I've lost count of how many of my friends have shared the infamous Norman Vincent Peale quote on social media:
“Aim for the moon. You'll land among the stars even if you miss.”
In other words, aim high and set far-reaching goals, and even if you don't quite make it, you'll be in good shape. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment behind setting lofty goals in all aspects of life. However, Norman Vincent Peale and I might disagree on framing such goals from the start in a way that already mentions the possibility of failing to meet them or setting and achieving goals that are possibly impossible.
A goal, in my opinion, should be a well-balanced combination of being ambitious and realistic (very much in keeping with the concept of SMART Goals).
This post may contain some affiliate links to products that I use and love. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.
I'm in marketing. As a result, the concept of a measurable goal is not foreign to me. It was almost drilled into me from the beginning of my career that everything must be goal-driven, and that has served me well. However, goal setting and, more importantly, goal attainment can have a significant positive impact on all professional and personal aspects of your life, regardless of what you do for a living.
Let's take a look at why it's important to set realistic goals and some of the benefits of doing so.
1. Goal Setting, Goal Achievement, and Self-Esteem
We're dealing with a serious lack of self-confidence. According to a 2021 study, the majority of women (62%) and half of men do not believe they are intelligent. Surprisingly, more than 60% of us do not believe we are good at our jobs.
In addition, low self-esteem is linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicide
So, what does this have to do with setting goals?
George Wilson's study on “Value-Centred Approach To Goal-Setting And Action Planning” found clear links between goal achievement and increased self-confidence.
In other words, setting concrete goals, even if you have not yet achieved them but are making progress toward them, can lead to increased self-esteem
2. Goal-setting Motivates Us
Another reason why setting realistic goals is important is that it motivates us.
Let's face it: motivation is a struggle for many people right now. Even the most zealous of us would struggle after a year of turbulence and uncertainty. However, according to a study, setting goals helps people stay motivated.
Having goals to work toward, especially during difficult times, can help you maintain focus and motivation in your work as well as in your personal goals.
3. The Influence of Micro-Goals
This particular tip, to quote the wonderful Baz Luhrmann, “has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience”—well, in my experience and that of others I've shared anecdotally.
Over the last year, I've been on a mission to lose a ton of weight—not a literal ton, mind you. But, to be more specific, I was hoping to lose 56 pounds. It's not the first time I've attempted this mission, and on my previous three attempts, I got about halfway before quitting and undoing all of my hard work. Hello there, self-destruction mode!
This time, I took a different approach. Instead of starting with the goal of “I want to lose 56 pounds,” I've broken it down into micro goals that feel more realistically achievable in a short amount of time.
- 1st goal: 14 lbs
- Goal number two: lose 28 pounds
- 3rd goal: 35 lbs
- 4th goal: 42 lbs
- 5th goal: 49 lbs
- 6th goal: 56 lbs
I recently completed goal 4 and am now on my way to goal 5.
So, what's the catch this time?
I'm motivated because I've already accomplished four of my goals. On my most recent attempt, despite being 25 pounds lighter, I was frustrated that my goal still seemed so far away. This time, I'm celebrating victories more frequently by establishing smaller goals that contribute to the larger goal. It contributes to my determination and commitment.
4. Dopamine Appreciates Realistic Goals
Dopamine is known colloquially as the “pleasure chemical.” It is the chemical that is released when we are pleased. That happiness can be created by either bad or good habits. Some illegal drugs work by interfering with the dopamine system in the body, which is why they are so addictive.
Micro goals, it turns out, provide us with a sense of accomplishment. Achieving smaller goals on the way to a larger one provides us with a nice little hit of dopamine, which keeps us motivated on the way to the bigger goal.
5. Achieving Realistic Goals Gives Us “Oomph!”
A 2017 study by Granot, Stern, and Balcetis discovered that setting goals raises our systolic blood pressure, which makes us feel more ready to act. The findings, however, went a step further. They confirmed that when the goals felt “difficult to achieve” (i.e., “realistic”), the increase in SBP was greater than when the goal felt too difficult.
Setting realistic goals, in other words, has a physical impact on our bodies, giving us the “oomph” we need to go out and get it.
6. The Goldilocks Rule and Realistic Goals
Goals, by definition, are desired outcomes that necessitate action on our part. Achieving goals is only possible if we stick to the necessary course of action. And sticking with anything, whether it's a diet, a pledge to write 500 words a day, a running regimen, or a sales target, requires motivation.
