Goal setting and achievement has a direct correlation with our self-esteem. Higher the self esteem, higher our chances of achieving our goals. Conversely, every missed goal leaves us with self esteem several notches down.
Keeping this in mind, we should undertake the task of goal setting and achievement wisely since it has consequences which have far reaching effects.
More often than not, parents are smart people. Instinctively, they know the role of praise and criticism in getting the desired result from the child.
But what we don’t know is that we can use the same technique on ourselves to raise our self esteem and thereby, our self efficacy (belief in our own ability).
Repeated failures to achieve our targets and goals can leave us depleted of inner strength. It’s not uncommon to hear the voices in our head saying, “I am not an achiever.” “Not my cup of tea.” “I will never be able to do this.”
This is defeatist talk fuelled by failure; caused by faulty goal setting.
Keeping in mind just a few tips and tricks regarding goal setting can make a huge difference to our self esteem. And that decides whether we are setting ourselves up for future success or failure.
Here are some awful mistakes that must be avoided at all costs while drawing up our targets if we don’t want to lower our self esteem.
- Not Starting small –
Don’t aim for the sky in your first jump itself. Set small, totally achievable targets. This will, subconsciously, give you signals of being a success and will boost your confidence in your abilities.
When I began my writing career, I made the mistake of setting a goal of – 5000 words a day. After repeated failures to achieve my target, I began feeling like a failure. That was before I discovered that this was a pretty high goal for a beginner writer. Once I reset my goal to 1000 words a day, I began to easily follow through to my goal and consequently, my level of self efficacy went up.
2. Not Being realistic –
While setting up goals, make sure that they are achievable. Being ambitious is good. But setting too high targets, which later on become a drag on your psyche, are more likely to be abandoned; naturally making you feel awfully low.
My friend, Aman, wanted to lose 25 kg of weight. Being highly motivated and driven, he felt he could lose that much weight in 4 months. But his gym instructor knew better. Despite Aman’s repeated requests, the instructor refused to draw up a plan for 4 months. As per him, this was highly unrealistic. Finally, when after 8 months, Aman found himself having lost 25 kg, he totally appreciated his instructor’s wisdom and advice.
Often, our own unrealistic plans, upon failing, leave us feeling like failures, plummeting our self esteem.
3. Setting up goals which don’t ‘belong’ to you –
If the goal won’t be your very own, it is likely to be abandoned. Often we set other people’s targets as our own. This may be under pressure – of parent’s, may be – or of someone in the office; or the goal setting may be driven by comparison with someone you envy or idolize or copy. But till the time the goal comes directly from your heart; something you desire for yourself and are ready to go to any length for it; you will find it difficult to follow through.
Therefore, before your goal setting and achievement process, sit and think deeply – “Is this really coming from my own deepest desires?” “What desire/ aim is behind this goal?”
Growing up, my cousin Raman was the family’s poster boy for success. He was brilliant in studies and cleared the AIIMS medical entrance exam in his first attempt itself. Every child in our family wanted to become like him. Me inclusive. And similar to my cousin Raman, my goal was to get into AIIMS. But sadly, it took me two years of high school, slogging my way through science subjects that I realized I had set up a goal based on faulty premise. Being a medical professional wasn’t after my heart. Thankfully, rather than wasting more years on something that I did not desire, I changed my course in time and took up Psychology, Sociology and study of English Literature for my graduate degree. Once I chose the goals that truly ‘belonged’ to me, I could easily excel in them, topping the college in my chosen subjects.
4. Clubbing too many goals together –
Goal achievement demands focus. Having too many tasks at hand can deplete us of energy and the desired focus. Therefore, it is always advisable to take one goal at a time, accomplish it and then move on to the next one.
Too many tasks make us do justice to none. Failing at one goal is, in itself, bad for our self esteem. Imagine what a bunch of failed goals will do to us!
5. Not reviewing your goals / progress from time to time –
Taking stock of our goals; understanding where we stand – how close or far – we are from our goals is an absolute must.
Imagine a person wanting to attain his ideal body weight, not weighing himself from time to time! While we take it absolutely normal and must for a weight watcher to measure his success occasionally, we often forget that this applies to ALL goal setting and achievement, irrespective of the type of goal.
Some goals are very easy in terms of measurement. Getting to your ideal weight, for example.
But some goals are difficult to quantify. So make your own benchmarks BEFORE starting out. And THEN make sure to review your progress against those benchmarks. This will give you a clear idea as to your next course of action – whether you need to enlist some outside help, delegate or a change of strategy.
In case of not reviewing our goals may suddenly, one fine day, find us at a spot marked in big letters – ‘Failure’.
6. Not dividing your goals into subgoals –
Ask any pilot flying a plane from, say, New Delhi to New York. They have their course and time clearly chalked out into sub-parts like so –
Take off: 12am from New Delhi 28.5562° N, 77.1000° E –
Reach Dubai: 3.25 am 25.2532° N, 55.3657° E –
Take off from Dubai: 5am –
Reach New York: 8.35pm 40.7769° N, 73.8740° W
Veering off course midway by even one degree is not acceptable. That is the precision!
Breaking a big goal into smaller parts makes everything look achievable to the human mind. We don’t run the risk of feeling overwhelmed.
Secondly, smaller parts are easier to measure than the whole.
And thirdly, making changes to your plans as you review your subgoals intermittently, becomes possible.
7. Not celebrating your successes –
Acknowledging ourselves for our smaller accomplishments is a must if we intend to keep our self esteem and morale up throughout our goal achievement journey.
Sadly, very few people ever do it. I didn’t either till a couple of years ago.
In December 2018, Sandra, my friend from the US, stayed with me for a while. As we sat together in my living room, cozily sipping her favourite cinnamon tea, I mentioned how she was visiting India after a gap of almost 7 years.
“O you are so right, Mukta” she said, “ Every year I used to think I would visit India but then my busy work schedule used to stop me. I was longing to visit, though. So this time you know what I did? I said to myself… if I am able to hit my mid term target of 50K dollars, I’ll reward myself with a visit to India. So here I am!”
“That’s quite a reward, Sandra!” I said.
“O yeah! It kept me motivated all along. There were times when I was so close to giving up. But then my own reward to myself kept me going.”
That got me thinking.
When I questioned Sandra, who is a successful personal investment consultant in the US, about this concept of rewarding oneself, she went on to explain further, how it keeps a person highly motivated in goal achievement.
“What I did was,” Sandra said,” I put photos of places in India that I wished to visit, on my refrigerator. Those kept my strength up.”
From that day onwards, I promise myself rewards too – not just for the completion of goals, but also for subgoals. And make it a point to fulfil my promises to myself. 🙂
In fact, I go a step further.
In order to bolster my self esteem, I write myself letters of appreciation on the successful completion of subgoals. Letters which I, then, go on to display on my pinboard in the study where I can see them. Believe me, those letters perk me up just like my early morning cup of masala tea.
Nothing can equal the rush of warm happiness and inner fulfilment we get after getting a pat on the back from our own self.
Just keeping in mind these 7 points regarding goal setting and achievement can make all the difference between a flagging self esteem (that happens with failures and makes us give up on our goals) and a soaring one (that success gives us and keeps us going).
And as Babe Ruth has put it: “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”