There are many things I wished I had learned 10 years earlier, one of them being how crucial having personal goals are to achieving whatever it is you want from life.

Several studies have shown a strong correlation between setting personal goals, self-motivation, self-confidence, achievement and success in life. By having goals, you ensure that you are being kept accountable and spend each passing day on something tangible, something genuinely of value and making the most of each 24-hour block that passes.

Personal goals can help you live your deliberately by guiding you towards a destination. You're not wondering through life aimlessly like a lost sheep. The goals help you to define your paths in life - your life strategy. You will be living your life deliberately, with purpose, towards the achievement of a goal, instead of just living life just for the ride and hoping for the best.

You've heard this many times before and I'll tell you again. Life is short.

Someone living in a developed country will, on average, experience 30,000 unique days over their lifetime. If you're unlucky, this may well be less.

If you're 25, you're already used up over 9,000 of these days. What are you going to do with the remaining 21,000?

Successful People Set Goals

The people who society deem to be successful set personal goals and define their paths.

  • Steve Jobs didn't wake up one day to find out he was running the world's largest company by pure chance.
  • Neil Armstrong didn't suddenly find himself 384,000 kilometres away on the moon one afternoon, wondering how on earth he got there (pardon the pun).
  • Barack Obama didn't stand in front of 1.8 million people in Washington on 20 January 2009 to find out he was President of the USA, scratching his head questioning how it happened.
  • "Urmm I don't know, it just kinda happened" isn't the response Lionel Messi would give when asked how he has managed to be named the best footballer on the planet a record 5 times.

These people all had goals. They had a strategy and executed.

The magnitude of their success is unlikely to be something they could have imagined when they started setting their goals on their journey. But they all had goals, dreams, and with some luck along the way, they were able to turn these goals and dreams into reality.

Granted, setting personal goals is not a guarantee for success. But by not setting goals, your life is almost directionless, and you may end up on a path in life not determined by you.

For these goals to be effective, they must be actionable. You're more likely to procrastinate and avoid working towards your goals if they are abstract.

"I want to become more flexible" is an example of an abstract goal. "Attending 2 yoga classes a week" is more actionable and is more likely to result with you becoming more flexible. You have a greater chance of success.

Photo by Estée Janssens / Unsplash

Prioritise Your Most Important Goals

Once you've compiled a list of your goals, you should prioritise them. You should only be working towards a handful of them at any given moment. The rest should be put on hold until you have managed to complete your top 5 goals.

Simultaneously working towards too many goals can be demoralising, or demotivating. Progress on each goal is slower, and you're likely to feel a lower sense of achievement.  You spread yourself thin and are less likely to complete any single goal.

Conversely, putting all your time and energy on completing one goal or a handful of goals at a time can be highly motivating and more rewarding - a catalyst for achieving further goals. Each time you complete a goal and cross it off your list provides you with a sense of achievement. This feeling can snowball.

You should not underestimate the psychological boost from regularly achieving your goals - it is enormous. It can make completing your other goals easier.

I have about 30 goals at present but prioritise between 3 to 5 of these goals as I believe there is power in focus.

I've set myself a goal of running 160km in total this month, which equates to just over 5km a day. Achieving this is my single most important goal this month, and I will do everything in I can, to ensure I achieve this goal. Wanting to be known as someone who follows through with what they say will hold me accountable.

Expanding my finite time and energy on my top 5 goals makes it a lot more likely that I will complete my goals while abandoning any unimportant goals!

I lead a simple life and am a minimalist at heart, so I believe less is more. Having these 30 goals written down, meant they did not weigh me down mentally. I didn't have to think about them or use up any mental energy to remember them. It allowed me to channel my focus towards actioning my more important goals.

Warren Buffett's 5/25 Strategy

Incidentally, my approach to setting goals is similar to the method Warren Buffett shared with his personal pilot at the time, Mike Flint.

Buffett, the greatest investor of all time and one of the worlds wealthiest person sets his goals by what has become known as the 5/25 strategy. Buffett shared this strategy with Flint, who had worked for him for over 10 years as Buffet's personal pilot.

By all accounts, Flint was already a successful man. After all, he had flown 4 US presidents and Buffett himself for many years. Yet, Flint was vocal and outspoken of the value he's received from this exercise. Using this method, he eventually went on to launch his airline in Silicon Valley - Visionary Airlines.

The advice shared by Buffett was for Flint to list 25 goals he would like to achieve, circling his top 5. After some deliberation, Flint was able to circle his top 5 goals.

Buffett then told Flint to "avoid at all costs" the remaining 20 goals, until Flint had been able to complete his top 5.

The other 20 goals may have been important to Flint, but Buffett described them as distractions in the way of his top 5 goals. These goals weren't significant enough to make the top 5, so he couldn't justify spending his time and energy on them. He had 5 goals which were much more important to him.

It's better to have 5 fully completed goals than 25 partially completed goals.

If there's anything you've taken away from this post, it should be that setting personal goals is very important for everyone. If you haven't set yourself personal goals, don't delay this any further and set yourself some goals today.

The future you will be grateful.


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