For years, I heard about the importance of goals. Write them down. Think it and ink it. Make them tangible. It was all we studied in psychology and every single motivation, personal development, self help and success-based book talks about goal setting.
And for years, I never did it. Who knows why? Maybe I was too busy and never saw the value in it. Or maybe I never knew how to DO it. But I thought, as long as I was thinking about them in my head, that was good enough.
About three years ago I started writing out my goals. First, I wrote my goals down, stuffed them in a drawer and never really looked at them. And even by doing this, about half of them came true. Interesting. Then last year happened, which was undoubtedly one of my most gratifying personally but one of my most challenging professionally. I realized that goals without a clearly defined plan of action will lead to frustration.
“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward achieving it.”
So, this is the first year I’ve really taken the time to properly write out my goals, with a plan, in all areas of my life (personally, professionally, athletically, financially, spiritually). It took me many hours to do this…but I’m 100% confident it will lead to an unbelievable year.
If you are reading this, please take the time to do goal setting. Don’t be like everyone else. Think about what you really want. Write it down. Map out a plan of action. If you do this, I GUARANTEE you will be happier, find more fulfillment and get more of what you want this year. You’re never too old to do goal setting and I want you to have your best year ever.
Here’s what you need to know about goal setting…
You may have heard of the acronym SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, Timed). I’ve actually added an “S” to make them SMARTS goals (the last “S” being for Significance). Follow these guides and you’ll have rock solid goals on the way to a rock solid year.
Get a laser focus on your goal. Broad generalities won’t work.
I played a lot of golf growing up. If you’re a golfer and you want a quick tip, DON’T aim for the fairway. Never aim for the fairway. Instead, aim for a specific patch of grass in the fairway. Even if you miss, it will be a lot closer to the target. If you aim for the fairway and miss, you’ll be in the rough. If you aim for a 6 ft patch of grass in the middle of the fairway and miss, you may still be in the left or right side of the fairway.
Goals are exactly the same way. The more clearly defined and specific they are, the better. And just like golf, if you set a very specific goal and miss it, you’ll still probably be in the fairway.
Lose weight – how much weight? Make more money – how much more? Get in shape – what is “shape?” Round is a shape 🙂 Grow in your faith – what does this mean to YOU? Clean up your diet – what is “cleaning up?” How will you know when it’s “cleaned up?” Define it.
I think you get the drift.
You cannot evaluate what you cannot measure. Without a measure, how will you know if you’re making progress? How will you know if you’re moving forward? How will you know if what you’re doing is working?
I should note – some people shy away from measurement. Usually this is caused by a certain fear of failure and a concern of the expectations created by measurement. They worry what will happen if they don’t succeed. What happens if the “measurements” don’t get better…or don’t produce the outcome?
My response – who cares? If you fell short of your goal, look back at what you did, identify why it didn’t produce the outcome, revise it and move forward. But wouldn’t you feel better going after something, knowing you gave it your all and not succeeding, then never putting it out there in the first place?
Let’s take getting “in shape” for example – you could measure this by weight loss, body composition, inches, amount of weight lifted, amount of time spent exercising, number of exercises, duration of rest periods, number of sets, number of reps, intensity of exercise. And these are only a few examples. But they are all measurable, and thus, could be used to document progress.
After choosing a goal that is significant to you, this is without a doubt the most important factor in goal setting. Why? Because without actions, nothing gets done. It doesn’t matter if you have the most perfectly defined goal, ever. Only actions produce results.
Much of taking action comes down to Time vs. Priorities. I’ll be completely transparent and tell you this is something I’ve struggled with in the past. Yes, I’m busy…but we’re ALL busy. I’m not busier than anyone reading this blog post. I used to get caught up thinking every email was an instant priority and every voicemail had to be immediately returned. And it caused me to always think I was “sooo busy.”
I hear too many people say, “I don’t have enough time.” Yes, you do. You have plenty of time for all the priorities in your life. We all have 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. We choose how to prioritize this time. And if there is something you want to get done and it is not getting done, it’s because you are making something else a greater priority.
Now, some things have to, and SHOULD, be priorities, such as family, faith, friends and job. But if you find yourself always missing your morning workout because it just feels so good to stay in your cozy warm bed, you’re making sleep a greater priority than exercise (I’m somewhat hesitant to say this, as many people don’t sleep enough as it is). Other common “priorities” are TV, social media (namely, Facebook) and your email inbox.
