Goal setting is so much more than just saying „I want something to happen“
Did you ever feel like you worked so hard for something yet you didn’t achieve anything? Well, maybe you have seen some growth but your efforts toward your goals haven’t led to the desired end result and rather led to disappointment.
It is that time of year again (well, that is usually the case in January, but hey, I had a month and a half off of social media and I really want to share my thoughts with you) where everyone is making resolutions and setting his or her new year’s goals. And if you are like me, you are still sitting in front of your beautiful planner (you saw it on those pretty online shop and couldn’t resist it) and have no clue how on earth should I organize my goals to actually achieved them in the end.
I can relate to that, believe me. Although I’m a perfectionist and being organized and prepared is really crucial to me, I totally failed in the goal setting process. Somewhere along the way I actually loosed my orientation, then created some other new paths and so on and so on. A huge mess. The outcome — I was overwhelmed, I was exhausted and sometimes I gave up my goal entirely.
As you can see, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. But I have managed to overcome this obstacle in order to be able to make conscious choices which in return has helped me get more focused so I can take control of my life’s direction.
Bottom line — if we want to succeed in something we need to have goals in the first place.
Goals are part of every aspect of our life
“The slowest person who never loses sight of his goal always goes faster than one who wanders around aimlessly”
— Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
The most important thing Lessing meant by this statement, is to have goals in general, for success, in my option, is nothing more than to achieving one’s own objectives after all.
Why having goals in our lives is essential:
— predetermined goals are like a guide that leads our perception and consciously or unconsciously supports it,
— they give us the strength to set an outset and motivate us to keep going,
— through goals, success becomes measurable and causes us to prioritize.
On top of that, having predetermined goals helps in the decision-making process and builds up our self-confidence. Because, hey, even if you didn’t reach your goal in the end, you did your best, gained more knowledge and experience and learned a lesson. Am I right? Seen from the other side, if we don’t have goals at all, we give up far more quickly and lose our direction regardless where we want to go. As Lessing stated, we wander around aimlessly. Does that sound familiar to you?
How to set your goals properly so that you can achieve them in the end
Yes, you’ve read that correctly. It’s not just important to set some goals. On the contrary, if you don’t define your goals correctly, you don’t stand the chance to actually achieving them. Let me tell you a little story that happened to my son recently.
He and his classmates had a goal setting exercise at elementary school: they should each set one goal to themselves and at the end of the week, they’ll talk about whether they’ve achieved it or not. In case someone hadn’t reached his or hers by that period, that student had to dance briefly in front of the class (a bit mean, I know). And of course, the kids had previously been told about the process of defining goals correctly (I wasn’t present, so I don’t know what the explanation was, but unfortunately my little one didn’t really understand that process). Anyway, his goal was this: to not utter a single word starting that day and going on until the end of that week (eye roll, my poor sweetie, and that went on for whole 3 days …).
Well, here I don’t have to tell you what the outcome was.
What I want to tell you with that story is namely: In order to make it possible to move forward, first of all, we should be aware of that goal, set a purpose for it and define it correctly.
Convert your goals into SMART goals
You need to set your goals properly so that your dreams become reality. The S.M.A.R.T. formula is a simple goal setting method, that I personally love and it has saved me so much stress, to define goals you can actually achieve. That method creates a structure with clear milestones turning a goal into reality. Each letter has a specific meaning:
S — specific
M — measurable
A — achievable
R — reasonable
T — time-bound
While outlining your goal as specific, clear and precise as you can, it is also very helpful to define your five “W”: What do I want to accomplish? Why is that goal important to me? Who is involved? Where is it located? Which conditions, resources or limitations are involved?
Measurable means what exactly is it you want to achieve, how do you want to feel or what do you want to see when you have reached this goal. You need measurable elements so you can stay focused and track your progress. Define those elements attractive and engaging to keep you motivated. Achievable means that your goal must be appealing and desirable to you, there has to be value to achieving it. And don’t forget: you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Reasonable — your pre-set goal needs to remain possible and realistic even if it gets you outside of your comfort zone. Time-bound — every goal needs a deadline so you have an end point to work toward. And last but not least: always draft your goals positively. Focusing on the NOT TO-DOS doesn’t work well long term. Now, what’s next?
