The power of written goals – Part 2

power of setting goals for 2018

In the previous article about the power of written goals I provided a little dialogue on whether there is actually any evidence to support the idea that writing goals down makes it more likely that we will achieve those goals. Having acknowledged the famous, but fictional, studies at Yale and Harvard, we were still able to conclude that there is some evidence to support the notion that writing a goal down does indeed help in achieving them.

So how should we go about creating a set of goals for ourselves? There are many different models available but I’m going to share my own methodology which can easily be adapted to suit any personal approach to goal setting.

The usual mantra that is most often quoted is that goals should be SMARTER:

  • Specific – actually the gurus now suggest that the ‘goal’ should be more general but there should be a set of objectives or sub-goals which should be specific; I call these sub goals ‘milestones’. The greater the clarity the more motivational the milestones are and the easier it is to gauge your progress which brings us onto…
  • Measurable – as Tom Peters once said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Being able to measure your progress to each milestone gives you a sense of how far you have travelled on the journey, and that’s really important when it comes to evaluation.
  • Achievable – this is slightly contentious; as Norman Vincent Peale an early proponent of positive thinking once said “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” There is a balance to be had with the concept of ‘achievable’ if you set your sights too low then why bother using a goal setting approach because you’ll probably get there regardless. If you set your sights unrealistically high you may feel disheartened at your lack of progress. Challenge yourself to achieve more than you think you can but don’t be completely unrealistic.
  • Relevant – I think we are a little in danger of stating the obvious here; why would anyone set themselves a set of irrelevant goals? The only point worthy of note on this element is that life events happen and our priorities change.
  • Time Bounded – this is important as it creates a reasonable sense of urgency. The key is to pick a time frame that allows you to build some traction so that you can advance to a reasonably challenging goal without having a long-term timeframe that appears so far away it doesn’t galvanise you into action.
  • Evaluated – this overlaps a little with measurable. It’s important to evaluate your goals not just in terms of progress but also in terms of relevance. It’s fine to change your mind and decide that you really don’t want to go in a particular direction any more.
  • Readjusted – as the Jewish proverb says ‘Man plans, and God laughs.’ Which takes us back neatly to the original question of why would we bother to go to the trouble of writing down our goals in the first place? Actually I’ve always believed in a benevolent God who helps us to achieve our goals – providing we have put the effort in! But it is true that we may need to readjust our plans based on life events that are out of our immediate control.

making a goals blueprint

So what does my blue print for goal setting look like? Below is an example although it is important to stress that how far you set the goals out is to a degree dependent on how old you are. You can pick your own timeframe.

In 10 years my ideal world looks like this:

  • Professional –
  • Personal –
  • Family –
  • Social –

Ask yourself very broad questions: Where am I living? What are my children doing? What type of job/work do I have? How am I spending my spare time?

What other goals am I achieving? This is a very broad and idealistic exercise – it’s important to have ambitious 10 year goals without worrying too much how we are going to get there at this stage.

In 4 years, I see myself:

  • Professional –
  • Personal –
  • Family –
  • Social –

This is a milestone on the way to your 10 year goal and it should be more specific and less general. It should certainly start to address some of the SMARTER criteria

In 2 years I want to be:

  • Professional –
  • Personal –
  • Family –
  • Social –

This milestone is half-way to the 4 year point and that needs to be recognised so that we can clearly measure whether we have been successful or not – binary is good! SMARTER should now be addressed in all aspects.

12 month milestones:

  • Professional –
  • Personal –
  • Family –
  • Social –

6 month milestones:

  • Professional –
  • Personal –
  • Family –
  • Social –

3 month milestones:

  • Professional –
  • Personal –
  • Family –
  • Social –

As you can see we ‘start with the end in mind’, to quote Stephen Covey author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Work backwards and halve the amount of time for each milestone, but make sure that you review your goals every month. There are lots of different ways to address written goals and don’t be afraid to do what works for you. I’ve often found that reviewing my goals gives me a both a degree of satisfaction in terms of what I have achieved and the whisper of discontent at what I haven’t achieved; and it’s the whisper that drives me on!

Please feel free to tell us about your goal setting methods in the comments below.

This was an article by Dr. Rick Norris

 

 

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