Goal-setting. It’s one of the most valued skills in a world driven by productivity and output. It’s the first step to achieving anything worthwhile. And yet, so many people struggle mightily with it. There are those who set unrealistic goals, leaving them in a constant state of discouragement. There are those who make colossal to-do lists jam-packed with incredibly easy-to-accomplish goals. And, of course, there are those who fail to set any goals at all. So, how do you avoid being one of these people? Be ambitious – but, in a highly specific way. There is a three-step framework you should apply every time you set goals, and it starts with three statements: “I Want, I Will, I Can.”
“I Want” – Ask Yourself Why?
The first step to setting any goal and cultivating ambition is to identify why you are trying to achieve it. For instance, maybe you know your goal has something to do with going to the gym to bulk up and improve your physique. Ask yourself why that is something that you value. Once you figure that out, write it down in the form of an “I want” statement…
I want to improve my physique because I want to feel more confident in my own skin.
This will be your mantra, moving forward. If you accurately identify your “Why?”, then reading this simple “I want” statement will keep you going when faced with adversity.
“I Will” – Ask Yourself How?
Once you have identified why you are tackling this problem, the second step involves creating a detailed plan of action. Ask yourself how you are going to achieve your goal. After you figure this out, write it down in the form of an “I will” statement, to demonstrate your commitment.
I will workout at the gym 4 times per week, for an hour per workout.
Notice the specificity in the statement above. I’ve specified the location, the weekly frequency and the duration, so that there is no uncertainty regarding how I will carry out this plan. Be as specific as possible.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to your plan of action is that you will struggle with following it, at times. There will be weeks when you workout three times instead of four. There may even be weeks when you don’t workout at all. But, no matter how many times you err from your plan, it is crucial that you re-commit every time. The old Japanese proverb rings true in this case, “Seven times down, eight times up.”
“I Can” – Ask Yourself What?
Now that you know why you want to achieve your goal, and how you are going to do it, the last step is to determine the best way to track your progress. To do this, you need to articulate your goal, which should contain three aspects…
- Numbers: having a goal that can be quantified numerically is ideal. Though not always possible, a number on a scale, a subscriber count or a GPA score are just three examples of extremely effective ways of quantifying your progress.
- Time: your goal should be tied to a specific, hard timeline. The temptation to delay and procrastinate can only be countered by a hard deadline.
- The Right Level of Ambition: this is, undoubtedly, the most difficult aspect to incorporate into your goal. Take the time to identify your limitations and pick a goal that is just outside of your comfort zone. For instance, if you feel that you can comfortably gain 8-pounds of muscle over the course of a year, set your goal just above that, at 12-pounds. This gives you the right balance between a goal that is both realistic and highly ambitious.
Once you have brainstormed these elements, write it down in the form of an “I can” statement…
I can gain 12-pounds of muscle within the next 12 months.
The Goal of Goal-Setting
If you set goals using this framework, you can properly create a state of discontentment between where you are and where you want to be. That same discontentment, coupled with a goal that is just outside of your comfort zone, will motivate you to achieve what you have laid out in your plan of action. And, hopefully, after enough lofty goals are accomplished, you will be able to characterize yourself as someone who is truly ambitious.
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” – James Cameron