Many set the same New Year’s resolutions every year, hoping to see different results. They are stuck in the same cycle of setting goals, forgetting about them or failing to achieve or even to start them. What might not be surprising is that only 8% achieve their goals.
It seems modern society encourages us to think about the next significant milestone or chase something new. However, we don’t think enough about accomplishing the goals with a strategy in mind.
Goal setting is an intentional and detailed process that identifies a new pursuit, skill, or project and a plan for achieving it.
When you set goals, you take control of your life’s direction. Goals provide you with focus and clarity. Your decisions and actions should bring you closer to achieving those goals.
The real challenge is not deciding if you want the result but accepting the sacrifices required to achieve your goal. You must consider if you want the lifestyle that accompanies that goal. This is where planning is essential as it will identify what must change to accomplish the goal.
Before the exhilarating and enchanting outcome, do you want the dull and unappealing process? Everybody wants a gold medal, but not everybody wants to train like an Olympian.
Goal setting is about choosing the rewards you want and the sacrifice you are willing to pay.
To identify the goal you want to achieve, you need to start with why you want to achieve it in the first place. It has to be something meaningful to you and not what is expected. For example, if you consider being a parent in the next five years, your why might be healthy to keep up with your child’s play activities and sports. A parent would need plenty of energy from rest, mindfulness, diet, movement and more. An expectation could be societies pressure to be skinny. The latter isn’t your personal motivator and will cause you internal conflict when trying to achieve your goal. Whereas the former is a more compelling and exciting reason to be working on your health.
Before you set the Ultimate Goal, take a closer look at what you’re trying to achieve and ask yourself the following questions:
If you’re unwilling to put in the time and effort, it may not be worth pursuing. Everything in life comes down to priorities and what you would like to achieve – conscious choices and subconscious decisions. Life becomes a series of messy experiences you struggle to manage without setting goals or objectives. You become the plaything of coincidence.
One of the most significant obstacles to achieving goals is other goals. Sometimes you can overestimate your achievements which leave you struggling with your time and attention. Whenever you work on a new goal, you are taking focus and energy from your other goals.
One of the quickest ways to make progress on your Ultimate Goal is to wait on less essential goals and focus on one Ultimate Goal at a time. It would be best to reorganise your priorities to allow improvement to come faster because you are now fully committed.
Focusing on the process is one of the most challenging parts of setting and achieving goals. Due to the nature of a goal, you start with the end in mind. However, it’s the tiny steps you take to get there that matter. For example, the outcome you want to achieve is confidence in large public speaking events. That’s the goal. But working towards this goal, you discover that you are most comfortable in small interactive groups. Did you fail at achieving this goal? Not if you believe in the power of the process.
In good time, you will build up the courage to speak publicly to large audiences, but you’re less inclined to keep trying if you think you’ve failed.
Many choose an Ultimate Goal but never create an action plan to determine how they will achieve it. Your action plan should include all the necessary steps you need to take to get there – no matter how small they may appear. Grab a piece of paper and get writing. This will help you with the next step.
As mentioned earlier, you need to be sure you are willing your change your lifestyle to get closer to achieving your Ultimate Goal. Now is the time to create the Evolving Goals, which change as you grow. They are designed for the next three months and focus on the habit changes.
If you want to be that parent with high energy, the habit could focus on regular sleeping for the next three months.
If you want confidence in public speaking, the habit could be reading a script out loud at home.
There was a study that asked the participants to complete the following: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].” The conclusion of this research shows that you are between 2x to 3x more likely to stick to your goals if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how.
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
Here are some examples:
Habit stacking and implementation intentions help us move from the goal in our heads to the specific process that will make it a reality.
When you write your goals down, they become real and tangible instead of a vague idea that lives in your mind. Once you’ve written your goals, keep them somewhere visible. Put them on your wardrobe doors, near your computer screen, or on the mirror in the bathroom for when you brush your teeth. Look at it weekly or, better yet, daily.
This tactic reminds you to keep working on your goals often. As you’re writing down your goals, use a positive tone, so you stay excited about achieving them.
Many of the decisions we make in our lives result from our surroundings.
Before sleeping, browsing social media is likely to be the default action if you go to bed with your phone in your hands. Eating is more likely the default action if your cupboards are filled with biscuits and cakes.
The same can be said for positive surroundings.
By storing a kettlebell next to your sofa, you are more likely to do kettlebell swings instead of sitting watching TV. Drinking water instead of coffee is more likely to be the default action if you have a bottle of water on your desk.
You are more likely to stick to the goals if you tell someone about them. Share it on social media and provide updates. The encouragement can keep you accountable.
We all love to receive feedback – it is very human. The boost in our motivation is when we can see our progress. This doesn’t have to be validated by others. It can be an internal validation. Not everyone will understand your why as they have a different direction to travel in. Measurement is so critical for practical goal setting. By measuring your results, you get insight into whether you are making progress.
Check out the SMART goal setting PDF.
Now that you’ve planned everything out, it’s time to take action. You didn’t go through all that work to forget about your goal. Every step you take should lead to another until you finish your Evolving Goal, and then it is time to repeat the process until you achieve the Ultimate Goal.