Goals are tricky little suckers aren’t they?
Somewhere between the household chores and driving the kids around and work and visiting family and friends; somewhere in there, you have hopes and dreams but they always seem a little out of reach. You can’t quite focus on them and so instead they sit in your peripheral vision, disappearing like cloud castles in the air.
I was having dinner at a friend’s house a while ago and it was the point in the evening when everyone has had too much wine and too much dessert. You know what I’m talking about. That time when a relaxed, winey stillness comes over the conversation and you finally get past the small talk and into the good stuff.
‘I always wanted to travel’ my friend said (to no-one in particular.) This got my attention as I have lived in 6 different countries since the age of twenty one.
‘Why haven’t you?’ I asked.
And then it came. The golden reply I could see from a mile away:
‘I don’t know, I’ve just been busy, I just never seemed to have the time’
And there we have it. The ultimate excuse. I.never.have.time.
THE LIE WE TELL OURSELVES
It’s amazing isn’t it the way we fool ourselves? It isn’t that you never had time to achieve your goals, it’s that you never took the time to focus on them and to put an effective plan in place to actually achieve them.
BUT WAIT THAT’S NOT ME …
Maybe this is not you. Maybe you are ready to press the big green ‘GO’ button on your goal. Maybe you have set time aside and you know just what it is you want to do but you’re just not sure how to go about it and you are stuck on the starting line. Or maybe you have made some progress but keep hitting a constant road block and are getting frustrated.
THE TRUTH ABOUT GOAL SETTING
Setting and maintaining a goal is a lot like baking a Christmas cake. To bake an amazing Christmas cake you first need to choose a the right recipe. Next, you need to make sure that you have all the right ingredients. You need to watch over your cake as it matures, feeding it tenderly and generously. Lastly, it needs to be given the time it needs to bake properly. If you don’t follow these simple but critical steps, you will end up with something that might look like a Christmas cake but is actually completely lacking in taste, richness and is a total disappointment. The experience might even be so bad that it discourages you from baking ever again because you feel like a failure.
The truth about goal setting is that once you know the correct actionable steps it really isn’t that hard after all, and that’s where I come in.
Confucius famously said ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Well, here is my 5 step plan to setting goals and sticking to them. What’s more, I even have a great freebie to help you set and review your own goals at the end of this post.
Excited? Sure you are, let’s get started.
HOW TO SET GOALS AND STICK TO THEM
I love optimistic people, I surround myself with them and I count myself in their number but when it comes to goal setting it’s important to be a realist. You may have the desire to grow wings and fly out of the bedroom window like a cherub but guess what? It ain’t gonna happen. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is in the area of health, personal relationships, home or work, it must be realistic and achievable.
Think about your goal now and be honest with yourself. Is it something you can actually achieve? If the answer is no then you need to have a rethink.
Whatever your goal is related to it must be specific. The main reason why people find difficulty with their goal setting is that they set themselves a task that is too vague. Vague goals are easily swept under the carpet and forgotten because they don’t have any real accountability. Look at these two examples:
Example 1: ‘I want to lose weight’
Example 2: ‘I will lose 25 pounds’
It’s pretty clear that Example 1 is general while Example 2 is a specific goal. Once you set yourself a narrow and defined goal it immediately sharpens your focus and you can see exactly what it is that you need to achieve.
SET A TIMESCALE
Your goal must have a timeline. This does three things. Firstly, it focuses your mind and motivates you in as far as working on your goal is concerned. Secondly, it allows you to put a plan in place with set boundaries. Thirdly, it allows you to call time on your goal, measure your progress and see if you have either met your target or need to make adjustments.
Example 1: I will save some money.
Example 2: I will save $100 each month.
There needs to be a point when you can call time on your goal otherwise, it will just drift on and on like a journey without a destination.
IS YOUR GOAL MEASURABLE?
When it comes to measuring goals there are no gray areas, only black and white. We have already established that your goal must be realistic, specific and have a set timeline. When you reach that timeline how will you know whether you have achieved your goal? Is your goal easily measurable? If you can’t measure your goal, how can you possibly know whether you have been successful or not?
Example 1: ‘I want to be more organized with the cleaning chores around the house.’
Not only is this goal vague, it also doesn’t lend itself to being measured accurately, what does ‘more organized‘ actually mean? Try this instead:
Example 2: ‘I want to complete a list of the following seven cleaning chores each week….’
Example 2 is a very specific and measurable goal. You can check your results against this goal at the end of the week and see if you need to make adjustments.
To check whether your goal is measurable, ask the following questions:
How much …? How many ..? How far …? How will I know …?
SET A PLAN
Fail to plan and you plan to fail. It’s all well and good to have a goal in place but in order to stick to it you need to have a plan. Once you have a specific, realistic, measurable goal with a time frame, you can set actionable steps to get you there.
“I will go to the gym for one hour, once a week.”
- I will set a dedicated amount of time aside each week when I can go to the gym (in this case one hour). This will be a time when I have no other commitments. It will be at x o’clock (time) on x (day of the week).
- I will pack my gym bag the night before so that I am organized and can leave promptly.
- I will make sure that my partner/family know about my plans so that they don’t ask me to do something else at the same time.
- I will set an alarm on my phone to make sure that I leave the house on time and another to remind me when it is time to leave the gym and return home.
It’s clear from this example that by really thinking about your goal and planning carefully you are giving yourself the best possible chance of success. Using ‘I will’ statements commits you to your plan and gives powerful positive reinforcement. These are your ‘steps to success’.
WELL, THIS HAS BEEN FUN BUT WHAT NOW?
As a life coach, the goal setting process is a part of my everyday work but it wasn’t always that way. I used to find it so hard to just take a moment to visualize my goals and map them out. That’s why I have created a free worksheet to help guide you step-by-step through the process of goal setting and review (shown below). If you would like a downloadable copy please sign up in the pop-up box to access my password protected page. You will also be able to download my other free goodies.
Let’s make sure that the next time a friend who’s had too much wine asks you about your goals, you have something great to say. Let’s grab those castles in the air.