“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
The last few weeks for me have been stressful, meaningful, and productive. Book sales are starting to pick up, (thank you, everyone for your support!), I’ve started on my second book, I graduated from college, and I am closer than ever to launching new education programs for my clients. To summarize, it has been a great summer. September’s schedule is already almost full, as is my heart. And my head.
Not only was I able to keep up with everything with my time management mastery, but I have clearly-written, detailed goals, and have clarified the steps I need to reach them.
Why do I take the time to organize and clearly outline my goals? Why is it important for anyone to have goals?
I believe that your biggest commitment must always be to yourself. And setting goals is a major step you need to take on your road to achieving the life you want.
By recognizing and working toward goals, you take ownership of your life and where you’re headed.
You create for yourself a vision of who you want to be and where you want to go, and goals give you an outline on how to get there.
You know where to push yourself, and you are inclined to hold yourself accountable to your actions in ensuring that what you’re working on contributes to that vision.
You can manifest your own reality just by seeing it as real - and setting goals will get you there.
And I’m going to encourage you to ignore the thought of always setting "realistic" goals. Sometimes you need to shoot for the stars and imagine something that doesn’t seem like it can be real, because you need to put the universe on notice that you’re coming for what you deem as worthy of a place in your life. Don’t listen to what others have to say, particularly any naysayers - they have no faith in themselves, and therefore have no faith in the energy of the universe.
There have been many time throughout my life where I may have felt a little tinge of self-doubt or maybe even a feeling of selfishness or guilt of asking for too much or something that may be difficult and I have learned to tell myself, “you don’t get what you don’t ask for.” And just gone for it, most of the time with successful results.
(Side note - in the near future we’ll discuss what defines success. It means something different to everyone - what it means to me may mean something different to you, so don’t ever assume what someone means by it. Ask them for clarification for understanding).
When you have goals and a plan to pursue them, you will continue to expand knowledge and experience. And by committing to this continuous learning and growth, you can avoid falling into the trap of tunnel vision and narrowed perspective. If you choose to let your ego and fear of failure define your actions, you risk operating with that narrow perspective and overconfidence that can blind you to fresh ideas and insights. By making learning a lifelong pursuit, you challenge your assumptions and expand your horizons.
Dreams, which inspire actual goals, are an important and inspiring part of making future plans. Inspirational ideas and personal goal-setting tend to be manifested out of dreams. But you can have all the dreams in the world or possibly even a life-changing, astonishing business idea, but unless and until you make a viable plan - backed by action - they will remain dreams.
The process of setting clear goals doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require your commitment. To be effective, they should be clear, detailed, specific - and not necessarily perfect! The desire for perfection before you even get started is restrictive and where dreams and plans go to die. The details and initial plan and desired result may actually change so you don’t need to have it all figured out at the start. In fact, I think it’s better that you don’t have things so concrete in your mind at the start, so you give yourself the opportunity to be open to better and possibly bigger outcomes, and something you didn’t even imagine at the start of this process.
There are a number of ways to document and plan your goals, but the most important part - the first step - is to get them documented. Following that, you can create an outline with ideas and steps you need to take, and resources you will need, to reach your destination.
First, a popular proven method, if you need more help getting started, is the SMART system, with creation attributed to George Duran in his 1981 AMA Forum paper, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.” The acronym has been modified over time to suit the user’s needs, and Duran made note in his article that not every goal will meet all five criteria; for example, if you set the goal for yourself, nothing needs to be assigned (Haughey, 2014).
The acronym was modified over the years to include the two current last letters, applying two additional areas of focus and criteria. And although its critics claim it lacks flexibility, it is a useful tool if to at least get you started.
Also, depending on the type of goal you have, you may blow through this process easily or it may require some strong time and brain power investment. It’s just a guide and a process and way to get your thinking jump started. It should not be taken as gospel or the only way to plan goals. It’s more important to utilize consistency and commitment in this process
There is also a less structured way to create a goal using list of five basic steps:
Make a decision on what you want to pursue. This first step is sometimes the most difficult, as some will fall into the FOMO mentality and freeze. And actually, the opposite is true - until you make a decision, nothing gets done.
Write it down in detail. Now you need clarity. Give it some structure, including the purpose, needed resources, and a realistic deadline to which you feel comfortable committing.
Break it down. Take your plan and lay out steps, including complementary information on resources and deadlines. Be realistic but not too easy on yourself. This is your goal - get serious about it.
Share your journey. Or don’t. You may want to recruit an accountability partner, tell the whole world, or just keep it to yourself until you’re done. Research has shown that results are greater after you tell someone but do what is comfortable for you.
Celebrate! You can celebrate milestones or the final result, whichever works for you.
Cycle of goals
It’s helpful to some to know that when setting goals, the skills you will need to obtain to reach a new goal are cyclical. I believe the process of continuous learning, just like the pursuit of happiness, is circular and never-ending.
There’s also no rule that says you can’t work on goals concurrently. Sometimes we have goals that are somewhat related, sometimes they have nothing to do with each other. But you don’t have to chase your dreams in succession - yes, perhaps prioritize what is most important and focus more energy where it makes more sense to you, but if you see an opportunity to work on more than one, go for it.
To give you a visual of the process:
Develop a new interest. Something should and will always pique your interest, whether it’s learning a new language, how to read music, try a new recipe, go see a play, play a sport, take dance lessons, learn yoga, even something as small as selecting a new genre of movie. Or maybe even earn a degree. The possibilities are endless.
Research. What is the best way to learn or participate in this new interest? Do you need to take a class, read a book, watch a video or buy any supplies? And where and what?
Take classes or receive instruction. The amount of and type of instruction you need will depend on the skill you’re trying to learn, your base level of knowledge of or experience with the skill, and the complexity of the task (online, book instruction, group class, one-on-one).
Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. Oh, and practice. Repeat.
Master. You’ll eventually reach the level of being able to perform this skill without thinking about it and it becomes second nature. You may even be able to teach it to others.
Then…look at your list and pick something else to learn that will get you closer to your goal. Push past the fear or what may intimidate you or prevent you from starting. Set your intention, acknowledge your power and move forward. If it’s something that will take months or even years to complete, all the more reason to start now.
The last part I have to add can appear to be contradictory, but it’s very important, in my eyes, to point out.
While goal completion and attainment is not a contest, as we all have our own personal time clock and things come to us when we’re ready, AND we should not waste energy comparing ourselves to anyone else because we have personal journeys, you should absolutely give all goals a target date or deadline. If we don’t give ourselves deadlines, our lazy human brains make excuses for why something can’t be done, and we can get distracted. We’ll start questioning what we’re doing. We’ll allow other things to take priority and make excuses that allow ourselves to push things out - and then they never get done.
I do most certainly agree with one of the SMART goal steps, which is setting a deadline - or a goal date of completion or implementation. It creates a mindset shift and then the pursuit of the goal and its tasks get normalized into our daily thinking, and therefore it feels more controllable and attainable.
And you can make plans privately, enlist a friend to join you, or announce your intentions to the world. It’s up to you. Some feel like it’s not real unless it’s shared, while others prefer to work in private and then shock the world with something new. Your goal belongs to you and should be handled as you see fit.
As important as the task of setting goals is, it’s most definitely not the final destination on this path to fulfillment.
Next time we’ll discuss the next necessary strategic move regarding goals, which is execution and taking action. You can plan and strategize and get excited all you want - but if your goals remain in this realm, well, nothing happens.
So...what are you waiting for?
Haughey, D. (2014, December 13). A brief history of SMART goals. Retrieved from https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/brief-history-of-smart-goals.php