really good?

And more importantly, isn’t the trip starting to look worth it now?

Or, cool! I just cleared the 2 & ½ mark in my 5-year plan! And accomplished x, y, and z.

Setting clear, sharp, definable goals helps us to measure our progress. See where we might be falling a bit and figure ways to bolster those. And most important, gain a sense of pride in where we’ve come. This raises self-confidence, helps us to recognize our own abilities, and feel competence. All of which keeps us forging on, and helps to achieve those goals.

6). Provides Motivation on the Darkest Roads

Face it—some goals are far more difficult to achieve than others. Or at least, take more time. Not that that makes one more important than another, but just that some goals and dreams just, well, take longer, more circuitous routes.

For example, the goal to write a novel can be achieved in well-prescribed steps. There is a map for it (I’ve written many for my editorial clients). We go from our point of embarkation (which varies greatly), to the destined goal.

Writing truly well, however, requires an individually different route. One that is long and winding and depends entirely on the perseverance and fortitude of the person writing. Reaching the first goal—finishing a novel draft—is just another starting point.

I’ve seen many an aspiring writer get from the original point A to point Z. Then again, I’ve seen more become daunted by the Great Divide, and after that first novel is finished, slide off the cliff into oblivion.

You gotta have guts to play in this world.

But if the road is well mapped, you’ve learned from others, kept your eye on the prize, stayed true to your vision, measured your success and felt appreciative of it, those dark and winding roads will be less daunting.

You’ve been on similar ones before, no? And you survived. And even thrived.

So, toss out those resolutions and focus instead on your goals. Plan where you’re going and how to get there. Otherwise you’ll get scolded by the Cheshire Cat as Alice did:

Toss out those resolutions and focus instead on your #goals. Plan where you’re going and how to get there.

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“Cat: Where are you going?

Alice: Which way should I go?

Cat: That depends on where you are going.

Alice: I don’t know.

Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What goals are you committed to and planning?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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68 comments
Kristen Wilson says January 4, 2017

I guess it’s just perspective. I set goals and usually resolutions… as part of a reflection of how I did the prior year.. and what I want different for my life in the next year. I think they are both pretty much the same, they are to me… and they do work. They don’t work, just like goals, because people don’t want to work.. they want stuff to magically happen.. and that… won’t work! lol Great tips and reminders though.

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    Susan Malone says January 4, 2017

    Funny how our goals require actual work, don’t they, Kristen! And ahhh, if we just had a magic wand!

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Renee groskreutz says January 4, 2017

I spending a great deal of time on my detailed daily plan right now. I have set one big goal and I am trying to break it into daily chunks. Thank you for the motivation and inspiration here. I will reference this post all year, I am sure.

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    Susan Malone says January 4, 2017

    I love breaking that one big goal into chunks, Renee! Now that’s a recipe for success!

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Lori English says January 4, 2017

Hello Susan,
Great article on Goal Setting a popular topic this time of the year. I really am not surprised about the statistics. In my opinion making the goals is great , however using the motivation and skills to carry it out it totally different. Thanks for the article.

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    Susan Malone says January 4, 2017

    Seems as though many of us are focused on it, Lori! And setting clear goals is so motivating, isn’t it!

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Tamuria says January 4, 2017

I love the journey you took us on to Seattle, Niagara Falls, Taos, and Colorado, Susan. Such a great way to explain the importance of having goals and the plans to go with them – even if you decide to stray off track sometimes.

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    Susan Malone says January 5, 2017

    Sometimes we do need to get off track a bit, don’t we, Tamuria. But the rest of the time . . .

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Neely Moldovan says January 4, 2017

I always live by a fail to plan is a plan to fail. Its so true! You have to set goals!

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Beverley Golden says January 4, 2017

What a fun journey you took us on Susan! I must admit that I love ‘winging’ it much of the time in life and often move towards a goal when it feels like it is the right time. I’ve had some goals I’ve been holding for a very long time and each year I do some new things to get closer to it. Although it might never happen, at least I can keep taking actions that make it more possible. I also trust that sometimes the actions we’ve taken and maybe forgot about, lead to wonderful and unexpected outcomes when least expected. Thanks for the wonderful reminders in this post about the value of setting goals and then going for them!

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    Susan Malone says January 5, 2017

    Isn’t it so true, Beverley, that we’ve sown seeds in places and forgotten them, and then they come to fruition when least expected, as you said! That’s always such a delightful surprise. And keep taking actions toward our goals is what it’s all about.

