Blog Article

Goal Setting and Reflection: Why We Look Backward to Move Forward

goal setting and reflection

Reflection is a key component to goal setting and successful goal achievement.

Yet, reflection isn’t just about “looking back”—there is much more to it in order to use the power of reflection for its greatest good.

Proper reflection is vital to goal setting and especially, attaining our goals. We can achieve more of our goals faster if we maximize the power of reflection in our life.

Think about the goals you’ve set this year. How did you decide what you wanted to accomplish? Are these goals you’ve attempted before?

Now think about this…

48% of Americans make New Year’s goals. And only 8% achieve those goals.


It’s time to break the cycle on goal failure.

Let’s first talk about what goal setting is NOT.

Goal setting is not just fantasy, dreaming, or wishful thinking. Strategic goal setting is a specific process that has been tested and shown to work consistently, as expected, and in which outcomes can be measured.

So what is proper goal setting? Goal setting done-right is purposeful, explicit, and scientific.

  1. If a goal is set strategically according to time-tested, proven, goal setting procedures
  2. And then a process for reaching the goal is designed and followed,
  3. Measurable results should be attainable AND predictably attainable.

Furthermore, proper goal-setting provides long-term vision, short-term motivation, it focuses our attention, encourages time management, keeps us accountable, highlights our successes and keeps us accountable.

Here is a snapshot of the Goal-Setting Process:

  1. Know what we want to achieve–life goals
  2. Break these down into SMART goals that reflect, precisely, EXACTLY what we want to achieve
  3. Consciously commit to our goals
  4. Write them down
  5. Set a timeline
  6. Create the map or path to success
  7. Commit to someone else that you will take action toward your goal(s)
  8. Take action
  9. Set accountability checks
  10. Take time to celebrate success

But what’s missing?

Nearly every part of goal setting should include reflection.

The power of reflection is found in looking back, in looking inside, looking around and within, and reflecting on our progress – positive and negative – as we pursue our goals.

Reflection by the numbers:

  • Writing down goals makes us 50% more likely to achieve them.
  • The probability of completing a goal increases by 50% if you plan out HOW you will accomplish your goal.
  • Make a conscious decision to pursue your goal increases the probability of it by 25%.
  • The probability of completing a goal increases by 10% if you hear it SPOKEN out loud.
  • Adding a deadline to your goal increases the odds of achieving it by 40%.
  • If you commit to someone else that you are going to accomplish a goal, you increase your chances of doing so by 65%! This is accountability.
  • Checking in with another person and updating them on your progress increases the probability of meeting your goal by 95%!

Reflection and looking back allows us to recognize and acknowledge the lessons we’ve learned, identify pattens, and realize opportunities we may have missed.

We need to build reflection into EACH step of the goal setting process to see the greatest success in our pursuit of goals and  the highest probability of goal achievement.

When we reflect in the process of pursuing our goals, it lets us harness the power of repetition – of seeing and reviewing and focusing and dwelling on and with our goals.

Each time we do this, we reinforce our goal in our mind and make achievement more likely.

Similarly, it helps us to maintain our focus.

We can see where we are and where we need to go. This keeps us on track and it helps us to measure our progress. Only by reflecting on what we’ve accomplished or haven’t accomplished can we truly measure our progress. You’ve likely heard we can’t manage what we don’t measure. And what we don’t manage, can’t succeed.

Reflection then gives us feedback on our goal quality.

In other words, it tells us if our goals are too hard or too easy. And if our goals are in either category, then we likely need to adjust them. No matter the case, we can’t make those judgements and decisions if we don’t stop and reflect.

Reflection also highlights the process instead of the outcome.

Reflecting during the process of pursuing our goals lets us see where we’ve had successes in the process or where we’ve fallen short AND what lessons we can take and course correct to improve future results and outcomes.  And this keeps us accountable. We can’t just slide by and realize that we’ve made no progress. We can’t make no progress and get away with it. Reflection stops all that. It keeps us personally on the hook for our own success.

Looking to activate the power of reflection in your goal setting? In your life?

Start with these questions:

  • What did I do well in pursuit of my goal today/this week?
  • How do I know I did this well (process or result)?
  • Where could I have performed better? How?
  • Did I face any challenges? How did I react?
  • How did I feel…. And why?
  • Am I putting the right level of time and energy into achieving my goal(s)?
  • Am I making the most of opportunities?
  • How am I dealing with challenges overall?
  • Is my goal still “good.” Does it still matter to me? Is it challenging enough? Too challenging?

You can also use 4WRD to maximize and reflect on your goal setting progress.

By sharing your progress on each action, and completing your goal step-by-step, you have the ability to reflect not just on where you are going, but the entire goal-setting process. You can use the questions above for your goals in 4WRD to make sure you’re achieving everything you set your mind with focus and energy.

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