Thursday, October 20, 2005

Goal setting

A long time ago, when I was first mentoring, my supervisor taught me about goal setting. It’s critical to long-term success, and even short-term payoffs. But how do you do it? She showed me seven steps to success.

Step One: State the goal.

We’ve all probably heard that a goal that’s not written is just a wish. It’s too flexible, too easy to be rationalized around, until it’s in a fixed form.

I’ve learned that there are two elements that need to be a part of the written form of a goal, to make it even more impactful and motivating. One is that it needs to be phrased positively. For example, I could say that “I want to lose weight”, or I could say that “I want to be thin”. They say essentially the same thing, but “being thin” is focused on the result, where “losing weight” is focused on the problem. Do you see how wanting to be thin will be more motivating?

Another important thing is to make the goal measurable. How else are you going to tell if you’ve achieved it or not? “I want to be happier” is certainly a good thing, but how will you know if you’ve done that or not? “I want to be filthy stinking rich!” Great. Just how filthy and stinking do you want to be? Put some numbers or conditions on it, so that it’s measurable.

Step Two: List the Benefits

What do you want to get out of this goal? What do you want to have when you are done? Part of the things in this list will be tangible, like money in the bank, or a new car, or whatever you’re shooting for.

Many items on this list will be more personal, like the feeling of accomplishment, the sense of security, the freedom that comes from meeting all your financial obligations.

Whatever the goal there’s going to be reasons why you want to achieve it. Whatever the goal, there will also be times when your motivation lags, and your will to push forward fails. In those times, it’s very good to remind yourself why you wanted the goal in the first place.

Step Three: List the Obstacles

What’s going to be difficult? What will get in your way? A lot of people want to ignore these things, or pretend they don’t exist, but they’ll have to be dealt with. In this step, we’re just going to list them. We’ll deal with them in a later step.

Step Four: What do You Need to Learn?

No matter how much a person knows, or how much they study, there will always be concepts and skills that will be needed to achieve a goal. Why? Well, the very nature of a goal is to go somewhere that the goal setter isn’t, or to acquire something the goal setter doesn’t have. If the person already knew all they needed, he or she would likely already have what the goal is spelling out, right?

So, in this step, list the things that you can see that you’ll need to know in order to complete the goal. Some of these things will be very practical sorts of things. “I need to learn how to build up my reciprocal links page on my site.” Or, “I need to know how to write great ad copy.”

Other items could include more personal things. “I need to learn how to better manage my time.” Another could be, “I need to learn how to overcome my fears.”

We’ll also come back to this in a later step.

Step Five: Who can Help

Make a list of the people that you know that can help you. Mentors and advisors, people who’ve been there before, people with success. They can give you invaluable advice and help you avoid problems that they had to overcome.

Often, family and friends, while not necessarily the most skilled mentors, can offer great encouragement and moral support. Sometimes, however, family and friends can end up on the “Obstacles” list, too!

Make sure to include organizations, like the Small Business Administration, and your local chamber of commerce. Authors of books can be a great help, as well.

Next to each name on this list, also write how that person or group can help you, so you’ll not only realize that you’re not alone in your endeavor, but you’ve also got some specific resources.

Step Six: The Action Plan

I usually set up my goals annually. That’s a nice round figure for a long-term shot.

I also work backwards, rather than forward. I’ll start by saying, “OK, I want to be HERE by the end of this year.” And that’s usually what I’ve spelled out in step one.

“So, if I’m going to be there in a year, then I need to be HERE in nine months. And HERE in six months. HERE in three months, and I need to do THIS by the end of this month. Which means that this week I need to do THIS.”

Working backward keeps the steps much more reasonable and sensible. It’s easier to perceive the benchmarks that I need to set up for myself.

Now, here’s the good part: While you’re setting up the timetable and breaking the big goal into smaller steps, take a good look at the obstacles. One by one, plan for what you’ll do to overcome each obstacle in the list. Then as you do, and cross them off that list, they stop being obstacles, and they become a part of the plan! They become manageable! That’s a very empowering feeling to have!

And do the same thing with the Step Four list of things to learn as well. It will be amazing how much more reasonable they all seem when they’re in the plan, instead of when they’re blocking your way.

Step Seven: Set the Review Date

If this is to be an annual goal, then set it for one year from today. Or set it at Dec 31, and review it then. However you want to do it is fine.

I used to call this the “completion date”, but it’s really more a time of review. Did I achieve the goal? By how much? Did I miss the goal? How close did I come? What will I do next year? Set up another seven steps.

These seven steps have proven to me over and over again that they’re very focusing and motivating. I recommend using them for setting your big goals. It’s not necessary, though. If you’ve got another system that works for you, then use it. But a life without a goal is without focus and ultimately lost.

1 comment:

  1. This is great, useful always helps to see another angle on how to organise/control life. and I feel more disorderly and uncontrolled the more I try to pin things down.
    Hey, you must be so organised...I just read your earlier blog.