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By Kristin Hiemstra A shameless believer of human potential, Kristin is as dynamic and energetic about career issues as a nice person can be. She combines real world knowledge from her many years of hiring experience in Washington, DC with a decade of college admissions experience.

3 Steps to Easy and Effective Goal Setting

By Kristin Hiemstra Posted June 7, 2011 at 9:45 pm

You’ve heard it a million times: “Goal setting is important,” but what have you actually done about it? If you are like most people the answer is… nothing. That is not your fault. Regardless of your education level, it is very unlikely you were ever taught to set goals. While schools do a remarkable job of filling our minds with knowledge, they do a surprisingly inferior job of teaching self-leadership and that is what goal setting is all about, leading the self to create the life you want.

 
Goals are important because they give the brain direction. Our brains are very smart but they are only useful when they know what they should be doing. A great analogy is learning to ride a bike. “Ride” was the instruction the brain received and the brain took care of the rest. Do you know exactly what muscles you tensed and relaxed to ride your bike? Do you know how you tilted your head or gripped the handle? No, the brain had to coordinate thousands of different actions to make you go.
 
Whether it’s a financial goal, a career goal or a personal goal, the brain needs to know about your life’s dream of so it can create it for you. To achieve the life you want, here are three simple steps to setting goals. 
  1. Decide what you want out of life. This seems like an obvious starting point but truly very few people can clearly articulate what they want. Pose questions to yourself like:
    What does success mean to me?
    How much income do I want to earn?
    What type if physical health do I want?
    What kind of relationships do I want to have?
    What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in?
    What kind of people do I want to be around?
    What do I need to do to bring more meaning and fulfillment into my life?
    What do I want tomorrow to look like?

    By answering these questions the brain understands what you are trying to create. If the brain does not have answers it will wander aimlessly from task to task waiting for someone else to impose the goals for it. This is why you tried cigarettes in junior high, you didn’t have a clear goal for yourself and someone else did. 

  1. Create a vivid mental picture.  The brain, while very smart, cannot distinguish between the real and the imaginary. That is why you wake up from dreams in a cold sweat because the brain was experiencing the dream and sending out adrenaline and cortisol to help you run away from that big lion chasing you. You can use this same ‘brain feature’ to your advantage by creating a vivid mental picture of the life you want.  Take a look at the goals that you just wrote and write a paragraph for each one describing how they look, feel, taste, and smell. Once the brain knows the vision it is supposed to create it will coordination thousands of responses you are not even aware of to create that vision for you. 
  1. Persist. Yea, yea how often have you heard that? But think about it: A kid trying to learn to ride a bike will cry, throw a tantrum, become anxious and even angry but they won’t stop until they master the activity. Once they know how ride, the  grin on their face that comes from their self-confidence would light up Yankee Stadium. Mastering your destiny is as much a matter of planning, as it is responding to trial and error. Like learning to ride a bike, you have to try a lot of times before the brain figures out how to make it work.
So let’s give this a try. Take a moment and plan tomorrow. Plan your conversations, your attitude, your actions and even how you want your relationships to work. Visualize tomorrow now and before you go to bed and in the morning before you start your day. What are you waiting for? Get started!
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