A 6-point guide to goal setting

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In a few short weeks, people will be making their resolutions for 2017. Personally, I don’t believe in resolutions: I believe in goal setting.

Goals are important because they are the guiding principles that help us determine what actions to take in the present moment. If your goal is to be promoted, then you inherently know what actions are moving you towards your goal and what actions could impede your progress. If your goal is to find a new job, it will help to give you that extra boost of energy after a long day at work.

I have put together a 6-point guide to goal setting that will help you to achieve what you want in 2017.

1. Why this goal and why now?

Uncovering your why is an important place to start because this is the core of where your motivation will come from.

Let’s look at some common resolutions such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to earn more money” or “I want to quit smoking”. On the surface, they have the potential to be good goals, but we have to look under the hood because this is how we know whether or not we can make it stick.

The problem with statements such as these is that they are often externally motivated. People feel that they “should” lose weight, however a vague and external “should” won’t keep them going when faced with a late-night craving. This is what makes “why” such an important question.

Examining your why will spark your drive. It comes from within. When you decide what your why is, follow up with the question “why now?” Why 2017 and not another year? What is the consequence of putting off your goal until later? Answering these questions can help you to develop a sense of urgency around your goal.

Once you know why you want your goal and why now is the time to do it, you can move on to the next step.

2. Be clear and specific about your goal

Being clear about what you want to achieve is half the battle. If you don’t know exactly what your target is, you won’t know when you’ve hit it.

A mistake I often make and I know that others do as well is either not being specific enough about the goal or moving the goal midway through the process. I will give you a small example to demonstrate what I mean, maybe you can relate.

I go to the gym and tell myself “I will run 5km today.” I jump on the treadmill, blast my music and go. During my workout however, I may run a split slower than my usual pace. Or I may stop for water breaks more frequently than normal. When I step off the treadmill, even though I have completed my goal of running 5km, I am disappointed and berate myself because I could have done it better. So while I’ve accomplished my initial goal of running 5km, I don’t feel proud.

This is why it is important to be clear about exactly what your goal is and stick to it. Once you have decided what your goal is and why you want to accomplish it, a good question to ask yourself is “How will I know that I have accomplished my goal?”

By knowing what the achievement looks like, it will help you to either refine the goal (“I will run 5km in X time”) or help you to recognize your accomplishment (“You know, it was a hard workout this time, but I did it.”)

3. State your goal in a way suits you

Once you know why you want to accomplish your goal and what your accomplishment looks like, it’s time to state your goal in a way that suits you.

If you are someone who enjoys writing and can regularly take quiet time, writing down your goal is be the best way to go. If you like the old school way of doing things, get a notebook and a pen to record your goal. If you prefer the digital format, I would recommend choosing a method that can cross platforms with relative ease.

If writing is not your thing, you can do a video journal or a vlog. Your vlog doesn’t have to be a grand Hollywood production, but having a few basics such as a camera that can record at least 10-minute clips and perhaps a tripod can help to make your vlogging easier. If you choose this method, make sure that you can store your clips, either on your computer or on a personal YouTube channel (you don’t have to make your channel public).

You need to make a final draft your goal. Either dedicate one page or one video that includes the following:

  • What your goal is
  • Why this goal and why now
  • What the attainment of your goal looks like

It might take a few drafts to get there, but you want to be able to summarize your goal in a few sentences.

Your final draft is something you will refer back to often, so be sure that it is easily accessible and that it is pleasing for you to look at (whether written or filmed).

4. Commit to status updates

Select a frequency that feels right relative to your goal, but that is still slightly more frequent than you are comfortable with. This will help to get you out of your comfort zone. If your goal is to find a new job, daily status updates will keep you in line. If your goal is to be promoted, weekly status update would be more appropriate.

This is where the importance of having a method that suits you comes into play. The more comfortable you are with your method, the easier it will be to do even when you don’t feel like it.

Schedule your status updates as you do when you are at work. If you are setting weekly updates, pick a day that you know you can commit to. If you are setting daily updates, pick a time of day that you will most likely be able to dedicate to yourself.

The reason why I prefer status updates to the traditional “tracking your progress” is that sometimes there is no tangible progress per se. Sometimes you need a little nudge. If you find yourself at a status update and you don’t have anything specific to report, take out your final draft of your goal and read it or watch it. Then for this status report, write or talk about how it makes you feel to have reviewed your goal and have no tangible progress. This isn’t about making you feel guilty or making excuses. It’s about recommitting to your goal.

5. Celebrate the victories

When you set a goal, especially when it’s a big goal, you want to reward yourself along the way by celebrating your progress.

Your celebration doesn’t have to be lavish, but you do need to highlight your wins. You can dedicate a page in your notebook or video series that is your “wins list” to refer back to whenever you feel discouraged. You can also do something tangible like allow yourself a little time off or a new item or a nice meal.

I do need to specify however that your celebration has to be aligned with your goal. I will use an obvious example: if your goal is to lose weight and you celebrate a milestone by eating chocolate cake and ice cream, your celebration could have the potential to sabotage your goal. Celebrate wisely.

6. Be open to the process

We absolutely set goals to obtain the things we want. With that said, it is my belief that deep down, we set goals to be a better version of ourselves.

We don’t always control all the factors involved in attaining our goals or they sometimes take a little longer than we had anticipated.

Remember that as you work on your goal, your goal is working on you. So just in case the attainment of your goal doesn’t look the way you thought it would, take note of how your goal has made you develop or who your goal has brought into your life or what new situations have been presented to you. You always benefit when you strive towards what you want.

As I had mentioned in my last article, the month of December is a great time to reflect on your career. Hopefully, this article will help you to push your reflection further and go after what you truly want.