I didn't know anything about goal setting until I was well into my 30's. I now think, "better late than never", but I also often think..."what if I would've known about this sooner?" What would've I accomplished in my life? Those who set goals accomplish more than those who do not set goals. Those who write their goals down accomplish significantly more than those who do not write their goals down.
Imagine driving. If you want to drive from A to B and you've never been there before, what do you do? Just drive around aimlessly hoping to wind up at your destination? No. You make a plan. You map it out. Each turn you make gets you closer to your destination. You can even estimate about how long it will take you to arrive. It's the same with goal setting...
Most people have just never been taught how to set goals and how important it is to write those goals down.
With the hope of helping others know what I wish I knew sooner... I wanted to offer a basic goal-setting "how to". You can find plenty of wordy advice online on the subject, but I want to try to keep this simple. By keeping it simple, you will be more likely to use it. I want you to take this information back to your own lives and put it into action so you can manifest the life you've only dreamed of! These five steps will give you an idea of the basics: Start thinking about what you WANT in your life. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to have? Where do you want to go? If you don't decide, life will decide for you..."Life is What Happens To You When You're Busy Making Other Plans" -John Lennon
- Choose just a few goals. Productivity studies show that you really can’t focus on more than 5–7 items at any one time. This doesn't mean including sections with several goals under each section. This will lead to loss of focus and accomplishing very little. Instead, focus on a handful of goals that you can almost memorize. They can include some long term, and some short term...and they aren't set in stone, they can change, that's ok.
- Make your goals “SMART.” This is an acronym that I've heard interpreted different ways. I like this way. Goals must meet these five criteria:
- Specific—your goals must say exactly what you want to accomplish in as much specificity as you can. Example: Bad: Write a book. Good: Write a book proposal for Your Topic Here.
- Measurable—as the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If possible, try to quantify the result. That way, you will know whether or not you hit the goal. Example: Bad: “Earn more this year than last.” Good: “Earn $5,000 more this year than last.”
- Actionable—every goal should start with an action verb (“start,” “run,” “finish,” “write" etc.) rather than a to-be verb (“am,” “be,” “have,” etc.) It's best to state your goal in the positive instead of in the negative because you get more of what you focus on. If you say you want to "Get out of debt", you are focusing on the debt and you will get more of it. Instead, try stating your goals in a positive way. Maybe, "Create a Budget"...that's better! Example: Bad: Be more consistent in blogging. Good: Write two blog posts per week.
- Realistic—A good goal should stretch you, but have common sense. Go right up to the edge of your comfort zone and then step over it. (If you're not out of your comfort zone, you're not thinking big enough.) Example: Bad: Qualify for the PGA Tour. Good: Lower my golf handicap by four strokes.
- Time-bound—every goal needs a date associated with it. When do you plan to meet your goal? Give your goal a date by which you want to complete it. "A goal without a date is just a dream." Make sure that every goal ends with a by when date. Example: Bad: Lose 20 pounds. Good: Lose 20 pounds by September 15th.
- Write them down. This part is critical. There is a huge power in writing your goals down even if you never plan or do anything else (not recommended). When you write down your goals, you are stating your intention and setting things in motion.
- Review them frequently. While writing your goals down is a powerful exercise in itself, the real fun happens by reviewing them on a regular basis. This is what turns them into reality. Take it up a notch and make a goal board that is visual with pictures. That is actually really fun. My family makes ours around New Years for the upcoming year. We hang it in a place where we see it at least 3 times a day! Take a photo of it and put it on your phone. Every time you make any decisions, start asking yourself this question, "Is this moving me closer to my goal?" Start to make decisions based on those answers.
- Share them selectively. There's different opinions about going public with your goals. Some are all for it while others believe that telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen. I don't think you need to tell everyone. Don't share them with anyone who is not committed to helping you achieve them. Share them with those who will support your goals (your mentor, spouse, coach, or business partner).
The practice of goal-setting is not just helpful; it is a prerequisite for happiness. Psychologists say that people who make consistent progress toward meaningful goals live happier more satisfied lives than those who don’t. Remember, NO MATTER HOW LONG YOU'VE TRAVELED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION...YOU CAN ALWAYS TURN AROUND.
If you don’t have written goals now, it's not too late to start. You can get a rough draft done in as little as an hour or two. Look at your goals 3 times a day; FEEL what it would feel like if you had them now. I strongly encourage you to give this a try, it has changed my life. You will be so amazed at how your life will start bringing you what you ask for. Teach your children to set goals at a young age, it will stay with them for life. "Few things in life pay such rich dividends for such a modest investment." The sooner you start, the sooner you'll arrive at your destination. :)