Goals are what take us forward in life; they are the oxygen to our dreams. They are the first steps to every journey we take and are also our last. It’s very important that you realize the significance and importance of goal-setting and apply this knowledge in your life.
Begin with the end in mind. - Stephen Covey
According to Wikipedia the exact definition of a goal is:
A desired result a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.
In other words any planning you do for the future regardless of what it is, is a goal. So the next time you are planning on doing the weekly chores or decide on watching that really cool action movie after work, always keep in mind that these small tasks account as goals and while seemingly insignificant you are goal setting.
Imagine having to shoot an arrow without being given a target. Where would you aim? And say you did aim at some random thing (out of sheer perplexity). Why would you aim there? And what would the purpose be? Get the idea… This is a literal example of what life is like without a goal or target in mind. It’s pointless and waste of energy and effort.
You can have all the potential in the world but without focus your abilities and talent are useless. Just like how sunlight can't burn through anything without a magnifying glass focusing it, you can't achieve anything unless a goal is focusing your effort. Because at the end of the day goals are what give you direction in life. By setting goals for yourself you give yourself a target to shoot for. This sense of direction is what allows your mind to focus on a target and rather than waste energy shooting aimlessly, allows you to hit your target and reach your goal.
If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. -Zig Ziglar
By setting goals for yourself you are able to measure your progress because you always have a fixed endpoint or benchmark to compare with.
Take this scenario for example:
David makes a goal to write a book with a minimum of 300 pages. He starts writing everyday and works really hard but along the way he loses track of how many more pages he has written and how many more he needs to write. So rather than panicking David simply counts the number of pages he has already written and he instantly determines his progress and knows how much further he needs to go.
By setting goals you give yourself mental boundaries. When you have a certain end point in mind you automatically stay away from certain distractions and stay focused towards the goal. This process happens automatically and subtly but according to research does happen.
To get a better idea, imagine this. Your best friend is moving to Switzerland and his flight takes off at 9:00 PM. You leave right after work at 8:30 PM to see him off and you know it's a 20 minute walk to get to the airport. So you make it a goal to reach the airport in 15 minutes by jogging so that you can have more time to say your goodbyes. Would you get distracted by "anything" along the way? Would you stop for a break or a snack? Would you stop by your house before going to the airport? I bet you answered no for each question and at he end of the day this is what a goal gives you. FOCUS. No matter who you meet along the way or what you see (assuming nothing is out of the ordinary) your goal allows you to stay locked in. You subconsciously keep away from distractions and your focus remains only on the goal. And by the way if you didn't know yet this is how you become successful, you set a goal, you lock it in and then give it your 100%.
One half of knowing what you want, is knowing what you must give up before you get it. – Sidney Howard
When you set a goal for yourself you make yourself accountable to finish the task. This is in complete contrast with when you do things based of a whim and it doesn't matter whether you complete them or not. Goals tend to stick in your mind and if not completed they give you a "Shoot! I was supposed to do do _____ today!" reminder. These reminders in the back of your head help you to overcome procrastination and laziness.
(*But keep in mind that long-term goals actually promote procrastination. Most people aren’t good with deadliness 3 month away. So whenever you’re given a long term goal, break it down into a several short term goals so you can complete a chunk of the larger long term goal every week or even every day.)
The root of all the motivation or inspiration you have ever felt in your entire life are goals. Goal setting provides you the foundation for your drive. By making a goal you give yourself a concrete endpoint to aim for and get excited about. It gives you something to focus on and put 100% of your effort into and this focus is what develops motivation.
Goals are simply tools to focus your energy in positive directions, these can be changed as your priorities change, new ones added, and others dropped.