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5 Goal Setting Steps You Can Take to Change Your Life

The Benefits of Goal-Setting And How To Change Your Life

Goal Setting

Goal setting is not always as simple as it sounds. Unfortunately, many people set goals based on flawed reasoning.
Chris Edwards in 1977

This was me back when I set my 50 year goal.

When it comes to goal setting, it’s not uncommon to reflect on what went wrong!
As a teenager, I set myself a goal of running the annual Sydney fun run, the City2Surf, 50 consecutive times in under 100 minutes. As of writing, I’ve completed the run 47 times. That might sound great because I’m only three years away from finally completing that long-term goal… but was this a good goal to set all those years ago? No matter how good we think we are at achieving our goals, we can always do better. When we consider goal setting, we often start by reflecting on our lives as a whole – and for some, this may not look like anything we had expected! There can be many factors that come into play that we simply may not have considered. Factors such as lack of planning, lack of focus, unrealistic expectations, poor accountability and one of the most commonly overlooked challenges… did you set the right goal in the first place?

Commonly, we give up because deep down our goal is not the right one for us.

Now, don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t stuck to your past new year’s resolutions…  you are not the only one! There are always very good reasons why you have failed to achieve what you set out to do – even though you may not know what those reasons are! If you don’t have a skilled life coach to work with you in setting and achieving your goals that’s not the end of your options. If you want to go it alone, read on for steps you can take toward successful goal setting:

5 Steps to Greater Success with Goal Setting

Write down your goal

Write Down Your Goals – This is Most Important!

Studies prove that the difference between having a goal and having that goal written down is significant. You are more than 50% more likely to achieve your goal if you have taken the time to put pen to paper and have your goal in writing. Why is writing your goals down so important? It’s not just the physical step of writing the goal down that is important, but also the psychological factor as well. When a goal is written down it becomes real. You can see your goal in black and white. When your goal is written down you are making a mental commitment to it. The more descriptive you can be when writing your goal on paper, the more you lock it in. Action step: Write one goal down right now and place it in a place where you are going to see it everyday. Tape it to your fridge, or above your computer screen or on your bathroom mirror. Better yet, put it in all these places.

Make Your Goals SMART

Once your goals are written down, one popular method you can use is to ensure that you have set S.M.A.R.T. goals. (Note that this isn’t necessary for all goal setting). The acronym SMART has only been around since 1981 when it was proposed in a management paper by George T Doran titled ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives’ (pdf). Doran proposed that most management goals should be Specific, Measureable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. Although proposed as a management process, making your goals fit the SMART framework is one of the methods you can use to help you focus on achieving your goals. Looking at this from a personal, rather than a management perspective, you could adapt the SMART methodology to your own goals by making your goals: Specific – Your goal needs to be specific, such as ‘run in the City2Surf 50 consecutive times in under 100 minutes.’ Measurable – You need to be able to measure your goal. Obviously the ultimate measure would be achieving the final result, but you also need to measure your progress along the way. Achievable – Is your goal realistic? This is one of the factors to goal setting that often lets people down. Unless your goals are realistic and achievable then you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment and likely failure. Relevant – Your goal needs to be relevant to you. It needs to be something you want to achieve and not what someone else thinks you should do. This is another big factor that is often overlooked when it comes to goal setting. Goal setting expert, Dr Edwin Locke, noted that for goals to be truly effective, they need to challenge, motivate and incentivise you. Lets face it, if your goal doesn’t motivate you, then there is no real incentive to work towards it. Time-related – Having a timed goal is important to evaluating your success. What is the time frame in which you will be working towards your goal and if needed, what milestones are you putting in place along the way? Action step: Revisit the goals you’ve written down, and rewrite them with SMART goal methodology.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
Time management author Dr Alan Lakein

Time management Author Dr Alan Lakein.

Make a Plan

Now that you have your SMART goals written out, it’s time to formulate a plan. How are you going to get to your goal? What do you need to do to reach your goal? What tools do you need to help you? How much time are you going to dedicate to working towards your goal? Alan Lakein, (a well known author on time management) said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and this is highly applicable when it comes to goal setting. Simply having a goal does not equal success. Having a goal, creating a plan and then doing the work is what is going to get you to your goal. Nothing more; nothing less. Action Step: Now that you have rewritten your goals it’s time to create a schedule. List out all the things you will need to help you achieve your goal. Once you have your plan, grab your calendar and schedule into your daily routine time that you will specifically allocate to your goal.
Learn to play the guitar

Take Consistent Action

This is where the fun really begins. Now all you need to do is take action. Sounds simple doesn’t it? How hard can it be? Turns out, for most people, it’s very hard. It’s at this point where all good intentions fall over. This is the point where most goals are never realised. Because no consistent action is taken. It is not the lack of action that leads to unrealised goals; it’s the lack of consistent action. It the consistent action that actually can change bad habits. This is the key element that can transform your small steps into big achievements. So, if you wanted to learn to play the guitar, you have to pick it up and learn some cords – then do it again, and again, and again. Action Step: Whenever you feel like giving up, think about why you started. Why you wanted to achieve your goal in the first place. Some people find it helps to write affirmations and speak them every day. We are all different, so if you aren’t working with a personal coach, look for other motivation techniques that may help keep you on track.

Seek Out Accountability

If you made the commitment in step 4 to take consistent action but struggle to find effective motivation techniques to keep you on track, then you don’t need to look any further than this final step… finding an accountability partner. If taking consistent action is the key to achieving your goals, then an accountability partner is the one turning the key. As silly as it sounds, most of us don’t have a problem with letting ourselves down on a regular basis, but when it comes to letting someone else down (especially someone that we trust and respect), we will go to great lengths to avoid doing it. At the end of the day, no matter how much ground work you have done on your goal there is nothing as effective as having an accountability person to make sure you are taking consistent action. The reality is, it’s easy to set goals but hard to stay focus. One way is to find a friend who wants to achieve a similar goal. Many people have great success doing this to get fit. Going to the gym together, riding, jogging etc. or you could seek professional help from a personal performance or life coach who can add an extra dimension to your support team. Action Step: Depending on your situation and your goals, you should find a friend to help you or seek professional help by getting in touch with a good life coach. Look for a coach that can help you stay motivated, empowered and focused on what really matters to you.

In Summary

If you want greater success with your goal setting, and a personal life coach isn’t an option for you, please at least follow the 5 steps outlined above.
  • Write down your goals,
  • Make them SMART,
  • Form a plan,
  • Take consistent action and
  • Find a good accountability partner.
Remember, most goals are realised by taking consistent action. There are other ways of approaching the goals setting process that can be equally as effective, so if the above doesn’t work for you, don’t worry because your coach can usually tailor a solution just for you. Take care, stay focused and enjoy the ride. And never forget that life is about the journey, not the destination :-)