This evening, I was discussing with my wife the importance of focusing one's energies and setting goals. It occurred to me that goal setting is the most overlooked and most powerful tool for self growth. Studies have shown people who create goals and implement plans to achieve them are vastly more likely to succeed. Proper goal setting is the tool of the homo econimus, rational, self actualizing man.
But the problem is that most people don't understand HOW to set their goals. Failure at this initial step undermines the whole process that follows, like a house built on quicksand - it may seem stable, but the slightest pressure will send it sinking into the swamp.
So what is a goal? It isn't an idea, or a concept, or a state. A proper goal is a measurable result of an action. "Being a good person/spouse" isn't a goal. It's certainly a nice idea and something to aspire to, but it is ultimately meaningless and undefined. Even "losing weight" isn't a proper goal because it is too nebulous. The scale went down overnight, so am I done?
The power of a goal is the creation of a psychological reality, an obligation to the self that lends itself to oriented thinking. This can only be accomplished through definition. To-do lists work because they prescribe specific actions to be taken in an immediate time frame with organization and importance. It is NOT enough to say "I want to lose weight." In order to be effective, one must say how much and by when. Conversely, saying your goal is "to finish school" doesn't work because there is no action explicitly connected to your goal, making it impossible to gage progress.
Once you have an action, clearly defined in scope and in time, it becomes natural to measure your progress against that goal. Consciousness becomes the key to your success, and the way to make awareness natural is through planning and reviewing your goals. Being mindful of HOW we build our goals can help us move naturally in the direction of our dreams.