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Melanie Burbage says January 4, 2017

I set just one for the year- Courage! It’s going to remind me to keep facing fears, keep going no matter how hard things are or keep trying no matter how it may look like I’ll fail.

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Chastity says January 4, 2017

Great tips! We write our goals out each year and then have monthly family meetings to set little goals/plans that will help us achieve our big plans.

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    Susan Malone says January 5, 2017

    I just love that, Chastity! Setting personal and family goals with monthly meetings about them. Talk about accountability! How cool that is.

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Chelley Martinka says January 4, 2017

I love this! I am all about goal setting and doing so all year. Just once, as a resolution=never going to work. We need to constantly be striving to be better!

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    Susan Malone says January 5, 2017

    It’s the constant part that propels us to success, doesn’t it, Chelley!

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Jocelyn Cañasa Brown says January 5, 2017

So true! It is very important to have goals. I have a goal to be more healthy and to work smarter, not harder.

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DogVills says January 5, 2017

I’m really glad that you shared this goal setting! It’s really important to make a realistic goals.

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Byron Thomas says January 5, 2017

I am one of those who makes resolutions every year, however, I take a different approach. I begin thinking about things I want to change or improve in my life after the carefree days of summer are over. I then put a plan into place to transition into those changes starting January 1. I can honestly say that I keep at least 80-90% of my resolutions.

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    Susan Malone says January 5, 2017

    Perfect, Byron. And you’re successful because you “put a plan in place to transition into those changes.” What a great idea!

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Vatsala Shukla says January 5, 2017

I love the road map you’ve set out Susan, to help readers set goals. I stopped setting resolutions a few years ago because I was lucky if I made it till the end of January. Somehow setting a resolution made it feel heavy.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that January 21 is known as quit resolution day (I wrote about it on LinkedIn last year).

Instead, I prefer to set intentions as well as word for the year to guide me in getting my goals done.

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    Susan Malone says January 5, 2017

    “Setting a resolution made it feel heavy.” I just love that, Vatsala! And aren’t intentions just the lightest and most effective things.

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Elizabeth O says January 5, 2017

I concur. A favorite yoga master teacher of mine used to say that we should practice our craft so thoroughly until we can do it in our sleep; then drop it and go from the heart. Without prior planning, we have nothing to turn to… it’s the foundation to all we do. Planning and flexibility.

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    Susan Malone says January 6, 2017

    Elizabeth, I so love that. It incorporates both the head and the heart, which is the road to success. Thanks for sharing!

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Natasha Botkin says January 5, 2017

I, too am on a goal oriented blogs. Synchronicity! Xoxo

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Robin says January 5, 2017

I am a goal setter by nature – best way to keep me motivated. I wish more folks set goals, and so appreciate the article so I can share with others why goal setting is so important. I like to say – Can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going!

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Sue Kearney says January 5, 2017

Nice, that you closed with the Alice in Wonderland quote. Sums it up so well! Thanks. Will share.

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Meghan says January 5, 2017

If only there was a Waze app for personal and business goals! We’re not much into New Year celebrations – much ado about nothing – and the same goes for resolutions. We don’t need a new year to make changes in our lives, we can make changes at any time. Love your points about planning and goals. I’ve got to be careful since I can get so focused on a goal and plan that the journey becomes less enjoyable.

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    Susan Malone says January 6, 2017

    That’s a great point, Meghan–I, too, can get so focused on goals that the enjoyment flees to Brazil. Keeping the fun in life is one of my goals!

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Christy Soukhamneut says January 5, 2017

yes, goals versus resolutions……something you really want versus something you think you should be doing. Clearly one has staying power and the other does not. It’s a wonder that even 8% of people stick to their resolutions.

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Alicia says January 6, 2017

Goal setting is important to do. I do it often just because it makes things a lot easier.

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Alene Geed says January 6, 2017

I love the Alice in wonderland quote 💕 Setting the goal is the first step. Creating the steps along the way..the roadmap..is when the goal bocomes attainable and real

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    Susan Malone says January 6, 2017

    Isn’t that a great quote, Alene. And yep, setting the goal, breaking it down into steps–the recipe for success!

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Reba Linker says January 6, 2017

“You gotta have guts to play in this world.” That’s right, Susan! Loved the post and loved the Alice quote, too! Simply brilliant, and so funny because I was just writing about goals when I decided to to a break and read some posts!

