What are goals?
It sounds like an obvious question, but many of us are not clear what a goal is. It is, simply put: something you want to attain or achieve that is different to where you are now. Goals can be “big picture” lifetime goals like having a family, or becoming a CEO. These goals breakdown, and breakdown into smaller and smaller goals, until you reach a stage where you have achievable chunks of activity to perform.
Why are goals important?
Without goals, we often feel we are simply drifting in life. Many people complain of feeling this way without realising what is missing. This can be dispiriting and demotivating. Then, think of top athletes, successful business-people and achievers in every walk of life. They all set goals – without them they too would simply drift. So, goals are key in setting us apart as people who can succeed in our chosen field.
Setting clearly defined and achievable goals means we can measure our performance and take some healthy pride in what we have achieved. It also means we can see for ourselves how we are progressing, not rely on outside forces – which is good for our self-esteem.
How can we keep on track?
Keeping on track can be difficult if you just set out your top-line goals without thinking how you’re going to reach them. To make goals achievable, we need to break them down into smaller goals, which are more realistic. (Remember SMART goals here: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). So, if you are setting lifetime goals, maybe start by breaking them down into five year goals. Then create a one year plan, six-month plan and one month plan of smaller goals. From this, you can create your daily to-do list.
It’s best to keep checking in with yourself regularly, at least once a month. Take out your plans and check your progress against each one. See where you have achieved what you set out to do, and see where you need to get on and do some extra work. Remember, if you have set out realistic goals, keeping up with your plan should be easily achievable almost every time.
Goals and strategy
Goals are part and parcel of any overall strategy. Strategy, though, relies on our planning how we’re going to deal with outside forces. There may be many things that could crop up that affect your performance but that are outside your control. This is why it is important to set goals that are performance based, not outcome based. In effect, you are then setting goals which are as much within your control as you can have them. This allows you to enjoy your achievements more, and affirms your personal and professional boundaries, as well as your positive feelings towards yourself.
Goals working together
When setting goals, it is worth remembering that we don’t work in a vacuum – meaning, that if you set goals in one area of your life it will affect other areas of your life and the lives of others. With this in mind, consider setting goals that are efficient as well as effective. For example, if I wanted to learn to swim, that would help me meet my personal goal of getting fitter and it would also help me meet my goal of having more activities I could share with my family. This method works in professional goals as well as personal ones. The key is to identify areas where effort and energy overlap and find ways to satisfy needs of both areas.
I hope by now you have started to think of ways you could set effective and efficient goals. If you’re struggling with goals you’ve already set, look back at what I’ve said about setting a context for your goals, and setting successively smaller goals until they are manageable. If you have any feedback or ideas about goal setting in your life, get in touch.
Picture by Celestine Chua
Posted by Wendy Gore