Set, Plan, and Achieve Goals – 5 Things to Consider
As you step outside in the early morning, you notice something different. The sun is no longer shining down upon you and the air has a sharpness that sends chills down your spine. Winter is here. For many, with Christmas around the corner, this is a time for cheer and celebration. But, with the calendar year coming to an end, for just as many, it is a time to reflect on the year past; what we did and didn’t do, what we accomplished and didn’t accomplish, what we should have done but chose to put off for another year.
Sound about right? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with looking back and assessing how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. In fact, it’s very important to do so. What’s wrong are the negative connotations around such self-reflection. In part, this is because we have been programmed to be tremendously critical of ourselves and are much more likely to focus on the bad than the good; in this context, on the things that we didn’t accomplish rather than the things that we did. But, in large part, the negative connotations are indeed a result of stagnation, lack of growth, and evidence of days wasted.
Why is that? Why do books go unwritten? Why don’t mountains get climbed? Why didn’t that lifestyle of health and fitness begin? We associate such stagnancy with procrastination – sure, that’s a part of it. But, many of us did get off the proverbial couch with good intention. Alas, it really comes down to goal-setting. Without properly defining our goals and the actionable steps and structure to achieve those goals, it’ll be yet another year, another year wasted. This is a difficult topic to broach and this truth may stir up a lot of emotion but, if you’ve read this far, you know it’s the truth. What’s most important is what we need to do to position ourselves for success; what’s most important are the steps we need to take so that there aren’t negative connotations the next time we sit down to reflect.
From Start to End – The Process of Setting Goals
Let’s begin with the process of setting goals. Yes, it’s a process. It’s not just a simple matter of establishing a goal and then dreaming it into reality. If only. Think about financial planning. You don’t just jot a number on paper as to how much money you want to have in “x” number of years and then aimlessly hope to achieve that number. You need to meticulously plan out the course of action between now and then. This applies regardless of what your goal may be.
Here are 5 things to consider which will give you the best chance of success:
1) You must visualize the end-goal and work backward: it may sound counter-intuitive but, to figure out the steps needed to reach the finish line, you must have a clear vision of what the destination looks like. With that vision in mind, research or consult others to determine what steps need to be taken.
2) Depending on the magnitude of the end-goal, you may need to break the end-goal into manageable micro-goals: oftentimes we make the mistake of “trying to get there too fast” – this is not to say that we shouldn’t set the bar high. Setting and achieving micro-goals is a great way to build momentum and gain traction toward your end-goal.
3) You must periodically measure your progress against your end-goal but frequently against your micro-goals: throughout the journey, there may be times when the end-goal seems out of reach. By frequently measuring your progress against your micro-goals, you limit the risk of getting overwhelmed or discouraged while keeping the end-goal in sight and in perspective.
4) You must credit yourself for victories, big or small, and evaluate losses: as creatures of habit, we have programmed ourselves to overlook our successes and to obsess over our failures; to neglect the good and focus on the bad. If you cannot celebrate your successes, you will eventually despise the process. On the other hand, fixating on failures is destructive behavior. Rather, evaluate, understand, and learn from them. By doing so, that failure becomes an iteration of success.
5) You must find an accountability partner: there may be times when it is extremely difficult to stay completely objective. There will be many distractions and obstacles vying for your limited time and attention. Having someone to talk to and to talk through will keep you focused and on track. You will do the same for them and, mutually, you will help each other succeed.
6) You must be patient: the most potent goal-killer is impatience – patience will be your greatest ally. Stay true to your cause, you will find success.
There is always more that we can do but these guidelines will do well to get you on your way. The key is to bridge the gap between goal setting and goal success with consistency and structure. Follow these guidelines and understand that (most) goals will not be achieved overnight. Take this approach and, the next time Christmas comes around, there will only be positive connotations around self-reflection and self-assessment of how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Whether your goal is to write a book, climb a mountain, or change your lifestyle, you can, you must, you will get there.