“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“How true that is!” – Brian Regan
If you’re a regular to karahlindsay.com, you know by now that I am a “goal-setting enthusiast”. (I give my top 5 tips for refocusing on your goals here.)At one point, I was making a goal for everything, it seemed.
However, the actual percentage of achievement of such goals was something like less than .5%.
Yeah, pretty lousy, right?
It wasn’t until very recently, though, that I had a bit of a breakthrough as to why this is the case.
I rarely – if ever – sat down and made a plan!
Duh! Looking back, it seems so obvious now. For some reason, though, I lived most of the last 30 years thinking that writing down my goal or even just saying it out loud (especially if it was to someone else) was enough effort on my part for said goal to be realized.
Clearly some very ignorant thinking on my part.
Then, gratefully, I became a bit obsessed with starting my own blog. Long story short, upon enrolling in an excellent online blogging course, I learned a very simple yet effective way to set goals. Talk about a game changer!
Since then, I’ve developed a system for myself that has proven most effective not only in my success rate, but also in how I see myself.
Now, when I set goals, my inner-voice has a much more positive tone and I finally feel as if I can trust myself to follow through, especially on the important things.
Before we get into the actual goal-setting how-to, let’s talk about “why set goals” and “why we set goals” (confused? Don’t worry; we’ll clear it up soon!)
Why Set Goals
First – and most important for me – is that goals give our lives direction. Whether professional or personal, physical or spiritual, well-structured goals provide for an increased focus in areas we are seeking improvement.
Why is this so important? Because! We want to always be moving forward! Without setting goals, no matter the level, it’s too easy to become complacent and stagnant in the different areas of life. Stagnation is not conducive to success.
And who wants to become stuck in life with no forward motion? Definitely not I! Trust me, I’ve been “stuck” before with no clear focus on what the heck I was doing with my life. As a result, I wasted a lot of time stuck in worldly ruts. Looking back, I can’t help but cringe at all I missed out on for so long by allowing myself to be so complacent with my life.
Thankfully I’ve been able to overcome this laziness in life and, while the initial results of my goal-setting enthusiasm were less than desirable, this attitude was exactly what I needed to start moving forward again. The focus and direction I received from setting goals set me on the path to where I am and where I am excited to go in the next few years. Yay!
Why We Set Goals
Okay, so now I’ll ask you this: Why to YOU set goals? Why do we, as humans, set goals?
I would answer this with one word: ambition.
Think about it. Any successful athlete, businessman, college graduate, mom who can keep her house relatively clean… they’ve all succeeded because they have the ambition to succeed! They were willing to do the hard things (the very hard things) in order to get the results they wanted.
Ambition is key.
But, ambition alone is not enough. In order to see results, we must pair our personal ambition to succeed with well-structured goals. I’m certain we’ve all been made familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. method of creating goals, and I’ll address the basics of this briefly in Step 3; but today, my focus is the whole process of goal-setting and achieving, not just the “setting” part. You know what you want. You know what needs to be done to get it. But, you’re a little fuzzy on the details of putting it all together. That’s what we’re focusing on today.
So let’s get started!
Before we get too far in, I want to offer a bit of advice. Because of what I’ve learned from others and through my own experiences, I feel it is better to work on one major goal at a time. Because our aim in this strategy is increasing and maintaining focus on our success, we want to be sure we can give our all to the task at hand. Working on too many goals at once – espeically significant goals – spreads us quite thin and decreases our focus where it’s needed most.
Remember how I said I used to set goals for everything?
Yeah, I don’t do that anymore.
I have projects I work on concurrently and daily tasks I know I need to complete; but these things are more on the mundane side of the line and take very little focus to complete.
Now, I set one significant goal (two, max) for myself to work on at any given time. Doing so has significantly increased my focus on success. A much needed improvement.
1. Visualize the Destination
First when setting a goal, begin with the destination in mind. This is what will fuel you from here on out. Create a clear picture of your intended results, including all positive side effects, and keep it at the forefront of your mind while you go through the next steps.
With your destination clearly in focus, take a minute to write out a little narrative of what your life will look like when you’ve reached your goal. It doesn’t have to be long, but just try to be as specific as you can without going overboard. Writing things out helps to solidify the vision you’re creating and can be really helpful in maintaining focus throughout the process.
