This is the time of year when many goal setting gurus being to talk about reflecting on your goals for the past year and looking ahead to the new goals you will create for the coming year. I recognize the huge importance of having goals but I also think it is useless to talk about goal setting without an even stronger focus on goal attainment.
Anyone whose ever celebrate the New Year has set a goal but what takes goal setting to the next level? I’d like to share with you my seven-step system for actually reaching and attaining your goals. Are you ready?
Step 1: Begin at the End:
Many experts in goal setting will tell you that you must begin at the end. Imagine yourself and all you want to accomplish in the future. That way you can develop the roadmap of just how to get there.
After all, you wouldn’t get on a plane without knowing its destination, would you? Then why would you live your life that way? Decide right now, to the best of your ability where you want to end up when it’s all over.
Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says his second habit is: “Begin with the End in Mind.” He suggests that you imagine your own funeral and just what you want family, friends and community members to say about you, your character and your accomplishments. That way you will be able to plan step-by-step what exactly you will need to do to get there.
What is your purpose? What are your unique skills, talents and abilities that help you to contribute to humankind? If you aren’t sure, take some time to daydream about it. Keep trying new things until you find something you love and at which you excel.
Step 2: Balance is the Key:
Many times when you think of setting goals, you focus on the area of professional objectives. While this is a very important part of your goal setting strategy, it shouldn’t be your only center of attention. You are so much more than what you do at work, aren’t you?
Think about it. At the end of your life, do you think you will be looking back regretting that you didn’t work harder? Probably not. So, when you have a goal setting strategy session, you must look at all the important areas of your life. When I do my goal sessions, I look at work, love, play and spirituality.
There are many systems out there that divide our lives into different focal areas. I don’t favor one over any others. My advice is that you find one that works for you and set goals in each of those areas.
Step 3: Take Stock: Where are you now? What are your strengths?
What would you have to give up?
As important as knowing where you are going is knowing where you are right now. It’s impossible to get good directions anywhere unless the person giving directions knows where you are starting from.
Take the time to scrutinize the reality of your life. Where do you stand in each of the areas you identified in Step 2? This is not a time to be overly critical or overly optimistic. Just take an honest look at your current situation.
Then make an assessment of your strengths. Enumerating your strengths can be very helpful in setting future goals. Sometimes it’s your strengths that will make goal attainment possible.
Finally, I ask you to answer the question, “What would you have to give up to be successful with this particular goal?” When you have your answer, you must then assess if it will be worth it. Many times we don’t move forward toward our goals because of fears that remain just out of our conscious awareness. We must bring them to the forefront where they can be confronted and managed.
Step 4—Work Backwards/Time Management:
Once you know what you are striving for and where you are, then you plot out the course to get you there. You can have 10-year, 5-year, 3-year, 1-year, 3-month, 1-month, 1-week and daily goals. I generally review my big picture goals quarterly and set my shorter goals according.
While doing some positive goal setting, it is important to attend to time management issues. These things will not happen unless you prioritize and protect your time to do the things that you have identified as important.
Step 5: Affirmations/Visualizations/Meditations:
This is not just some new age hog wash. There has been extensive brain research that backs up the use of affirmations, visualizations and meditation.
If you are serious about accomplishing your goals you must write them down. Back in 1953, a Harvard University study showed that 3% of the students graduating that year actually wrote down their specific career goals. Twenty years later, a team of researchers interviewed the class of 1953, and found that the 3% who had written down their goals were worth more financially than the other 97% combined. (Make no mistake, writing down goals pays off, big time!)
An affirmation is simply writing your goal as if it were already true in the present moment. You then say these affirmations daily, at least once but more if possible. Be very clear about what you are trying to accomplish.
A visualization is just like a mental rehearsal. In your mind’s eye, you imagine what life would be like if you had the goal accomplished. The more vivid and sensory-based you can make your visualization, the more effective it will be.
Meditation is a quiet time you take to get in touch with your inner self or your higher power. It is a time of deep reflection where you may ask questions and seek answers from a place or entity that has the answers.
Step 6: Positive Attitude:
There is a Universal Law of Attraction that says we attract into our lives that which we focus on. If we are focused on what we don’t have, then we will bring more lack into our lives. If we are constantly complaining about our bad luck, then that is what we can expect.
When working in harmony with our true selves, it is important to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Even when things don’t go as you planned, you can always be grateful for the lessons learned along the way.
Step 7: Continuous Improvement/Staying Motivated:
This may be the difference between goal setting and goal attainment. The first part is never being satisfied that you have arrived. There is always something more that you can do, another improvement that you can make. Life is a continuous journey.
Staying motivated is a challenge. Sometimes meeting our goals will motivate us; sometimes it has the opposite effect. I find having an accountability partner, a coach or a mastermind group to whom I am accountable makes all the difference. I can promise myself I’m going to do something all day long. If I don’t, who will be the wiser? However, when I say out loud to someone else what my intentions are, then my integrity won’t let me fail.