In case you haven’t noticed, most of the world surrounding you is moving toward or already using a goal oriented, incentive based system. The reason is simple. It works.
Credit unions and banks often provide incentives in the form of reduced lending rates or increased savings rates to their members and customers for using more than one of their products or for using a specific service. Credit card issuers reward you with airline miles, cash back, and a host of other gifts when you use their credit card to make your purchases. Grocery stores discount certain items if you carry their check-cashing card. Most employers have created a merit-based, incentive-laden environment that rewards employees for adapting behavior that is consistent with organizational goals.
For the most part, incentives are the rewards you receive for reaching your goals. In the same way that people are much more likely to achieve their goals if they are written and specific, businesses have found that they are likely to do more business with customers who are incented to do business with them.
Knowing how to establish your goals is the most essential aspect of developing any useful and relevant plan and there are several key ingredients of successful goal setting.
Understand the Purpose
When you set out to establish your own goals, you should begin the process by defining what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Understanding the purpose of your goals will help you develop a plan and to stick to it accordingly.
In fact, understanding the purpose of anything that you do will lead directly to increased personal awareness and perspective as well as the gratification you experience when you understand your role and how it relates to the world around you. Remember that stress only comes from what you don’t know or cannot control. If you understand your purpose and you follow the plan that you create to achieve a desired outcome through effective goal setting, you will absolutely reduce, if not eliminate stress in your life.
Your goals should be specific and personalized to you and your individual need or aim. Being specific will ensure that your goals remain relevant during the time period they are in place. Personalizing your goals will help you to stay motivated and engaged in your pursuit of achievement. Relevancy and personal motivation cannot be underestimated in a world in which you continually face a host of new challenges and are subject to getting side-tracked, losing focus, or losing direction. When something remains relevant to you, you are more likely to persevere and see things through to a positive conclusion.
Setting goals that are measurable will help you be able to determine whether or not you are successfully achieving your goals, whether they are short-term or long-term in nature. Establishing measurements that are applicable at the onset, up through and including the completion of your goal, will help you to maintain your motivation and enthusiasm for achieving the goal. In most cases, the more tangible and quantifiable your measurements are, the more helpful they will be. Examples of useful measurements include, but are not limited to, numeric references, timelines and deadlines, and benchmarks.
Make them Attainable
Even if you successfully complete all of the other steps, you will waste your time if you do not ensure that your goals are attainable.. Setting attainable goals does not mean setting them so that they are easily achievable, rather that they are realistic and rooted in reality. In determining the attainability of a goal, you should make sure that you would experience a sense of accomplishment if the goal were achieved.
Align Incentives Accordingly
Goals and incentives are further related in that they are both indicative of deliberate behavior associated with a specific plan and their value applies to any situation you will encounter.
You will increase your chance for success in any situation if your goal oriented behavior is properly lined up with incentives designed to encourage you and keep you focused on achievement and forward progress. Just as businesses have found out that people respond positively and consistently to incentives, you will find that if you include your own meaningful and personal incentives in your planning and goal-setting, the whole process of achievement will be even more worthwhile and rewarding.
Just as is the case with the goals that you set for yourself, incentives must be understood and carry personal significance for you. Once those elements are established, incentives can be as elaborate or as simple as you would like them to be as long as they are reflective of the achievement you have earned.
You should never hesitate to celebrate your successes and reward yourself for your accomplishments no matter how small you feel they may be or what step along the way they represent. Sometimes, the small celebrations are the most important because they help you to build momentum and develop better habits. They also invariably lead to bigger celebrations!
Positive recognition is always a part of any useful incentive, even if that recognition is something you only give to yourself. Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary. They can include a night out, time away, or extra time off of work. They can be activity based or relaxation based.
Ideally, the amount of reward you earn from your pursuits in life is equal to the amount of effort you put toward those same pursuits. The simple act of setting goals and determining incentives will set the course for anyone to live their life in that manner.
When you take the time to regularly set personal goals and balance them with worthwhile rewards, you take a big step toward creating more opportunities and greater freedom of choice. It is the type of freedom only felt by those that have taken command of their life by creating and following their own plans and making their own decisions.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.