I firmly believe that everyone wants to live his or her best life. The question is what does "best" mean and how do you get there? It’s important to realise there is a process and setting goals is just one part of it. Meaning, if you set the "perfect" goal but then have a negative mindset or get derailed at the first small obstacle, achieving the goal will be tricky...
It’s not what we know but rather what we practice. We all need a toolkit or set of rituals. In my book, Living in Your Top 1%, I share nine rituals for success. This blog focuses on Ritual Four: Go For The Goal.
One note before we jump in: Don’t worry if your goal seems crazy to others, just get them out on paper and take a small step. The process of writing your goals is very empowering and helps to generate great ideas. Often, the crazy ideas are the ones that change the world.
1. Start with the ideal situation
This is your chance to dream. Imagine you have a blank slate, and you can be and do whatever you choose. No obstacles just pure potential. Start with this image of possibilities and then work backwards to see what’s doable right now. Don’t focus on the obstacles when you are getting started. Yes, I am encouraging you to leave the mortgage, kids, and other responsibilities alone for right now. Think about what the ideal vision is for you. Then figure out what you need to do to make it happen.
2. Write down your goals
When you write down your goals, you start to see where you want to go and it’s easier to make decisions because you have a destination. Many people like to keep everything in their mind instead of put it down on paper. Well let me tell you a little secret about these folks, they are also the people who are more likely not to follow through on their goals. Clarity can emerge from writing your dreams on paper.
3. Determine why the goal is important
Be very clear why you are setting this goal. Is it because your family wants you to do something or does the goal matter to you? Please leave the "should" goals behind.
Is losing weight really important to you? Are you willing to make other sacrifices to make this goal a reality? Or does work really take priority over relationships? Often, we have to make difficult choices when setting goals. Yes, that’s part of the process as well. When goals are important to you, they will align with your values (ie, adventure, respect, honesty, connecting, humor etc).
The question is will you feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when you achieve the goal? If not, it’s not the right goal. For example, you may have a great goal to be the market leader in your business. But if you really want to be connected to your daughter and coach her soccer team then achieving your business goal may or may not leave you feeling fulfilled. These are the questions you need to consider. Yes, they are tough!
4. Craft clear-cut goals that add meaning to your life
Many of us think vague goals are our friends but actually they just derail us in our mission. If you’re planning to get better at golf, be a better leader, or exercise more in the new year, you will need to be much more specific. Say your goal out loud and honestly ask yourself if it’s clear what you are trying to do. Once you have a clear goal, you need to double check that it’s something you really care about (rather than your family, friends, or partner).
Many goals appear specific but they are not. Examples of common vague goals:
1. Get in shape = does this mean lower your blood pressure, have consistent energy throughout the day, lose 15 pounds by your college reunion, or run your first 5k race?
2. Build my business = do you mean open a second store, be featured in Success Magazine, increase revenue by 20 per cent, or get five new clients?
3. Spend more time with friends = do you mean have dinner once a week or schedule a four-day ski trip?
Things happen when you are specific. Vague goals = vague results!
5. Pursue a goal that is a tier one priority
You probably have many things that are important in your life. Write down all of your goals above and then check the three goals that are most important to you (this keeps the process manageable). Your tier one goals are the ones that will make the biggest impact in your life. They are not necessarily the goals that help you make the most money or make you famous but rather the goals that add a deeper sense of fulfillment to your life. Tier one goals can be big or small. Perhaps you want to finish your degree, be debt-free, or change jobs by the end of this year. Whatever is meaningful to you is best to pursue.
6. Set a target date
This is a tough one but it needs to be done. Just saying that you are going to write a book or lose weight is not really saying anything. Does that mean you are going to write a book in the next five years or lose weight sometime in your lifetime. If you just started working at a new company, it’s probably not realistic to say that you will be promoted tomorrow but it might be reasonable to set a goal to be promoted within six months or the year. You will have to decide what’s possible given everything else going on in your life. Either way, it’s helpful to have a date that you are working toward. Please know, it’s ok to revise the target date as you move forward with your goal. The process is dynamic.
7. Take small steps
Slow and steady is a great strategy. Once you have a goal that speaks to you, break it down into small steps. If you want to start a business, perhaps the small step is registering a domain name or ordering business cards. Move away from extreme all or nothing strategies. Too many people think the goal setting process is over once you declare your goal - that’s when the fun starts. Train your mind to take one small step a day and you will make amazing progress. It’s a process; it’s not magic.