James Clear discusses the Goldilocks Rule in an article. The Goldilocks rule is based on the premise that humans are only motivated when the task at hand is at the absolute optimum level of difficulty. Clear contends that if something is too simple, you will become bored. In other words, if your goal is too simple, your motivation will dwindle because you will not feel challenged enough.
If, on the other hand, the task is far too difficult (even impossible), you become demotivated, believing that no matter what you do, you will fail. Consider playing chess as a beginner against a Grandmaster. Being obliterated over and over again is likely to drive you to give up.
Clear contends that the “Goldilocks” zone for a goal is the area where it is difficult and pushes you to the limit of your abilities while remaining firmly within your grasp. Humans are most motivated and committed to the actions required to achieve their goals when they are in this state.
So, keep in mind that the next time you set goals, they should be challenging but not impossible.
7. Goal Setting Has the Potential to Change Your Life
So we know that setting realistic goals and micro goals can help us stay motivated as we work toward bigger goals. And, in the end, this is what has the most life-changing effects.
As an adult, I've set goals in a variety of areas. When I was in my early twenties, I set an income goal (which I divided into micro-goals), and each time I met one of the micro-goals, I rewarded myself with an experience (a visit somewhere usually). I'm still not at my final destination, so this will continue.
I've recently set weight-related health goals for myself. Using realistic micro-goals, I'm well on my way. These smaller, more attainable goals add up. For me, they will add up to being healthy and financially secure—both of which will be life-changing events.
It could be something completely different for you. However, I am a firm believer in setting large, life-changing goals, breaking them down into smaller, more realistic goals, and achieving them.
Get It Now!
What do you desire? Is it a matter of income? Or do you want a job in a specific company, a business in a specific industry, or the ability to run at a specific speed? I hope that reading these 7 benefits of realistic goal-setting has helped you understand why it is critical to set realistic goals.
Only you know what life-altering goals entail for you. But here's something you could try:
Make a list of your ultimate goal(s) and how long you believe it will take to achieve them.
Break it down into smaller goals that can be accomplished in a shorter period of time.
Make a plan for achieving that first micro goal.
Get it now.
How to Get Unstuck: I've been stuck in many places in my life. Most of the time, I get stuck when it comes to writing. I can't seem to put my pen to paper when I just can't think of the right words. This is not surprising if you're a writer. You can't always write like you're in a business meeting, and sometimes you need to write like you're in a coffee shop and you're sitting around with your best friend. Sometimes I get stuck in crowds or even at home. Then I realize that I feel stuck because I'm not in the right frame of mind. So, I go for a walk and get some fresh air. I walk around town, and I take in the sights and sounds of the outside world. It helps me get unstuck. I think about something else for a while and then, I can write again. Read more.
What Am I Doing With My Life: You could be spending your time and energy better. Are you happy with the direction you've taken with your life? Think about how you can improve and make an effort to do so, and you'll be glad you did. Content: You could be spending your time and energy better. Are you happy with the direction you've taken with your life? Think about how you can improve and make an effort to do so, and you'll be glad you did. Read more.
How to Stop Caring: If you're suffering from a mental illness that makes you overly-attached to something, it's important that you find a way to cope with it. Write out a negative emotion list and a positive attachment list. Then, compare the two lists to determine if your attachment is causing your suffering. Next, write a list of reasons why sacrificing your attachment will do good. Afterwards, write a list of reasons why sacrificing your attachment will do harm. Next, ask yourself if you're suffering from a mental illness and if so, seek help from a professional. Read more.
Hard Through: If you have been struggling with trying to complete a project or have been having a lot of trouble putting together a presentation, then you don't have to worry anymore! I have been able to complete a bunch of projects lately because of a product I found called Hard Through. It has been a huge help because it allows you to focus more on the task at hand and less on the pain that you were feeling. It is great for anyone who deals with pain regularly, whether it be in your bones, muscles, joints, or even your head! It's amazing how much this product is helping me get things done! Read more.
Will Life Get Better: Life gets better, and we live it better when we look at it this way. When we look at life as something that we control, we can make it better. When we look at life as something outside of ourselves, we can make it frustrating and unbearable. When we make our choices, we make our lives. Read more.
You have heard it all before: "Live life to the fullest", "follow your dreams", "be who you are" and "if it is meant to be, it will be". These are all wonderful quotes that are meant to help you live a happy life but they miss the point. Our lives are interconnected with each other and with the world.
No matter how hard you think you try, there’s always going to be a certain level of stress in your life. And when stress gets out of hand, it can start to negatively affect your life. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are some easy steps you can take to improve your life in the long run, and we’ve found a few that can help you enjoy a better life and get rid of stress.