The 10 Commandments of Effective Goal Setting

When was the last time you set a goal and actually accomplished it?

Researchers from the University of Scranton found out that only a mere 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.

And that time of the year is here again…

Here’s an excerpt from the novel Alice in Wonderland

Cat: Where are you going?

Alice: Which way should I go?

Cat: That depends on where you are going

Alice: I don’t know

Then it doesn’t matter which way you go

Without a goal, you’d be just like a ship navigating rough waters without a compass.

No matter how much effort you put in, you could just be moving around in circles, or worse, end up in a destination that you never wanted.

On the other hand, setting goals can be a very empowering activity.

It guides your conscious and subconscious mind to an end result that you want.

However, we know that 92% of goals set never get achieved.

To help you set better goals this year, here are 10 commandments of effective goal setting which you must know before attempting to set any goal.


 1. Thou Shalt Not Doubt the Power of Goal-Setting

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If you don’t even believe that setting goals will help you to achieve more success, then it will almost always not work for you – it’s kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A study at the Harvard Business School found out that for a certain cohort of MBA graduates, only 3% of them had clearly written goals and plans to achieve them.

When they did a follow-up survey, the found out that the 3% who had set goals were earning, on average, TEN TIMES as much money as the other 97% COMBINED!

Of course, you could argue that people who set goals are naturally more motivated and hardworking anyway, but the reverse is also true.

Setting clear goals will make it easier for you to take action, and hence, increases your chances for achieving success.

 2. Thou Shalt Not Set Vague Goals

Have you ever had a boss who always gives you very vague instructions?

After a while, you’ll literally go crazy because you don’t really know what your boss really wants.

Well, your mind works pretty much the same way.

Give it specific instructions and it will serve you, be ambiguous and it won’t really do anything.

Many people set vague goals such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to make more money”.

You may lose only 1kg, and your mind registers that you’ve already achieved your goal, and hence, stop working to lose more weight.

A more specific goal would be “I want to weigh 70kg” or “I want to earn a $10,000 monthly income”.

 3. Thou Shalt Not Set Puny Goals

Which is more exciting: To earn extra $100 a month, or double your income?

Of course, the big goal is many times more exciting and will motivate you far beyond what the small goal will be able to do.

Will you definitely achieve a large goal?

If you set a big enough goal, then the chances are that you won’t achieve them.

However, even if you don’t achieve the goal, you’d most definitely progress much further than if you were to set and achieve a small goal.

 4. Thou Shalt Not Attempt to Eat the Whole Cake in One Bite

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I mean… you must always have intermediate goals that will lead you to your end goal.

If you’re earning just $2,000, the prospect of earning $1 million may seem too daunting.

Hence, you should always chunk your goals down to the smallest, simplest steps.

For example, your first step could be to buy a book and read about the various ways you can make a million dollars.

Then you list out every single step you need to take in order to reach your goals (e.g. what do you need to do, or what skills do you need to develop, etc.)

These can all serve as intermediate goals.

 5. Thou Shalt Not Work on Indefinitely

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Always work to a deadline.

Do you have the experience of putting off work until the last minute?

You may have tried to complete the work a few times, but you just couldn’t get anything done.

However, on the night before the deadline, you miraculously manage to transform yourself into a productivity master and finish the work in a fraction of the time you thought you needed.

That’s the power of urgency.

When you set a deadline, you’ll naturally summon all your resources to meet that deadline.

 6. Thou Shalt Not Set and Forget

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What gets measured gets done.

According to the United States National Centre for Biotechnology Information, “frequent self-weighing seems to be a good predictor or moderate weight loss, less weight regain, or the avoidance of initial weight gain in adults”.

That means that you’re more likely to lose weight just because you weight yourself regularly.

Regularly tracking your progress towards your goals also tell you if the strategy you’re using is working, or if you need to adopt a new method.

 7. Thou Shalt Not Work Without Consequences

The carrot-and-stick method may seem primitive, but in most cases, it actually works.

You should always reward yourself whenever you accomplish a goal, no matter how small it may be.

This teaches your brain to associate achieving your goals to a reward, and this forms a very empowering habit that would serve you in future.

Likewise, you should “punish” yourself if you find yourself procrastinating or not taking any action to accomplish your goals.

 8. Thou Shalt Not Work Alone

You’re far more likely to achieve something if you work with other like-minded people.

Not only does it give you support, you’re also more likely to follow-through with your goals because you’re accountable to someone else.

And besides, working towards your goals with someone else would make the entire process much more enjoyable.

 9. Thou Shalt Not Build Castles in the Air

One of the most powerful ways to transform a mere fantasy into a rock-solid goal is to write it down on a piece of paper.

The simple act of writing your goals down makes an intangible concept into something that is tangible.

And while you’re writing down your goals, write a plan of action that you will take in order to achieve it.

Most people write their goals with no idea how they would go about achieving it, and you can guess that most of them end up failing or giving up halfway.

So, go ahead a plan of action that you would take right now.

 10. Thou Shalt Not Sit Around and Do Nothing

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Have you written a plan to achieve your goals yet?

Now, all you need to do is to take the first step.

Within the next 24-48 hours of writing down your goal, you must take at least one action that will move you one step closer to your goal.

This would create the initial momentum that would propel you towards your desired end result.

It also signals to your entire body that you’re committed to achieving your goals.

The best type of action would be something that forces you to commit to your goal.

So if you want to get fit this year, book an appointment or sign up for a membership with a gym, or sign up for a sports club.

What’s your first action step?

Do it now.

What are your goals this year?

Type down your set goals in the comments below.

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Shawn Lee

Shawn is a writer for When he's not writing, he enjoys reading about the latest in psychology and personal development. Beneath his reserved demeanour, he's secretly a fanboy who goes crazy whenever he sees his favourite idols. He also loves anime, music and everything Japanese.

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