Set-it-Straight-10-Ways-to-View-the-Importance-of-Goal-Setting-MainPhotoIn the game of life, success comes from a combination of skill and motivation, the latter of which starts with goal setting. You can’t have one without the other, meaning that even if you are incredibly gifted, without proper direction and drive you’ll never maximize your potential. This theory applies to everything from academic success to sports performance to parenting–you need goals to get things done (and done well). According to Psychology Today contributor Hara Estroff Marano, “goals provide focus. With no guiding vision or plan, people tend to drift. Goals provide a measuring stick for progress. Goals enhance productivity. They bolster self-esteem. And most of all, goals increase commitment, so you’re more likely to achieve whatever you set out to conquer.”

The importance of setting goals is undeniable, and in order to achieve your objectives you must acknowledge that you need goals in the first place. Here are 10 reasons you need to set goals, so you can actualize your New Years resolutions and make 2015 your most productive and accomplished year yet.

1. They give you focus and direction
In order to hit a target you need to know where to aim. In order to reach your final destination you need to know which direction to drive. Without an ultimate goal you won’t know where to begin, which way to turn and you will have a really hard time focusing your efforts on the right tasks to get you there. Goals give you focus, they point you in the right direction and provide you with a path to work towards a larger effort so you can achieve happiness and success in all areas of your life.

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2. They allow you to measure your progress
Motivating yourself to work hard is never easy, but it can be especially hard if you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, you’re just slaving away, aimlessly, with no real reward. Goals give you a purpose, a reason to bust your butt and a way to measure your progress. You may not always reach your goals, but you have something to shoot for, and you can track your progress and assess what work you still need to do to reach your ultimate goal.

3. They remind you of your larger purpose in a manageable way
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment and be stressed out over the small pitfalls that get in your way each day. But when you set goals for yourself you have a constant reminder of what you are working towards. You can remain focused on the overarching dream, but then you are able to work towards that potentially intimidating result with baby steps that are manageable and move you forwards. Sports psychologist Frank Smoll, Ph.D., explains that “breaking down any long-term goals into smaller more attainable goals helps to promote achievement and success.”

4. They keep you motivated
Motivation is key to success in all areas of life. For example, when it comes to your career, it’s crucial to set clear goals so that you remain motivated in your work. “Highly-motivated individuals and staff have a willingness to get the job done efficiently and effectively, resulting in higher productivity, increased revenue, cost savings and satisfied employees and business owners,” explains Matt McKay in a piece for the Houston Chronicle.

5. Goal setting creates accountability
In life, not everything goes according to your plans. You will fail, you will need to adjust your efforts and you may experience disappointment. And that is all OK; in fact, it’s an important part of the goal-setting process. Establishing concrete goals not only gives you something to work towards, but it allows you to assess your success and your failure. Did you achieve what you set out to do? Did you do everything you could to get there? Were there moments you could have acted differently? Setting goals in the first place forces to you to be accountable for your own actions, good or bad. No cheating, no excuses–you set the goal, not you have to get it done.

6. You will discover what you truly want
If you never have to put your dreams down on paper then you may never force yourself to think about what you truly want in life. Whether setting career goals, goals for your personal life or goals for your physical state the first step is reflecting on what is important to you and what you are willing to do to achieve those goals. Vague notions of being happy or successful won’t cut it. You need to set specific goals that are attainable and measurable, and when you challenge yourself to address your dreams you will uncover what you are truly passionate about. And beyond that, you just might accomplish everything you’re hoping for.

7. They are a positive way to encourage change
From time to time you may experience a change in your life in response to a negative occurrence that is out of your control. But there’s a big difference between being influenced by negativity versus embracing change for the better. Let your goals inspire you to make adjustments in your life in an effort to improve who you are and accomplish what you want. Use positive reminders to keep you motivated by celebrating what you achieve along the way, rather than focusing on the things that go wrong. You’ll notice that not only will you get closer to your goals, but also you will drastically improve your mood and your outlook on life along the way.

8. They help you visualize your future
There is something really powerful about the idea of a better future, whatever that future may entail. But when you actually envision how your life could (and will) be then you’re even more equipped to make it happen. Setting goals allows you–if not forces you–to build a picture of what you want out of life. Your goals aren’t just passing thoughts or ideas; they become concrete images of what inspires you. Magazine clippings of your dream home, photos of loved ones you want to make proud, a marathon entry form for a marathon you are training for…use visual tools to help remind you of your goals and you’ll work harder than ever to make them a reality.

9. Goals will make you happy
According to Andy Smith, author of Achieve Your Goals: Strategies to Transform Your Life, “we are biologically hard-wired to feel happier if we have some sense of control and choice over our lives, which is what setting goals and taking action gives us. We change from feeling like victims of life’s circumstances, or at best passive consumers, into someone who knows they can make a difference.” In short, by goal setting and working to achieve them you will feel empowered, strong, in control and above all, happier.

10. You will feel more rewarded along the way
Long-term goals may take a long time to accomplish (hello, they are long-term, so don’t expect immediate results). But just because the ultimate reward may be down the road and may take a lot of work doesn’t mean you won’t experience any joy along the way. With each challenge that you overcome you’ll give yourself a pat on the back and will feel a sense of pride in your dedication and effort. And that positive feeling will only inspire you to work harder, resulting in more satisfaction as you take control of your life. It’s a beautiful cycle where you will be rewarded every step of the way. So rev up your mojo and make those New Years resolutions happen starting NOW.