Goal setting. Is it just something your boss makes you do at the start of each year? Is it just something for professional athletes? Does it just sound ‘not very you?’
Let me put it another way. Do you often think about things you would love to start doing, changing or achieving in your life or career? I’m sure the answer is yes.
Do you get frustrated that you never seem to get there?
We can spend a lot of time thinking about things we want to do (“Oh I’d love to run a marathon” or “I need to spend more time with my friends” or “I want to get more confident presenting at work”). Sometimes we even “commit” ourselves to it (“I’m going to get fitter this year”). But somehow, the year goes by and we’ve just not found the time to get going. Or we got started, but it fizzled out after a couple of months when “life took over”.
If you really want to achieve something, you need to set a clear goal. And in order to set a goal that you’ll feel motivated to work on, you need to consider a few things.
What does this goal mean to you?
For me, this is the most important question of all. Without considering this, we can end up working on goals that we feel we should do or that will please others.
Ask yourself: What impact will it have? How will I feel when I achieve it? What will I believe about myself?
(If you’re struggling to answer, is this the right goal for you?)
Are you trying to work towards something or get away from something?
Be careful about setting goals that focus on giving something up. Focus on what you are looking to gain. If I say “don’t think about an elephant”, what do you start thinking about it?
So rather than “I’m going to give up chocolate”, how about “I’m going to eat a healthy snack each afternoon”.
What specifically do you want to achieve?
”I’m going to get fitter”. How will you know you’ve achieved this? How will you measure it? Fit enough to do what? Be specific!
What is the first step and when will you do that?
For many people (including me), getting started is the hardest part. Be very specific about what you will do to get started and when you will do it. Put it in your diary.
What are the likely obstacles that will get in the way? How will you deal with these?
Make a plan before you start.
Are there external factors that might get in the way? Perhaps you need to block out a regular slot in your diary that DOES NOT get moved for anything other than an emergency.
Or is it your own procrastination that is the main risk? What normally helps here? Finding a partner to work / train with? Or perhaps certain times of day work better for you?
What/who will keep you accountable and motivated?
Think about what works for you.
How about committing to keeping a trusted friend updated on your progress?
Or sticking the goal up on the wall at home or in your phone, so you see it every day? Try writing the goal in the present tense, as if you have already achieved it. “I am cycling to work twice a week”. “I am presenting with confidence at work”.
Or creating a progress chart that you can tick off as you go? E.g.
- First presentation to people outside my team
- First presentation to more than 10 people
- First presentation to senior management
So what inspiring goals are you going to set for yourself for the year ahead?
(And stop thinking about that elephant!)