The art of effective goal-setting
Goal setting… It already sounds hard and serious. But it’s true that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else!
If done with the right intention, setting and accomplishing goals makes people feel happier and more fulfilled. Achieving goals releases dopamine in your brain, which gives you a feeling of pleasure as well as a desire to take on more challenges. And both of those things give you more confidence.
The key is the intention and feeling around the goals – and the whole process of setting them. Let me explain.
Most of us are so busy racing around from one task to the next, keeping all the balls in the air, that we don’t have the time or the mental space to pause and wonder what we really want. Often it’s a matter of being too busy, but it can also be fear that stops us. Because if we actually admit to ourselves what we want, we run the risk that we might not get it. Something is at stake. And for most of us it can feel easier – safer – to just “go with the flow”, or do what others want us to do.
Except on New Years Eve! We get out our notebooks and faithfully write down our list of resolutions (which are usually the same as the previous year, and the year before that). Go to the gym, lose 20 pounds, get a raise… Then, statistics show, after a brief burst of enthusiasm, we’ve abandoned them by February. So what goes wrong?
For a goal to be effective, it needs to be:
Authentic… It comes from your deepest self, not to please or impress others, or “do it right”
Inspiring… It stirs something inside of you. You feel in your body that this is something important to you.
Clear… It is defined. It helps you to sort your priorities and know what actions to take.
Realistic… It’s achievable, though it’s a stretch.
Aligned… With your core values and your bigger picture vision.
And here’s the gold nugget… How will you feel when you achieve that goal?
This is the real, deep, big why beneath it all. For example, you might set the following goal:
“I’m making $120,000/year by December 31”
That fits some of the criteria for a “good” goal. It’s specific ($120,000), it’s measurable, it’s timebound (by Dec 31), it may or may not be realistic (depending on where you are now), and it’s actionable. However, here’s how to make it really potent:
Why do you want this? What’s important to you about achieving it? What will having that give you? And how will you feel?
Answer: Because I’ll be able to take my kids on a vacation, pay off my debt and feel a sense of peace and financial freedom (for example).
That’s the real why. And if we go through the process of visualizing and feeling the effect of achieving that goal – seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling it – we are more statistically proven to achieve it.
Now, take a look at some of your goals for your business or life? Are they defined, aligned, inspiring, authentic, and realistic? If not, what would make them more so?
Here are some more tips to help you make and achieve your goals:
1. Make sure your goal is SMART
S Specific (Clearly defined)
M Measurable (How will you know you’ve achieved it?)
A Action oriented
R Realistic (But a stretch is good too)
T Time Bound (By when will you accomplish it?)
2. Check in regularly with the vision and feeling you will have when you reach the goal.
Make a vision board, or stick up a picture of something that evokes that feeling every day.
3. Break it down into major goals and measurable steps to get there
4. Create an accountability structure (a friend/coach/women’s circle). This is the key to keeping us on track.
5. Review and revise your goals as necessary.
If you’re not making progress, is this goal really important to you?
6. Be compassionate with yourself and learn from your mistakes.
If you fall off (as we humans often do), forgive yourself, recommit, and continue…
7. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way!
So, are you ready to make a real change? Start with the feeling you want and work backwards…
In the words of Martin Luther King:
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”