OK, let's be honest, Goal setting is not a new phenomena . Business and motivational experts such as Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar or Brian Tracy have been extolling their virtues for many years. Napoleon Hill in the classic Think and Grow Rich writes:

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe he can achieve”.

But how exactly can the process of setting goals bring about tangible results? Allow me to use an example, for many, the goal of running a marathon is all about crossing the finish line. Consider this:- is the larger achievement the ability to get to the start line? The race itself may last 3, 4 or 5 hours depending on your ability, but the preparation will have been many weeks and months of effort, dedication and motivation. In other words the person you will have to become to be in the condition to start the race is the more significant part of achieving the goal.

Listen to an athlete, a best-selling author, a successful professional, or entrepreneur - they will all talk about dreams and goals! The visualisation of their achievements and success is in their minds way before they appear in reality. These are goals that have created passion in their lives, that move them into daily, monthly and yearly action, and that bring emotion because of the clear sacrifices that have been made preceding long aspired victories. Goals can create miracles and accomplishment by providing the inspiration to take action.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS)

At any one time, we are receiving around 100,000 times more information than we are capable of processing. Most of the incoming stimulus is irrelevant to us so the RAS filters let in only what we need.
The RAS is part of the brain that acts like a filter between the conscious and subconscious mind. It takes instructions from the conscious mind and passes them on to the subconscious. For example, the instruction might be, "listen out for anyone saying my name".
Imagine that you are at a party and you are in conversation with someone on one side of the room. There is a lot of information that you mind could be processing, all the sights, sounds, smells, conversations etc but the conscious mind can only handle a small part of the information. Suddenly your attention is spiked and you lock on to another conversation across the room when someone mentioned your name.
Another good example is when you have bought or are considering buying a new car. Suddenly that exact make and model is everywhere. It appears highly unlikely that there are suddenly more of those cars around, it’s just that you now begin to notice them.

So in what ways can the RAS influence goal achievement? First, you can deliberately program the reticular activating system by choosing the exact messages you send from your conscious mind. For example, by setting goals, saying affirmations, or visualising your goals.

Secondly, your RAS cannot distinguish between 'real events' and imagined ones. In other words it tends to believe whatever messages you give it. Once we are aware of this we can use it to our advantage. Imagine that you're going to attend an interview. You can rehearse the event by visualising a successful outcome in your mind. This 'pretend' practice will improve both your confidence and performance at the interview.

What we need to do is to create a very specific picture of our goal in our conscious mind. The RAS will then pass this on to our subconscious - which will then help us achieve the goal. It does this by bringing to our attention all the relevant information which otherwise might have remained as 'background noise'. We then notice new opportunities and ways in which we can make our goals a reality.

A third reason why goal setting works is that the process of defining your goals brings you into alignment with your true desires and values. If for example, a person sets a goal to be a millionaire but inwardly has hidden and limiting beliefs about money, then the goal is unlikely to be achieved. It is only when the conscious and subconscious minds are in harmony that a person will identify opportunities and take the inspired action which is necessary for success.

An effective goal setting session should therefore incorporate a period of evaluation and review. In this way the underlying values and motivations can be identified. It is often said that the Why is more important than the How, and this is certainly true of goal setting and goal achievement. Once a clear reason is established as to why the achievement of the goal is so important then the vision of its success is more likely to bring the goal into reality.

In conclusion goal setting is an important method of:
• Deciding what is important for you to achieve in your life;
• Separating what is important from what is irrelevant, or a distraction;
• Motivating yourself; and
• Building your self-confidence, based on successful achievement of goals.

If you don't already set goals, there is never a better time to start than right now. As you make this technique part of your life, you'll find your career accelerating, improve your relationships and bring your dreams into reality. Further resources and a goal setting checklist is available from the SuccessBlog.

Author's Bio: 

Daniel Britton is a UK based writer, speaker and success coach.
Other interesting articles and resources can be found at The SuccessBlog.
Your kids will love his latest book "The Financial Fairy Tales, which teaches children about money through fun and engaging stories