As someone who works on leadership development and accountability, it is my job to call out BS and to help align what people say they want with what they do. I do not fall for mediocrity trying to disguise itself as effort. Clients do not pay me to tell them what they want to hear, they pay me to tell them what no one else does.
Let’s find out how good your goal-setting for the year was.
Pull your biggest goal for the year and look at it. You do have it written down, right? Most people do not write their goals down. If you say you have a goal, but you cannot show it, it is not a goal, it is an idea or a wish. I am talking about a goal. Grab something to write with and jot down your goal.
Maybe you did write your goal down once, but you misplaced it. I am now rolling my eyes. Writing a goal down once and losing it or forgetting about it is not exactly stellar performance. Let’s move on.
Very few people write their goals down and look at them every day. You want to be one of those few. If you are, your goal may still stink, but you will have something concrete to work with. Let’s dig deeper.
Think hard on this. Is this a goal that you came up with on your own or was it suggested, perhaps demanded, by a boss, a spouse, a parent, children, grandparents; it could be driven by somebody who is no longer with you. Are you still carrying their influence, trying to please them for some reason? If you are listening to them, then you are working on something other than your goal. Not a great strategy. You need to create a goal that is yours.
Is your goal vague? “I want to lose weight, make more money, fall in love, go to college, buy a car, buy a house, start a new business,” blah, blah, blah. You could probably throw a rock and hit ten other people who have similar goals. Ambition is great, but not in this diluted, cliche form. You do not want to lose weight; you want to fit into a specific pair of jeans. You do not want to go to just any college, you have one in mind, with a concentration on a specific major. You have intrinsic criteria, so make sure you write them into your goals. Vague goals get vague results.
When you read your goal, do you want to drop what you are doing and go work on it? If it does not create that level of excitement, why are you bothering with it? Because you should or have too? That sounds like an obligation, not a goal, and frankly, that sucks.
Please do not tell me your goal is unmeasurable. Truthfully, you probably can, but you do not have an instrument in place to measure it correctly. I come from the school of thought that everything is measurable, but that does not mean you should measure everything. There are some things that are binary; it is yes or no. There are some things that are subjective; your rating 0-10, or red-yellow-green, and you can measure those units over time and see trends. I am big into taking two measurements; Your process measure, what it is you are doing in the midst of things, and, your results measure; did you hit the target that you wanted to hit?
There is a thought, held by people with a no-limits mentality, who pooh-pooh the idea of realistic and attainable goals. “What is realistic and what is attainable,” they ask. “I don’t want to rule anything out.” Not to be a killjoy, but many people write their goals like letters to Santa. They want to be a millionaire instantly. They want to be talented in something for which they’ve spent no time studying or practicing. They want something that is beyond their sphere of influence or control. That thinking distracts you from your objective. A great goal grabs inspiration from your dreams and pulls down the parts that are attainable, that you can work on now.
Is your goal relevant to anything else you are doing? Sometimes people create wild goals that have nothing to do with their values, personal mission, or anything else in their life. Being open to new things is great, but irrelevance is another distraction. How effective do you imagine a goal for irrelevant things is going to be?
People get confused between wishes and goals. A goal has a realistic deadline. Sometimes you’ll find you need a longer timeframe or a smaller goal. I am not a fan of small goals, but creating small tasks that support your bigger goal is an excellent way to build consistent action to get you where you need to go. A goal without a deadline does not usually get accomplished. There are inherent motivation and momentum created when you set a deadline. Even if you cannot meet it and you negotiate a new one, there is still a sense of ownership around your goal. People who do not do that, do not have ownership of the goal, and they often do not finish what they want to accomplish.
One Great Goal?
I think you should have tons of goals in your life, In fact, I think when you run out of goals, you run out of life. However, I do not believe you need to be working on all those goals at the same time. In fact, you can’t. You should have a Great Goal, and then maybe two others. A long-term goal that you work on a little bit every day and a short-term goal, something that is fun or distracting but still worthwhile. Your brain stays fresh and engaged moving from three different but complementary objectives. Burdened with a dozen goals will make you scattered and distracted. The perfectionist cannot get to them all; therefore they will never be good enough. The generalist will touch on them all but will not have spent enough time with them to make a tangible difference. By the end of the year, both feel as though they have not accomplished anything. They tinkered with things, as opposed to achieving something.
If your goal is not forcing you to modify or change your behavior, you are probably not going to achieve it. If you could do it without changing something, you would have already achieved it, and all this would be moot. A goal should stretch your capabilities, excite you and make you use parts of your brain or body that you’ve not been using. When you are determining a goal, leverage your comfort zone in the best way possible. It is the place where your strengths lay, where you find your expertise, where everything you know, and feel confident about resides. Push at your comfort zone and expand it a little bit, instead of ignoring your strengths and whimpering in a corner because you tried something and failed. Your plan must stretch you, not break you.
A strong goal has a celebration built-in. When you are working on something day after day, and moving it forward little by little, you begin to feel proud. Eventually, you get it done, and nobody says anything. That sucks. You can repeat that process several times, but eventually your heart is no longer in it, so you disengage. That is where demotivation and despondency form. People have worked hard, and it feels like nobody has noticed. Maybe people notice, but they have not planned to do anything about it, they just think about it. Build little milestones and points of celebration along the way. It is what makes the whole thing worthwhile. You do not have to organize a parade but maybe indulge in a box of chocolates, a dinner out, a day off, whatever feels like a reward. Make it small enough not to throw you off track but significant enough to feel excited and justified in the progress you are making.
Worth the Effort?
“But it is so much work.” People are busy, and all this planning and thinking about a goal is overwhelming. “I just want what I want,” is a common refrain of the tired and frustrated. I understand that. It is work. I do not think it is too much work, because, I think you are worth it. However, you are the one who has to think and answer the question, “Is this worth the effort?” Are you worth putting in the effort to create a successful goal for your year, your week, or your day? If you are not setting goals, you are kind of telling yourself you are not worth it. What kind of messages is that sending your subconscious mind and the people you interact with? A solid goal increases your self-worth and your greater worth.
If you are happy with your goal, good for you. I am excited about the success you are experiencing and would love to hear about it and learn how you achieved it. If you saw some things you need to tweak with your goal to make it stronger, do that, now. If you do not, you probably won’t, and that really would suck.
Writer and consultant Karl Bimshas is the author of several books, including, “How to Stay When You Want to Quit; Strategies to get over yourself“. Karl Bimshas Consulting is the leadership development and accountability firm that helps entrepreneurs and executives who want to dramatically improve how they lead.