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Rachel Lavern says January 6, 2017

Most people make the same New Years’ resolutions year after year without seeing any results. Reminds me of the definition of insanity–doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. It’s time to shift the daily focus to daily practices that can be put into action right now.

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    Susan Malone says January 9, 2017

    So true, Rachel. And yep, that’s insanity! Shifting to daily practices–goals broken down into steps–works, doesn’t it.

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Julia says January 6, 2017

I’ve always been quite goal-driven; but am also flexible like a willow in the wind sometimes to other people’s desires which can take me away from my own goals. Have got so much better at this, but the next step is to look at all my decisions in the light of my goals/vision and see if they’re in alignment or not. Thanks for hits great discussion, which really got me thinking about it.

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    Susan Malone says January 9, 2017

    Isn’t that easy to do, Julie. Especially for women! And that’s a great litmus test–is any step in alignment with your goals. That’ll get you there!

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Joan M Harrington says January 6, 2017

Hey Susan,

I set GOALS and NOT resolutions every year because like you have shared, most people do not continue with them…..I see it at my gym every year, its way too funny……you see SO many people at the gym in Jan and Feb then they ALL start to die out lol

Setting goals is much more practical because by writing them down and following your tips here on your post, it is so much easier to accomplish them. I have started this year off, so far, by writing my goals for the month…..and will continue for the entire year. So many do not do that and they wonder why their life is still the same 🙂

Great post and share!!!

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    Susan Malone says January 9, 2017

    Isn’t the gym thing a hoot, Joan. Gyms actually count on 95 % of people to fall out!
    I love the idea of writing monthly goals. That really helps you break this down into manageable steps, no?

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Vironika Tugaleva says January 6, 2017

That Alice in Wonderland bit melted me. How beautifully true! Thank you for sharing.

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    Susan Malone says January 9, 2017

    Isn’t that quote just so funny and profound at the same time, Vironika!

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Tiffany VanSickle says January 7, 2017

I have never really been one to make resolutions. This year, however, I have made yearly goals and broken them down into monthly goals. So far it’s working! 🙂

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Chloe says January 8, 2017

Great blog post! I recently made my own goals list and feel it’s way better than a new years resolution list! Best of luck!

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    Susan Malone says January 9, 2017

    Don’t goals just work so much better than vague resolutions, Chloe!

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Lorii Abela says January 11, 2017

This is very timely as the new year just started. It is indeed true, if you have a goal, you become more focused.

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Mindy Iannelli says January 11, 2017

I never used to set real goals – I just had in my mind what I wanted. Thankfully I realized the error of my ways! Setting up the steps to get there are just as important, because just hitting one big goal can be so overwhelming before you break it down. I even do that when I am on the elliptical at the gym, so I know how far I should go per minute, so if I slow down for any reason I know to speed up a bit so I will hit my goal in my alloted time. Great post, Susan!

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    Susan Malone says January 11, 2017

    Isn’t it just amazing when you start setting goals and break them down into specific steps. I got a great image of you on the elliptical, measuring your pace! That’ll stay with me when I think of goals. Thanks, Mindy!

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Katarina Andersson says January 11, 2017

True, I definitely like goals better too. And by reading an article on Mark Schaefer’s blog Grow last week I agree with, I also think it is important to set goals you can influence. And not the usual …I am going to sell xxxx more, get xx more clients.

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Jennifer Quisenberry says January 11, 2017

Oh yes. Goals are so much more effective than resolutions. Goals have a path. Resolutions are an ideal. We talked about this recently on my blog too. It so helpful to reformulate how you think about the goals you set for yourself and break down the plan to achieve them. It makes it much more likely that you’ll see the desired result.

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    Susan Malone says January 11, 2017

    Perfectly said, Jennifer: “Goals have a path. Resolutions are an ideal.”

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Tandy Elisala says January 13, 2017

I’m a HUGE believer in goal setting. I write down my goals and the how I’m going to get there. I build in learning time and anticipate issues that may arise. Thanks for raising this important issue!

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    Susan Malone says January 16, 2017

    I love that you build in learning time and anticipate issues, Tandy! What a great part of goal setting!

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Karen says January 13, 2017

I agree that if you just state your resolutions in a big lump of “I want to lose weight” it won’t happen. Resolutions and goals need to be defined, broken down and planned so they can be measured. I do believe that when that is done then Good Decisions happen.

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    Susan Malone says January 16, 2017

    It’s true, isn’t it, Karen–by truly setting goals you make better decisions!

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