Goal Achievement: A Primer

Goal Achievement: A Primer


Every one of us wants to achieve success. We think about success. We read about people who have achieved success. And we wish we could be successful too.

Achieving success begins with a goal. Goals come in all shapes and sizes. It could be learning a new skill, developing self-confidence, quitting smoking, reaching a higher level of income, losing weight, and so on. It seems like society is always encouraging us to focus on the next milestone. However, what we don’t focus on much is the strategy of how to achieve a goal.

If you are serious about attaining success, you need to start setting some specific goals for yourself. This means your goal needs to be clear, well-defined, and attainable. That’s not just it. Once you have a goal, you need to have a system that will determine how to achieve it.

For example, “I want to win the marathon” is technically a goal you can set for yourself but it is not well-defined. You cannot win the marathon in a day. You need to have a plan and work at it consistently to be able to achieve the goal. Think of it this way. Your goal is the rudder of a rowboat. It sets the direction of where your boat needs to go. But what actually moves the boat to the goal are the oars. The oars are your system for progress. So, if you want to win the marathon, your system is your daily training schedule. This brings us to the three types of goals:

  1. Outcome goals
  2. Performance goals
  3. Process goals

An outcome goal is the singular end result you are trying to achieve. Winning the gold medal at the marathon is your outcome goal. Performance goals are the specific standards you set for yourself to achieve if you want to attain your outcome goal. For example, the first performance goal could be finishing the 5K in 30 minutes, the next performance goal could be completing it in 20 minutes, and then the next in 18 minutes, etc. Process goals are smaller and more achievable goals that support the performance goals. Training four days a week, restricting your diet to a set number of calories, etc. are process goals.

This type of goal setting has a linear relationship. This means achieving process goals gives you a good chance of achieving your performance goals which in turn, sets you up for success in your outcome goal. 

The problem with goals is, it is easier said than done. Many of us tend to get distracted along the way, especially when it’s a long-term goal. Eventually, we end up losing focus and bailing out. This is where goal visualization comes to the rescue. Simply put, visualization is creating a mental image of achieving the goal.

Visualizing your goals shows you the possibility of achieving them. Creating a mental picture of holding the cup or kissing the gold medal after the marathon is a push in the right direction to pursue the goal. There’s also a science behind it. 

The neurons in our brain interpret such imagery as a real-life scenario. When we visualize, the brain generates an impulse that instructs our brain to perform the act. This creates a new neural pathway in the brain, which is a group of cells that create memories of the act as if we had done it before. This prepares our body and mind to act in the same way that we imagined. That is the power of visualization.

Back to the example of winning the marathon. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line before anyone else. Imagine the thrill of passing the finishing banner, looking at your watch, and then at the crowd cheering you. How satisfying does the rush of adrenaline feel when you know you’ve made it? How ecstatic do you feel to see your family clap when you are being awarded the gold medal? The more vivid the imagery, the more motivated you will feel.

Another type of visualization is process visualization. Visualize yourself running the marathon - legs like pistons, relaxed upper body, deep breathing. Imagine the track in front of you, divide it into sections, and think of the speed you will maintain in each section. Think of how you will push your body to do more when it wants to stop. This focuses your brain on completing the steps towards achieving your goal.

It’s important to remember that visualization does not guarantee achieving a goal. It has to be supported by smart goal setting, effort, and consistency. Combined together, these steps will get you where you want to be. When you get all of these right, there will be no stopping you.