By now, if you have followed any of my writing, you know Goals are important. At this point you can’t even fathom how much you have heard that statement from me. Goals are the foundation of all new challenges we take on, they are the basis for all personal growth, they bring about and help determine where you are with your progress, and most importantly, they are determined, or at least signed off on by you, if you do them correctly.
Goals help keep one clear-headed and certain about what they are setting out to accomplish and what they have determined is their own destination, even if it is simply a preliminary stage. Each challenge accepted by any person who lacks vision will most certainly be an attempt in futility. Without a clear destination, an understanding of where you currently are, and an action plan to go from point “A” to point “B”, is the equivalent of the impossible journey.
The process of goal setting can seem to be a bit tedious, but it does not have to be. Interestingly enough, if done correctly, it causes us to tap into both sides of our brains. On the left side, where we utilize logical analysis, helps you to create tactical step by step action plans to achieve your goals. While on the right side of our brains, we use our creative side and dream about the achievements of these goals and what the spoils of achieving that goal will lead to. It also requires a person to conduct introspection and formulate an honest evaluation of both their strengths and weaknesses. Even though goal setting is often considered a drab and painstaking task, thus why most people attempt to avoid it, it can be made simple and fun if you abide by these three rules of Goal Setting:
1. Set Achievable Goals
Now, like me, you may find this one a challenge to balance. On one hand, you need to set rather achievable goals, or risk scaring yourself into complacency, not knowing where to start and being overwhelmed by the amount of work. On the other hand, if it isn’t big, you’ll likely lose interest rather quickly. I have experienced both ends of this spectrum over the 30 years I have effectively been setting and achieving my goals and I have been stung by both. Either setting small, uninteresting goals that don’t motivate me to take massive action, or setting such huge goals that the practical, reasonable person in me says this is too big, and I stall out.
Here is how I approach this now: I stay strict to setting my goals within a specific time period. I focus on 1-year goals. In my time management studies and during my early goal setting work, I was surprised with the amount I could accomplish in the course of a year and in many cases just a few months, especially if I was really motivated and had a good plan. Additionally, I was introduced to the concept of chunking things down. A very practical approach to taking huge seemingly impossible tasks and breaking them down into actionable steps. In learning how to improve my skills in this area, I have learned to set my very aggressive 1-year goals, then break those down into equally aggressive 3-month goals, but seemingly more attainable and certainly much more actionable.
In the end, one thing I realized is that most of us are surprised how much we can accomplish in one year, but disappointed in how much we get done in a day. It comes back to that I want it now mentality of our “fast-food” society. But the age-old fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, slow and steady consistent action, compounds and builds until you are achieving things you never dreamed possible. Remember, stretch yourself, but build a plan that gives you confidence to take action daily. Over time, like 3 months, you will be cranking along and that huge unimaginable goal almost seems achievable!
2. Set Measurable Goals
Your goals should be measurable; “What gets measured gets done”, as my old boss Darren Yager used to say. It wasn’t original, but that didn’t change how true it was. All the goals you set yourself can’t be rooted in ultra-dreamland. It does have to be based on some reasonable facts and somewhat supported by your immediate surroundings, or at least those you could emulate. These goals should reflect some sense of reality and they should focus on any tangible gains you are getting out of your progress. No one took Elon Musk’s goal to colonize Mars as feasible initially, until he developed a rocket that could be reused. That may have been a super dream-like vision, but the tangible goal of creating the technology of a reusable rocket, made that dream-like vision of colonizing Mars that much more achievable.
The key here is if you can make your goals measurable, you can effectively determine when you might complete that goal. How much power and confidence do you think that gives you in your quest? And, if you can monitor your progress along the way, imagine how unstoppable you will become after completing just 15% of your goal, for instance. This also enables you to develop points of evaluation and answer the challenging questions such as, “How long will this really take?”, “Is my pace good?”, or “Should I put in more effort into achieving my goal?” This process can’t happen without a measurable goal.
3. Set Time-Oriented Goals
I touched on this in the first rule, but your goals should be both short term and long term. Here is the trick; as I described above, you should have a balanced plan of action based short-term and destination based long-term goals. Remember, setting a time frame is exceptionally important. By keeping the short-term goals simple, achievable, and distinct, this allows you to learn to celebrate small victories and keep the momentum going. But to be able to do this, you must set interim deadlines for yourself. Even if you miss a deadline for a key task, just achieving that task is a big motivator. However, if you don’t set them, you’ll never have something to celebrate.
As for the long-term goals, leave room for spontaneity, but develop an accurate idea of what it is you are trying to accomplish on your journey. Remember, without the deadlines and benchmarks on short and long-term goals, the challenge is we subject ourselves to Parkinson’s Law, which says; “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Meaning, without a specific deadline, and ideally a rather aggressive deadline that challenges us, work will continue to manifest itself to fill the allotted time. To protect against this, you must set aggressive stretch goals.
Now that you have been introduced to the Cardinal rules of goal-setting, pull out your diaries, journals, and memo keepers and plan accordingly. Remember, keeping your goals achievable, measurable and time-oriented is just the beginning. You will have to be adaptable and tweak your strategy as you go.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started TODAY!
Remember, you will likely be the same place you are today in one year if you don’t start doing something NOW!