10 Tips on Setting and Achieving Your Goals
A goal without a plan is just a wish ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Many years ago when I was a teen and in my early 20s, I took time at the end of the year to reflect on the previous months. It’s important to think of where we’ve been but that’s only half of it. Knowing where we’ve been doesn’t do us much good if we don’t also know where we want to go.
I don’t recall my parents asking me or any of my siblings what our goals were as we were growing up. I do remember telling my mother I wanted to get into publishing but that was the extent of our conversation. There was no follow-up question asking how I planned to get there or in what area of publishing did I see myself.
It wasn’t until much later when my sister began her spiritual work that I began to think about what I wanted and how I was going to accomplish that. As my sister learned new ways of thinking about the world and her life and what she could accomplish, she taught me. And I try to teach my own children. Just a couple weeks ago I asked my older son where he saw himself in five years and what was his plan for getting there.
Living life without a plan or a goal is like sailing across the ocean without a chart. Yes, you’ll finally get to your destination and yes, you might have some adventures along the way but let the winds of fate push you around? Why not take control and steer the boat yourself?
If you fail to plan, plan to fail.
I don’t know who said this originally but I’ve never forgotten a founding member of my Toastmasters club saying this to me. Devising a plan is like setting goals. Without either, you will fail.
Here are some tips for setting goals.
Spend some time thinking of who you are. This might seem like an odd thing to do first but if you don’t know who you are, what your core values and dreams are then it’s going to be harder to determine your goals. Getting to know yourself ensures your goals will be something you really want, not something you “should” do or achieve.
Brainstorm different areas of your life. It’s important to keep a balance, so break your life down into segments. Mine might be family, work, finances, writing and fitness. Think of what’s important to you and go from there.
Don’t just think of this year. Where do you see yourself in five years? 10? But don’t overlook the short term either. Setting short-term goals so we can feel immediate satisfaction of achieving something can be a powerful motivator and gives us something to build upon.
Break down your long-term goals into manageable pieces. This goes along with the previous point. I don’t like living where I do and want to put my house on the market next year. But my house needs better curb appeal so this year I’ll pretty up the yard and look into the cost of rebuilding my sagging front porch.
Write down your goals! This is so important. Having it in your head just isn’t going to cut it. The act of writing down your goals gives them power and energy. They become concrete, not just a dream you’re carrying around in the back of your mind.
Write your goals as positive statements. Write them as what you want, not as what you don’t want. For instance, don’t write, “I don’t want to gain any more weight.” And write them in the present tense. By writing them as if they are being realized now or have already been achieved sets them in your subconscious. The subconscious works in the present. If you write your goals in the future, your subconscious won’t get there.
Be specific. If you want to lose weight, decide how many pounds you want to shed and write it down. Don’t scrimp on the details. If you want to be living in a different house a year from now, visualize what that house looks like. “I am living in a 2,000 square-foot house set on the edge of a wood with a creek running nearby.”
Set performance goals not outcome goals. You have more control over performance goals than you do over outcome goals. What’s the difference?
I started running a few 5k races this year and each time I’ve run, I’ve shaved a few seconds off my time. If my goal in the next race is to be one of the top three female runners, I’m setting myself up for failure. What if I were to pull a muscle during the race and it slows me down? A pulled muscle is beyond my control. But if I set a goal to shave another 10 seconds off my time, that’s measurable and achievable, even if I do pull that muscle.
Review them regularly. Back in the days before GPS systems, people used maps to chart their course on a trip. Every once in a while, you’d pull out the map to check that you were still on the right road. It’s the same with your goals. You need to pull out your ‘roadmap’ and make sure you haven’t deviated too much from your original course.
Check in with someone else. In my opinion, having a mentor is the best way to succeed and accomplish your goals. In my Toastmasters club, all new members are assigned a mentor, someone to answer their questions and guide them through their initial speeches.
I love it that my sister and I call each other most Sundays to see how we’re meeting our goals. It helps to have someone to be accountable to and it gives us an excuse to call each other (not that we really do need a reason). We talk about the challenges and our successes in meeting our goals and review what we want to accomplish over the next week. Sometimes it has to be nothing more than a ‘to-do list’ but for the most part we keep each other moving forward.
Try these tips when you get ready to write your own goals for 2012. Happy New Year!