You’d love the results and you know setting goals are necessary for success, right? Perhaps not sure how? Need some help on how to set goals?
So now that you have outlined some areas in your life and work that you wish to achieve results in over the coming year, we might look at how to approach these goals so that they don’t fizzle out like some Newyears resolutions by Easter .
How to set goals – Write Them Down
In writing them down last week, you have already addressed the first important part of setting good goals – goals must be in writing. I’d like to illustrate the power of that with the story of the study done at Harvard University back in the 1950’s, where when the new intake was asked who had written goals on their person, only 3% responded. When those students were surveyed again some 30 years later, it was found that those 3% with written goals on them had created 97% of the wealth of all those students. Powerful stuff.
With writing goals down comes an added sense of commitment. Remember the power of “the moment one commits oneself…” in Goethe’s statement in my blog: The Price and the Prize.
However the way they are written down also matters. The more positively and specifically you can define what you want, the more you program your brain to seek out and notice possibilities, the more likely you are to get what you want.
Another must is putting some emotion into the goal. Imagine your having reached it. How will you feel when you do? What will you see? What are people around you saying as acknowledgement? What are you saying to yourself? Can you taste the success? How compelling does the achievement of its outcome feel? This will also help you answer your question:”how will I know when I’ve achieved my goal?” Evidence helps make it more believable but the emotional feel of “having achieved it” is usually very, very motivating.
In that context please understand how strong an influence your belief about its achievability plays here. Remember that you can easily allow your mind chatter to create obstacles here, if you let it.
If the goal is too small and doesn’t stretch or challenge you, it may lack sufficient motivation to “get you off the coach” to do what it will take to achieve it.
Conversely, if your goal is too big and appears unrealistic it may intimidate you and create obstacles in your mind that can lead to procrastination or even abandonment of the necessary steps to chase it. Perhaps breaking it down into smaller, more believable chunks or sub-goals will help you around that. Conventionally we call these smaller steps milestones and professional project management would not be possible without it. My blog Planning in scenarios may help in this stage as well.
You have probably all learned that goals should be written in the S.M.A.R.T format:
Specific. It should be written is as much specific detail as possible, in the present tense, as if you have already achieved it.
Measurable. If a goal isn’t measurable in some form of metric or evidence, it will usually run the risk of “fizzling out” as too vague.
Attainable. It must be achievable, and not a spurious “pie in the sky” stab at “that would be nice”.
Realistic. If it is too big it will intimidate. If its too small it won’t inspire.
Time based. If it doesn’t have a date on it, its a daydream, not a goal
Results Goals and Activity Goals
I also like to differentiate between results goals and activity goals at this juncture.
A results goal is the end outcome you might be looking for, like: “It is Easter 2010, and I can feel the pride and the vitality of having reached my goal of shedding 5kg in weight and 5cm in girth measurement. It feels sooo good!””.
Activity goals are the activities and steps required to be undertaken to achieve the results goal, like:
- I will limit my portions of “junk food” to <2 a week
- I’ll have no more than 3 alcoholic drinks a week
- I’ll play 9 holes of golf once a week
- I’ll do 2 bike rides of 25km a week
- I’ll do 3 walks of 30 minutes a week with my partner
- I’ll do 20 minutes of Tai Chi 2 times a week with my partner
- I’ll reward myself with xyz for each week I meet all the activity goals
Structuring the activity goals that way will get you to do something towards your results goal every day, every week and every month until you have achieved it. I recommend forgetting about the results goal (other than reminding yourself of the emotional feel its achievement will bring from time to time) and concentrating your energy and attention on the activities. You can control that. Being smaller, more believable and also more influence able steps will also keep you motivated, allowing you to leap out of bed and get going each day.
Whether you are setting personal or work or business goals, it is important to treat them all as you would in a work or business sense. Like a budget, where you measure and monitor periodically. Shorter term activity goals may need daily, but certainly weekly check-pointing. Most others should be reflected on each month. Find some quiet time and reflect on how you have gone with your goals in the past period. Learn from what didn’t happen, gain confidence from and build momentum with what did. Nothing succeeds quite like success.
A word of caution here. It is advisable to have no more than one “willpower” goal in your list. Like losing weight or quitting smoking etc. Also, if you have a history of starting goals and then quitting, don’t try and “fix it all in one year”. Be realistic. By all means have one “stretch goal” that will really test you, but there shouldn’t be too many and the others should be reasonably easy to achieve to keep you motivated. Success comes in small steps – repeated often. Why not set some 90 day goals and focus on achieving them. Then set some new ones for the following 90 days and as you get better at it, you can get bolder. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But it was built brick by brick.
So What Next?
I trust you have found some pragmatic value in these steps. Why not have a go, if it isn’t something you are familiar with. If you are really serious, you might consider engaging a coach. My experience is that having someone alongside you to keep you accountable to the outcomes you want really makes the difference between “trying” and “succeeding”. Go on – either way – have a go.
Next week we will look at some of the obstacles people encounter and how to keep yourself on track and “in the ring”. Best wishes with your next steps.
Click here for the other blogs in this trilogy: