The 7 Biggest Mistakes In Goal-Setting (and how to avoid them): #3

#3: Not fully engaging your imagination

You already know that to maximize their chances of success, goals need to be specific and measurable. This is what distinguishes them from aims or feelings – something has to change in the real world. For example, “I want to be happy” is not a goal – it’s a feeling. You can make yourself happy right now,  just by thinking of someone you like or something you’re good at.

Goals are different. They take place in the real world, where changes take time. You need to know what will be different when the goal is achieved, so you will know when you have achieved it. The more vivid the picture you can make of your goal, the more motivating it will be.

Specific and measurable are easy when it comes to financial goals like savings or sales targets, because money is easily quantifiable. But those figures on paper are not going to excite you on their own. No – what motivates the salesman to achieve his target is what the figures will get him: being top dog in the sales team, the stuff he can buy with the money, or just securing his job for another quarter. When images of these desirable things flash through his mind, however fleetingly, he feels an emotional pull to achieve them.

In that example the images more or less generate themselves. With less easily quantifiable goals you can still ‘measure’ and get specific about what will be in place when you achieve the goal. Even if you can’t put a figure on it, you can specify your goal in sensory terms – what you will see, hear and feel (and maybe even taste and smell) when you achieve your goal.

The more vividly you can imagine your goal in sensory terms, the more compelling it will be for you. Images, sounds and feelings will usually be far more motivating than just words.  They also give you more detailed information, so you are more likely to notice any aspects of the goal that you need to adjust.

When you have got your goal exactly the way you want it, and you’re feeling really good about it, step back out of it. Why? Because to your unconscious mind, imagining that you have achieved the goal will feel much the same as really achieving it (depending on how vividly you imagine). Rather than spend all your time daydreaming about the goal, you have to make things happen in the real world.

Stepping back out of the goal reminds you that you are not there yet. When you see that image in front of you (metaphorically in your future), you know how good it feels and you will want to get there. The goal will be ‘calling’ to you, almost pulling you towards it.

Bonus tip: what if you’re not the world’s greatest at visualization?

Actually anyone can daydream and see images. You may find it easier to talk through with someone else what your goal will be like, or to write about it in as much detail as you can. Use the present tense, as if you have already achieved your goal – this will make it more vivid.

What to read next: How to avoid goal-setting mistake #4

© 2006 – 2022, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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