The Power of Goal Setting.
The turning of the calendar is a natural time to reflect upon the past, and more importantly (and productively), think about what you want to accomplish in the future. The act of setting goals is one of the most powerful undertakings towards progressing (however you define that) in life. Yet few people take the small amount of time required for goal setting to really think through where – and who – they want to be in 3 months’ time, 1 year, 5 years…. Perhaps it is out of fear, or laziness, or lack of discipline, or simply never having experienced the power and joy associated with setting and accomplishing a goal.
Establishing some kind of mark – which can be either quantitative or qualitative – does not preclude spontaneity nor new opportunities that present themselves. Indeed, given the natural (and beautiful) chaos of life, endless new events, people, etc will invariably enter your life along the way. But having a sense of where you want to go, how you want to behave, what you want to give back to society, etc is a potent force to guide you through this series of future unknowns. And the act of thinking about what you want to have – to be - in and of itself propels you forward towards those desired outcomes as it plants both conscious and subconscious seeds in your mind that get watered through outside stimuli, and if nurtured properly, can grow into a beautiful garden we call life.
Goal Setting Ideas and Techniques To Get You Started
Get out a blank piece of paper and free-form write down things that are important to you – being healthy, having financial freedom, enjoying a strong relationship with a spouse or friend, etc. Good goals start from things we value.
Turn generalities into specifics, and pare the list down 10 or fewer goals. The ability to say no to things is powerful when it comes to defining and accomplishing that which is truly important to you. Once you’ve gone through a few goal cycles you will have a sense of what is the right # of goals for any given period.
Make goals positive (“I’ll be lean” versus “I won’t be fat”).
Make goals as specific and quantifiable as possible in terms of what, when, how and why. “I want to lose some weight” is far less effective than, “I will lose 10 lbs by June 1st. This is important to me (your “why”) because it will make me healthier and feel better and give me more energy to give to my relationships (or work, etc). I will achieve this by having 1 less glass of wine a night and by adding 1 long run to my work out routine.” (of course make it relevant to you/your goals – just be as specific as possible).
Ask yourself why you can’t achieve this goal. Be very literal and critical. You will find in doing this that your ‘reasons’ for not achieving the goal are largely self-limiting beliefs. If you answer in ways like, “I don’t have enough time” then challenge this assumption. Is there anything else that is less important to you (watching TV, etc) that you can cut out enough to open up time to achieve a more important goal? If you say, “…but I’m not very good at saving money” then questions yourself by asking, “…have I done everything possible to educate myself? Is there someone I know who can teach me? Am I not good at it, or have I just not put in the effort?” This series of brutally honest questions and answers will create tremendous clarity in terms of what you can truly accomplish, and how. If after going through this process you are convinced you can’t achieve a given goal, then set it aside.
Share goals with others to establish accountability. Make a friendly (but real) bet with a colleague, relative or friend as a means to help each other achieve a similar goal. I once bet my personal trainer $500 that I could accomplish a certain goal. Sure enough, I exceeded my mark of 25 clean chins, performing 29. That was a few years ago. My goal for this year is 35.
Write yourself a letter either using a site like www.futureme.org or just put yourself in your 12/31/17 you, tell yourself the kind of person you have become, and thank your current self for having the foresight and discipline to do the things necessary to make these goals a reality. It may sound corny, but if you wrap your mind around it, before you know it you will be your 12/31/17 you. Let’s say your goal is to increase your savings from $10K a year to $15K a year. That means eating out less or whatever. Have Future You write Today You a letter saying, “…I want to thank you for sacrificing one dinner out a night. I know it was difficult at first, but now I (we) have more money in our investment account. I feel far less stressed, my health is better…all because you set and executed this goal. Thank you, it will be worth it, trust me.” Something along those lines. Talk about accountability. If you really visualize and feel the Future You with intent and compassion, you will gain a whole new level of commitment.
Take your final product – your 5 (or 10 or whatever #) of goals and put it next to your bed. Read it each night before you fall asleep, and first thing in the morning (incorporate this into your morning routine which may include expressing thanks, meditating, etc). Every month or so review the goals in detail and measure your progress vis a vis the goal. Be realistic, and make adjustments accordingly if you are not on track.
We often tell ourselves, “I should really set some goals” but then time passes with little or no real action. While I learned early in life to embrace the beauty of the Universe’s natural chaos which brings us people, ideas, opportunities, struggles, etc that we never expected, I also experienced the power of goal setting when at age 11 I wrote down on a piece of paper that I would be a world sailing champion within 10 years. Two years early, at age 19, I achieved the goal. To be sure, I have failed to achieve far more goals than I’ve accomplished, but the process of setting forth a vision has brought me much happiness in life as I pursued outcomes which challenged me and forced me to grow along the way.
Email me your goals; I’d be happy to be a supporter of your desired outcomes for this year and beyond. I’ll share some of mine with you as well, and we can help each other on this amazing, wonderful, humbling, awe-inspiring journey called life.