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I’ve run five marathons in my life (three New Yorks, one L.A., and one San Diego Rock N’ Roll), and oddly enough, the most empowering thing I’ve found about running marathons isn’t the race itself; it’s setting the goal to do the race in the first place.

Goal Setting for Health

Making the decision to achieve something, then committing to it, is what I’m talking about here; it's the power of saying “yes” and the magic in making it happen. For me, setting goals isn’t so much about getting results, as it is about the process and how you change because of it.

When you set a goal, you sign up to be challenged and changed by the experience. Setting a goal not only gives you a purpose and a path, it gives you an ongoing sense of pride and accomplishment as you reach it. And that’s what makes it so magical.

Need a confidence boost? Learn a new skill, decide to give up smoking, resolve to lose weight, launch a new project. All you need to do is set a goal and watch what happens: You might get smarter, healthier, and stronger just by trying.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. – Henry David Thoreau

And you don’t have to be a marathoner – or even an athlete – to appreciate the kind of runner’s high you’ll get from doing it. All you need are some tried-and-true goal-setting strategies and a little determination to get you going.

Two of my favorite strategies I’ve come across in my research are S.M.A.R.T. and Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles of Goal Setting. They’re designed mainly for business and marketing, but are applicable and attainable for everyone.

Created by Peter Drucker, the founder of modern business management, S.M.A.R.T. goals are one of the longest-lasting, most popular goal-setting frameworks for business and beyond.

S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific – The more specific you can be with writing down your objective, the easier it will be to clearly see what it is you need to accomplish. Often, answering the five “W” questions—Who, What, Where, Why, and Which—can help you achieve greater specificity.

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M – Measurable – Can your goal be measured? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?

A – Attainable – Another way of putting this is “realistic.” Is it possible to achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself?

R – Relevant – For businesses, a relevant goal means that it has the potential to impact your business objectives, vision, or values.

T – Time-bound – Give your goal a deadline.

In the late 1960s, Drs. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham created five principles showing how goals and feedback could be huge motivating factors for successful business employees.

Locke And Latham’s 5 Principles Of Goal-Setting

  1. Clarity – Similar to the specificity from SMART goal-setting, clear goals help immensely with understanding the task at hand, measuring the results, and achieving success.
  2. Challenge – The goal should be difficult and challenging enough to prove motivating, but not so challenging that it’s impossible to achieve. Using the Inverted U method a good way to test for appropriate challenge levels.
  3. Commitment – Get your teammates to buy into the goal. Involve them in the goal-setting process.
  4. Feedback – Measure your progress and seek advice throughout the pursuit toward the goal.
  5. Task complexity – Be careful in adding too much complexity to your goals as complexity can impact morale, productivity, and motivation

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if you’re a marathoner or a marketer, or whether it's personal or professional, the goal is the same when it comes to setting goals: Think big, aim high, and oh yeah, don’t forget to stick with it.

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Treva Brandon Scharf