Goal setting. You’ve heard all the one liners….
‘If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else’
‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’
‘A goal is a dream with a deadline’
In my post “The problem with goal setting”, I reveal the single biggest contributor to achieving your goals, and why writing them down just isn’t enough.
Here, I would like to share some more hints and tips about how to ensure your goals aren’t just some wishy-washy motherhood statements that end up being more frustrating than motivating. You’ve probably heard of the SMART acronym – i.e. you want your goals to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound, but there are a few other elements that will come in handy. In fact, there are four key actions you can take to solidify your goals and make the likelihood of reaching them much greater.
- Define them as clearly as possible – This is where making them Specific, Measurable and Time-bound comes in. It helps to treat both your personal and professional goals like KPI’s in a job description. “Reach and maintain a goal weight of 84.5kg by March 30” is much harder to avoid than “Lose some weight.”
- Don’t just define the end result, ensure you also specify the activities you will complete to reach that destination. Keeping your focus on the things you can control will empower you to do what needs to be done. In the previous example, focusing on ‘exercising four times a week and sticking to eating plan’ will result in a better outcome that purely looking at the scales every day.
- Share your goals with someone other than yourself*. Articulating your goals to yourself is the first step; sharing them with either a friend or your team mates will cement them in your mind as commitments that you are really going to strive for. Naturally, if your goals require the assistance of team members, you’ll want to keep them in the loop about their participation!
- Make sure your goals are achievable. I’ll let you in on a secret – the R (Realistic) in the Smart acronym is my least favourite. I’m all for stretch targets. In fact, sometimes it takes a stretch target to take people out of their comfort zone and recalibrate their limiting beliefs, and I’ve often seen people fall slightly short of a stretch target, but be over the moon that they still achieved more than they had in the past. What’s that saying? Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. HOWEVER if you can’t see specifically how you will achieve your goals, they are unlikely to be fulfilled. There’s no point aiming for a goal weight of 84.5kg if that puts your BMI in the ‘underweight’ category (or the ‘for goodness sake, eat a hamburger!’ category). Similarly, if your goal is to complete your Masters within a year and that requires completing 5 units of study while working full-time, you might want to revise your time frame.
It is also important not to set too many goals. If you try to do too many things, your focus gets diluted, which may result in only making a small amount of progress on a lot of things. A better result is absolutely nailing your top two or three, before you focus on the next set.
*Sharing your goals is important, but don’t worry if not everyone supports you. It can be helpful to have some healthy honesty from someone with your interests at heart, especially if that means you remove your rose-coloured glasses and get a fresh take on your goals with some realism thrown in. Their comments will probably come from a place of love, but be aware that not everyone might share your energy. It is fine to re-evaluate based on other people’s thoughts, but don’t keep second-guessing yourself, and don’t let their concern pull you down. Rather, use it as a motivator to push yourself forward.
When setting a goal, ask yourself –
- ‘Do I really want it?’
- ‘Can I see what I need to do to achieve it?’
If the answer to both of these is ‘Yes!’ then go for it and don’t let self-doubt hold you back.
If in the end you don’t achieve a goal, don’t get disheartened or beat yourself up. There is a big difference between making excuses and setting dynamic goals that are updated. Readjust your reality, perhaps even change your goal completely if need be, and then celebrate what you learned and achieved along the way.
And when you do reach your goals, celebrate your achievement and enjoy the sense of satisfaction, then think again, about where to next, and set your new goal(s). Using momentum is one part of this point, as is the depleting sense of anti-climax when you have been so focused on a particular outcome, then when it’s achieved you find yourself with a reduced sense of purpose.
Finally, don’t put so much pressure on yourself that your life becomes single-dimensional and you forget to enjoy your journey on the way to achieving your chosen destination. While ‘life balance’ is a term that varies in definition from person to person, ensure that you still participate in the things that are important to you, and spend time with the people you hold dear, as they form part of your journey. To end this post as we began it (with a quote), after all,
‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’