Write down your goals
When we start writing down our goals they become physical, real to us, and we are more likely to accomplish them. I don’t know about you but when I write down my goals I feel like I can’t make more excuses for forgetting about them. And besides, that spares me a series of chaotic distractions that I have no control over so I can use my time and resources productively.
Think about how you can rephrase your goal so it means something to you and motivates you to take actions. For example, if I write down: “I would love to have a beautiful new website like the one I saw one of my competitors launch recently”, what would you think? Will I get a chance to actually accomplish that? Well, that sentence sounds more of a dream to me and I seriously doubt that such a goal can stand a chance to see the light of day at all.
So, we can re-write that sentence as follows: “By the End of my slow season I want a new website for my business that carries my brand message and effectively communicates it to my clients, demonstrates my strengths and that I can be proud of.” Now, that sounds like a great Big Picture goal. Am I right? With that second goal, I know exactly what I want to achieve. I’m able to go further with that and take action and make it come true.
My favorite planer — The Big Picture Planer by Design Aglow.
Action, action, action
Now that we have visualized our Big Picture goal it’s time to get busy. That is hard work that brings fruition. The method I find to work pretty well for me is the three-step method (if I may call it that) for goal setting. That means to break down your predefined goal into three main goals. This way we begin to focus on smaller steps that will get us closer to our big goal. Then break down each main goal into weekly (if your goal is really big better break it down into monthly steps fist) individual steps. Then the weekly steps into daily tasks.
Remember, always start with the highest priority and stay simple. So, this is your roadmap to accomplish your plan as flawlessly as you can. Breaking down your goal into small steps is an easy and manageable goal setting system of tracking your progress. Besides achieving small wins keeps you motivated in return and doesn’t overwhelm you. It gives you the freedom to be flexible and spontaneous, if needed, as well.
My goal setting process in practice
Let’s take our goal from above as an example.
While re-writing the goal, I also converted it into a SMART goal. Let’s check it out:
— Is it specific and clear? — YES, it describes exactly what I want and includes at least three of my “W” (What I want to accomplish — a new website; Why is this important to me — because I need to clearly communicate my brand message to my clients and I want to demonstrate my strengths with it; Where do I need it — well, clearly on internet, on my domain).
— Is it measurable? — YES. Sure it is. It also states how I want to feel after that.
— Is it achievable and reasonable? — YES. Undoubtedly the website is an important touch point of my brand (the value) and creating this website is absolutely realistic (whether I create it alone, individualize a template or hire a designer)
— A deadline is also defined — I need the website by the end of my slow season.
So, let’s say I’m doing the website by myself. Now what? I’m breaking down the pre-set goal into three smaller ones
— Define the Big Picture — what should my new website do for me and my business
— Make clear what works and what doesn’t on my current website
— Find out what else I need to create the website
Next step? Take one of the smaller goals from above and divide it into three larger tasks.
What should my new website do for me and my business:
— Outline which requirements the new website should meet
— Define my ideal client (who is the website for)
— Clear my brand message — what do I want to communicate
Then focus on one of the large tasks and ensure which smaller actions are required in order to accomplish it. And so on, and so forth.
By using that goal setting method I’m able to easy schedule my tasks ahead of time without feeling stressed, revisit my goals on a weekly basis and even if I don’t complete a certain task, I’ll move it to the next day without losing the Big Picture.
Celebrate your wins
When you’ve reached your goal, take the time to savor your accomplishment. Give yourself the satisfaction of celebrating your win before your next goal setting process. That shouldn’t be a luxury. On the contrary — the awareness of what you’ve achieved helps you build the self-confidence you deserve.
“To live a fulfilled life, we need to keep creating the “what is next”, of our lives. Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”
— Mark Twain