What are Goals?
Let’s start with what is a goal? A goal is ‘something that you hope to achieve, especially when much time and effort will be needed’ (Collins Dictionary) and across our lifetimes we will set ourselves hundreds of these. They enable us to add structure into our lives by helping us focus on what it is we really want to achieve. This can be applied to all areas of our life including our social life, career, relationships, personal improvement and health and can vary in size a difficulty depending on what we are looking to achieve. It is also important to understand that goals are not the same as a vision. Our vision is where we want to be in our lives and how we see ourselves in our very best state. However, in order to achieve our vision, we have to break it down into smaller goals. This provides us with the stepping stones to get to that ultimate place and enable us to really focus on what it is we want to achieve, put simply goals are the building blocks to creating something beautiful. If you imagine the pyramids of Egypt being the vision, every brick represents the goals to getting there! And completing those goals (or laying those bricks) may not be pretty but it gives you the driving force behind the finished article.
Why should we set them?
We have already alluded to a number of these when talking about what a goal is in the first place however it is important to realise that there are so many good reasons to ensure you are setting goals in your life, no matter how big or small these may be. Firstly, by setting goals you give yourself a sense of direction and empower yourself to take control of your life and where you want it to go. Sometimes if we feel we have no direction in our lives we can lose our sense of worth as a person so this is extremely important. Furthermore, we are giving ourselves accountability. By setting our goals we are now accountable to ourselves to ensure we make them happen, and no one likes letting people down, even if it is just letting yourself down. We have already mentioned focus and motivation but this is another crucial element to the question of why we set them. Generally, in life many of us feel we don’t have enough time when usually its because we are not using our time effectively. Having goals enables us to channel our energy into the things we really want to change and gives us a much clearer focus on our day to day and what we want to work on. Finally, they enable us to get maximum results and achieve our best potential, as what gets measured gets managed! In order to know we are improving we have to measure this in the form of our goals. This in turn enables us to be the very best we can be and over time allows us to live to our overall vision!
How do we set them?
Right this is where we hit the detail. When we set goals, we have to be ‘SMART’. This means it has to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Let’s break these down individually:
- Specific – What is it that you really want to achieve? Your goal must be really clear and specific otherwise you won’t be able to manage it effectively. Some of the top things you should be thinking about when setting a specific goal is what is it you want to achieve? Why is it important? What would you need to do to get there?
- Measurable – We said it before, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. This links in to that accountability factor, enabling us to track our progress and stay motivated. This is often where people go wrong or something they don’t consider when planning their goals. Things you should thing about are how will I know when I have achieved this goal? What evidence is there I am achieving my goal?
- Achievable – Your goal has to be attainable for it to be a goal. You have to be able to reasonably accomplish your goal within the given time frame you provide yourself. A great example of this you see often is weight loss with people setting unattainable goals like losing a stone in a week. Questions to ask yourself for this one is; how realistic is the goal I am setting myself? What time am I giving myself to do it in? How can I accomplish this goal? Is it in the realm of the possible? What limitations are there currently for me achieving this goal (e.g. finance, time etc)?
- Relevant – This relates to whether your goals align to your longer-term objectives and values. Does the goal also lend itself to other relevant goals you have set? Other things you may consider when thinking about the relevance of your goal is your time and whether this goal is worthwhile compared to other areas you may want to focus on. Is it the right time to be focussing on this goal? And does this contribute to my broader vision? Finally, it is crucial to think about how important achieving this goal is to you?
- Time Bound – When thinking about setting a time to complete your goals in I always like to use the analogy of the to do list that keeps writing itself. Ever done that where you never get some things done and so you just re-write them for the next day and the next etc. This is because we haven’t really held ourselves to ransom on the deadline. If, however you forced yourself to complete the task by a specific time that day you generally will find you complete it. This is the same for our goals. We have to set ourselves deadlines in order to stay focussed. It also enables us to prioritize the things we really need to get done and thus pushes us to keep working towards that end goal. With this we do also have to be realistic on what is achievable in our given timeframe. Things I have found useful is to work back from the end result setting clear mini goals (e.g in 6 months I will have done X, in 3 months I will have done Y). Understand that you will come across some barriers and ensure you consider this when setting your timeframe. Think about what you can do each day to work towards the bigger picture and finally take the time to continuously review where you are vs your time frame set.
So hopefully that gives you a really clear insight into setting goals and sticking to them…and here are a few top tips to help along the way:
- Write it all down – It is all well and good following all of the process above but you need something to reflect back on each time. I would also go as far as to say to write these down somewhere obvious you will look every day for example a whiteboard, pinned to the fridge, written in the front of your dairy. This will ensure that your goals are always at the forefront of your mind when planning your day.
- Celebrate success – It is really important to celebrate all the small successes you may have along the way to achieving your goals, acknowledge and feel proud of the milestones and continue to reflect on how far you have come along the way.
- Share your goals with others – This can sometimes help from an accountability perspective. If you have another watchful eye over you the changes are you are even more likely to ensure you get it done… because if you don’t kick yourself up the bum the other person will.
- Don’t be afraid to fail – Not every goal is a linear process. There will always be barriers and speed bumps along the journey but it is how we manage these that is the most important. Each time you find yourself reaching a bump take the time to reflect, regroup and reset your goal and time scales etc.
- Don’t fill your plate – I am sure all of us have a million goals, visions and desires all whizzing round our head on a daily basis, but when it comes to setting your goals do not set too many and overwhelm yourself! It is better to focus on 1 or 2 and do them properly than it is to set about 10 and scrabble around trying to achieve them all in one go. Remember once you have completed one journey you can then always start another.
Would love to hear from you if this helps you with setting your goals!
Best of luck on your Journey!