It is not my place to tell you what the priorities need to be in your life. You know this a lot better than I do. But bottom line – if you are going to take the necessary actions to accomplish a goal, it must first start with making these actions a priority. Unfortunately, none of us are ever going to be blessed with more time.
If your goal is weight loss, sample actions may be:
– strength training 2x/week
– cardiovascular exercise 3x/week
– eating 2 servings of fruits per day
– eating 2 servings of veggies per day
– eating 5 times per day
– drinking at least 100 oz of water
– only drinking alcohol 1-2 times per week
– sleeping 6+ hours per night
One of the more difficult aspects of goal setting can be to match the difficulty of a goal to an individual’s specific personality type. In general, you want to set a goal that will stretch you but not one that is so difficult it will demotivate you because it seems unattainable when things get hard.
Some people like very lofty goals…ones that really stretch them and require serious growth to achieve. Others may seek a more conservative path and set less lofty goals to ensure they are accomplished.
There isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong way to do it…but if a goal does not stretch you, make you a bit uncomfortable and challenge you in ways that you haven’t been before, it’s probably too easy of a goal.
I’ll also say that I firmly believe human potential is limitless and where there’s a will, there’s a way. I don’t believe any goal is too lofty if you construct a plan to accomplish it. But this is where many of us fall short. You can’t just set a goal, write it down and wake up one day thinking you magically will have accomplished it. However, any goal can become realistic with the correct plan of action.
“No goal is too lofty if you construct a plan to accomplish it.”
Having a definitive time frame for accomplishing a goal is critical to motivation and staying on track. If you want to lose 10 pounds, WHEN will you make this happen? Have a specific date that you will get it done.
Two personal examples come to mind – first, when I was in college, I could not start studying for a test until I knew when that test was happening (or maybe I was just a slacker?). I needed a specific date. I needed to know when it was happening. If I didn’t know the date, it seemed arbitrary…like it wasn’t “real.” Second, in endurance racing. I cannot start “seriously” training for something until I have signed up for a race and I know it’s on the calendar. It’s the same thing as college exams – without a date, it just doesn’t seem real.
Setting a date and putting it on the calendar (paper calendar, iPhone, Outlook, etc.) makes it real and will keep you motivated as the date draws closer.
Also, in addition to having a time for accomplishing the end goal, you’ll also want to have other timed checkpoints (or “short-term” goals) on the way to your larger goal. This will keep you motivated, will demonstrate progress and reveal if what you’re doing is working and whether any actions require revision.
This is an important…and often overlooked…area of goal setting. Significance means that something holds real meaning to you.
So, when you’re going through the process, ask yourself “why do I have this goal? Why do I care? What will it do for me? What will it do for others?” In other words, why is it SIGNIFICANT?
Write it down and come back to it if you feel like you’re getting off track. Don’t just write down the first thing that comes to mind…really stop to think about why this matters to you. The more something matters and the more significant a goal is to you, the more likely you’ll be to stay on track when the craziness of life happens and you start to get off track.
It’s also important to note, if you’re setting a goal because of someone else or if you’re having difficulty figuring out why it is significant, you may want to think about revising and setting a new goal. Owning a goal is important and you will only stay with, and accomplish, goals which are truly significant to you.
The truth is, many people never set goals. I’m embarrassed to say that for the first 30 years of my life, I never did. Sure, I had thoughts and hopes and dreams swirling around in my head…but that is different than taking the time to write down these goals and make them concrete. Where would I be if I did take the time to set goals? Would I be more financially secure, have stronger relationships, a deeper faith, higher athletic accomplishments, more professional development and greater overall happiness? It’s impossible to know. I’d bet the farm that, yes, I would. No one who has ever done goal setting has said “I’m so much worse off after setting goals than I was before.”
If there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s to take some time, find a peaceful place and make goal setting for 2013 a priority. Don’t do it watching TV or when the kids are running around. Carve out some quiet time for YOU. It WILL pay off.
Sometimes I hear people say they’re too busy for goal setting. What?? Too busy? Being too busy is all the more reason TO do goal setting. Another sad stat is, for all the people reading this, only about 2% will actually take the initiative to set their goals. BUT, these 2% are the ones who will come back in 2014 having experienced 98% of the results.
Will you be one of the 2%? I hope so.