January 28, 2020

6 Goal-setting techniques that can give you more power over your own life

Setting goals is imperative to living a happy and fulfilling life.​

- Amplio Coaching
Goals provide us with the focus to channel our energy into the direction that’s best for us, our friends and family and the world itself. We all want a better world and hence we should all want people to set their goals well. Goals should be motivational, personal and in line with our values and identity. Then let’s start setting goals instantaneously, right?
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It isn’t quite as simple as that. Setting goals is a kind of art. You have to consider them well, because you have to balance them out well. They need to be motivational and at the same time, in line with your identity and values. For example, if you only set goals associated to the physical dimension of life, you will inevitably neglect the other dimensions like social and mental. Imagine a person who trains 15 hours a day to become the next heavyweight kickboxing champion. This person will have no time to nurture the other important dimensions of life.

Once you have determined your goals to be in balance with a life that suits you, you have to define them so you can work towards them. Remember that goals can also function as yardsticks, so they should also possess a measurable part. Goal-setting is not a new concept and thousands of researchers have investigated the best ways we can set goals. In this post I'll share 6 of these goal-setting techniques. I'll also clarify their benefits and downsides. Note that this blog post only provides you with an overview. We'll go way more into detail in our goal-setting course.

Goal-setting techniques

1. S.M.A.R.T. Goal-Setting

Let's start off with probably the most famous and widely-known technique; SMART Goals. The SMART goals technique basically stipulates that goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. 

SMART goals provide you with a way of defining your goals and is a technique widely taught in business schools. 

The main benefits of SMART goal setting are:

  • Ability to accurately gauge whether the goal has been reached
  • Provides direction and clarity
  • Clear, defined steps for setting a goal.

There are always disadvantages, in this case, they are:

  • Achievement addiction
  • Results in identity confusion
  • Spiritual starvation

2. OKR Goal-Setting

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OKRs is a popular concept nowadays. You could call them the Google way of setting goals. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a popular management strategy for goal setting within organizations. The goals are based on the objectives you want to accomplish and the key metrics that must be achieved to reach these objectives.

The purpose of OKRs is to connect company, team, and personal goals to measurable results while having all the team members and the leaders work together towards the same direction. At Amplio, we believe that you can also leverage the concept of OKRs in your personal life. Well-known advantages of OKRs are:

  • Reconciliation of different areas of your life
  • Increase in productivity
  • Clear direction

Some disadvantages are:

  • Getting lost in detail
  • OKR overload
  • No long-term focus

3. B.H.A.G. Goal Setting

This is an abbreviation referring to Big Hairy Audacious Goals. BHAG goals are goals that focus on the ideal future scenario. It is kind of the desired state that occurs in your wildest dreams, that you are aiming for in terms of your personal life.

So, for example, if having a lot of possessions is a top priority for you, a BHAG goal could be to own a private jet. If giving back is important to you in life, it could be having your own charity that helps 10,000s  of people yearly.

Personal BHAG goals will not be attained over night, but should provide you with the motivation to keep hustling. The main advantages of BHAG goals are:

  • Motivational
  • Inspirational
  • Long-term focus

However, disadvantages are:

  • Can be unrealistic and unattainable
  • Not concrete
  • Demotivational if used incorrectly

4. Backward Goal-Setting

I like to consider myself a rational person. That’s why I like the “backward goals” technique. Backward goal-setting is like setting a dot on the horizon and reverse-engineering your way towards this dot. 

To exemplify, if your big goal were to go to the south of France, you would reverse-engineer your way to get there through milestones. In this case, Brussels and Paris would be your milestone goals. It is often used for the career dimension of our lives.

For example, if you wanted to become an Account Director at a big multinational company in 5 years, you could dissect the process and determine milestones to reach that goal, like working as an Account Manager at a smaller company for 2 years to gain experience in the field. 

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Advantages of this goal setting technique are:

  • Plan-based
  • Concrete, clear, logical
  • Communicable

Disadvantages of this goal-setting technique are:

  • Static
  • Can lead to identity confusion
  • Overrational

5. One Word Goal-Setting

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One-Word Goal-setting stands out amidst the other techniques because it's based on a radical concept: setting one-word goals (as the name suggests). Goal-setting with merely one word helps us to simplify our lives.

It is a way to shut out all the noise in our lives and let life take its course on the basis of one focus word. In this fast-moving society, it is a way to stay close to our goal.

In the end, we will remember a one-word-goal easier than an entire OKR list, right? One Word goal-setting creates clarity, power and passion, overarching all the dimensions of your life.

Clear advantages of this goal-setting technique are:

  • Spiritual
  • No falling into analysis paralysis

But some disadvantages of this goal-setting technique are:

  • Lacks detail
  • Requires explanation

6. Locke and Latham's 5 Principles Goal-Setting

The goal-setting technique created by the inventors of goal-setting is called Locke and Latham's 5 Principles. According to Locke and Latham, we should take these 5 goal-setting principles into consideration: 

  • Clarity, 
  • Challenge, 
  • Commitment, 
  • Feedback, 
  • Task complexity.
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It’s for a reason that Locke and Latham are the godfathers of goal-setting, because this technique is all-encompassing and complete. The advantages are:

  • Complete
  • High chance of success
  • Thorough

Disadvantages are:

  • Overly complex
  • Spiritual starvation

Is any one of these 6 techniques the BEST one for setting your goals? No. Different goal-setting techniques can suit different people. That’s why we at Amplio incorporate all of the 6 aforementioned ones in our coaching.

Sometimes, we really believe one of the techniques is a perfect fit for a client. Oftentimes we are mistaken. Only you know which technique suits you best. In the end, we recommend using a combination of all of them, depending on the context of the goal.

Did you know one, a few, or all the goal-setting techniques in this list? Is there a technique missing from the list? If so, which one? Tell us in the comments!

Written by Jasper De Taeye

Jasper is one of the founders of Amplio Coaching. He has been working in tech his entire career and he reconciles his experience working in tech with his personal development knowledge. Jasper is a certified life coaching through the Dublin Business University and a master NLP practitioner studying at the Scottish Centre of NLP.

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