Goal setting is a skill in and of itself. There’s no doubt about that. There’s also no doubt that it is a skill only a few give some thought about. A lot of people ignore it, especially when they think they have too much on their plate as if goal setting isn’t needed at all to achieve some organization in their life.

While goal setting is a skill, there are “sub-skills” that comprise it; they make up the big picture.

I’ve come up with the top five. These five goal-setting skills should be developed if you’d like to accomplish anything in your life (within reason, of course). If you neglect one of these goal-setting skills, you risk getting slowed down by things you’ll later find out to be unnecessary, or worse, you’ll get discouraged and finally decide to stop.

1. Planning and Monitoring

Believe it or not, planning must be carried out all throughout any endeavor, not just when it’s beginning.

Plans—the thing you should come up with after doing some planning—aren’t usually followed. They get written down (sometimes beautifully) on a nice piece of paper but they only tend to be shelved someplace, never referred to again.

Well, surprise, surprise. If you think that goal setting is all about end goals, then I’m sorry, it’s never about them.

Goal setting is a process, something I’ve also discovered in my life, the same way that planning also becomes a process.

You see, when planning becomes part of your habits, the plans (which I mentioned a while ago) don’t become a problem anymore.

It’s not the plans per se that you put your goal-setting efforts on—it’s on the planning itself. Does that make sense?

You become aware of your goals so that when you think something in your milestone has to change, you go back to planning and change accordingly.

That is why in effect, the plans you write down and shelve somewhere becomes reviewed regularly. And that’s the reason why monitoring is usually married to planning.

So yes, you don’t do planning and monitoring once or a couple of times. You’ll be doing it for the rest of your life—personal, professional, spiritual, romantic, and all the other aspects.

2. Focus

This skill is arguably the best I can think of.

Focus is our ability to channel our direct attention to only one thing—anywhere, anytime, however we feel.

Focus will challenge your ability to delay gratification, to do that thing and to accept the sacrifices involved, right now.

Focus requires that part of your brain to tell the procrastinating portion to shut up. It tells the comfortable side that focus is not comfortable. It will challenge your intuitions and probably prove that a lot of them are wrong.

The more mini-goals you have the more you’ll need focus. When you need to sit down and brainstorm ideas. When you know that in an hour you’ll be hitting the gym or going for a run. When you know you’ll be stuck in traffic to fetch your kid at school.

Focus can be tough. After all, we’re only human. A lot of thoughts and ideas tease our brain, especially when we’re depleted after working hours.

That’s why this skill is very important. When you are where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to do, focus could be all there is.

Let’s say for example, when you’re on a workout, you don’t want to be worrying about the heated argument you just had with a colleague a couple of hours ago. Allowing the latter to happen might compromise your workout such that you might end up doing your reps in the wrong form.

In other words, doing something without your direct attention is a waste of time.

3. Time management

Until you can bend time and space through a mobile app, you’ll need to manage your time well. So well that you can accomplish tasks a bit faster every time (while maintaining high quality) and that you feel good to tackle the next task.

Don’t be fooled by people who always seem to be “resting” or “having fun”! You know who I’m talking about. They’re the ones who always:

  • watch TV all night after coming home from work
  • go partying when “there’s nothing else to do”
  • “deserve a break”

You get the drift: They are the people who don’t take the necessary action to reach their big goals in life…or worse, they are those who don’t have goals at all!

Do you know of such people?

There are only two ways we can think of time: wasted…and not.

You can decide to waste a second of your life, or you can invest it to better yourself for the future you want.

Now the three examples I said above are well and good if and only if you planned for those specific “breaks,” at strategic points in your schedule (daily, weekly, or monthly). Because yeah, breaks are awesome when you truly need them. The whole night after office hours, every night, is not solely for “break time” or “party time.”

woman running

(Image: Stephen)

4. Flexibility

Here’s a fact: You will fail.

I want that to sink in before you continue reading.

(No, seriously, let it sink in first…)

We good? Okay, now we move on…

Even though you’ll fail, let me assure you that you will learn the most valuable lessons in times of failure.

You won’t learn them when you’re prosperous. You won’t learn them when you’re happy. You won’t learn them when you have what you need.

It’s just the truth. But the truth is always for your own good.

Flexibility is one of the greatest skills failure can teach you.

You see, failure opens up opportunities you’d never otherwise see. It shows you that you might not be capable of accomplishing that particular step—not yet—but that you should try this other one first, or develop this trait first, because that’s simply the way it is.

You then start to adapt to the situation. Instead of trying to do something over and over again, despite it not working, you look for another area at which you probably would do better.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

You could even discover something you’d love doing more of.

However, this doesn’t concern doing the work only.

Flexibility also affects how you deal with the people you’ll need to reach your goals. You can’t do it alone. You’ll need to interact with people of different attitudes and temperaments.

Keep in mind that change is constant and there’s just no reason for you to not keep up.

5. Not taking things too personally

This is one of the trickiest skills in that you might question what your life’s purpose is after all that you’ve done.

Consider this: A passion of yours is always personal to you. You won’t bother spending lots of time on it if it wasn’t. It is personal because it can contribute to your self-esteem, however a passion turns out.

But that’s exactly the catch.

The way you look at your project affects how you handle it. That’s why you need to see it as if somebody else is doing it and you’re simply managing it.

You have to learn to control your emotions for they can stall your work. You must be able to keep going even when it sucks, keeping in mind that everything you’re doing now is for your whole journey of success.

So, when you have a shitty day or you bump into one of your most toxic “friends,” treat it as an opportunity to strengthen your emotional resilience, as if they were only common and easy obstacles to something you truly want.

Know that many people won’t learn from frustrations because it is very easy to cling to unnecessary thoughts and avoid uncovering the big life lessons they just might find.

Jump right in and enjoy the ride.

Think About It

There you have it, the top five goal-setting skills you’ll ever need.

I’d contend that a lot of the other skills for goal setting are only secondary:

  • The ability to write down goals falls under planning and monitoring.
  • The courage to clean your room, or declutter your desk, or finally taking a shot at noise-cancelling headphones, develops under focus.
  • The ability to stop doing things you don’t need, even if it hurts, falls under time management.
  • On the other hand, the tenacity to start doing essential tasks you don’t necessarily like goes hand in hand with flexibility.
  • Going through lots of failures and still not taking them personally? You must be doing something that fulfills you, I guarantee it.

Think I missed a top goal-setting skill? Let me know in the comments!

(Top image: Jim Pennucci)

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