2. Establish your “Why”
The step of establishing your “Why” for working toward your goal is probably the most important. Why? Because this is going to be what keeps you going when times get hard. Your why is the ambition that is fueling you to the very end.
What is your “Why”? This is the reason you’ve set this goal. It’s the reason you’re wanting to improve and be better than you are now. Your why has to be strong enough to keep you going when things get really hard, especially if your goal is a particularly challenging one.
Keeping your visualization of your destination clearly in your mind, think about why you want it so badly. What is it about achieving this goal that ignites your ambition? Whatever comes to your mind at this point can safely be said to be your “Why”. Use it! Write it down! And remember the feelings you felt when it came to mind.
3. Visualize the journey; map out your route.
This next step is where it gets fun! You still have your destination in mind, right? Good! You’ve also established your “why” and are being fueled by the emotions of becoming better. So let’s make our plan!
It’s time to visualize the journey you’ll be taking in order to reach the destination you’ve created for yourself. Think about what needs to be done daily, weekly, and even monthly in order for you to reach success. Now, write it down. Make your list of tasks and when they need to be done so that you have no excuses.
- Be as specific as possible.
- Know what needs to be done and how often.
- Know your limits and make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure.
- Be realistic.
- Set a deadline.
Next – and we’ll call this part “Step 3B” – look at your plan and determine if it can/needs to be divided up into smaller parts or “sub-goals”. The reason behind this, as I’m sure is obvious, is often times, if you’re setting a goal, especially one that is going to take significant amount of time, dividing it into smaller goals makes the overall task less daunting.
Now! Once your plan is created, put it somewhere you will see it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
In your car on the visor.
Taped to your bathroom mirror.
Stuck to the fridge
Screen-shot and set as the wallpaper on your phone.
Just make sure it’s somewhere you’ll see and notice it every day because this is going to be essential for the rest of our strategy.
4. Take the first step.
This step seems to be the most difficult for quite a lot of people. Starting can be so frightening and uncomfortable that people tend to put it off (*slowly raises hand*), resulting in wasted time.
But, in order to reach the destination, you have to start somewhere! And now that you have your path mapped out, you know exactly where to start. The problem is, though, when to start.
I’ll make it easy for you. The answer is always “Right Now!”.
Always, always, always start right where and when you are. Stop waiting for Monday or for more of a cushion in your bank account. No! This is all just fear talking and taking control.
Do not let it win!
Start now. This very moment. There is always something that can be done now that will bring you closer to your goal, even if it’s the easiest thing you’ve ever done. Just do it! Starting now conditions you to keep going because it takes away the necessity of making excuses.
5. Daily Visualization
I talked before about putting your plan somewhere you’ll see it every day. This step is where the reasoning for this comes into play.
If it’s the least bit important for you to achieve the goal you’re setting for yourself, you need to make sure you’re going over your success strategy daily.
Making the plan is great and taking that first step is awesome! But, if you’re not maintaining focus on your goal and how you’re going to get there, it’s going to be much easier to get lost on your designated path or even just stop working toward your destination altogether.
Daily visualization of your Destination, the “Why” behind your goal, and your journey to reaching success is essential to keeping your ambition levels full and functioning.
To do this, set aside a time each day – just 10 to 15 minutes or so – and review your strategy.
Visualize that image of your destination you created in step one.
Feel the emotions this image sparks within you.
See yourself taking the daily, weekly, and monthly steps necessary for success.
Do this every day.
Every. Single. Day. Until you’re either where you want to be or ready to transition to something more.
6. Anticipate stumbling blocks; learn from “Life”
It is safe to assume from the beginning of any personal development project that the road to success is mostly uphill and quite uneven, if not down right treacherous. And that’s okay! If it was too easy, it wouldn’t bring about sought-after self-improvement and progress.
Part of this success strategy is to try to anticipate these hiccups in your path. Looking at the route you’ve mapped out, take some time to think about any significant events or trials that might trip you up along the way. Then, devise a plan to help you get over these stumbling blocks as smoothly as possible.
But, of course, “Life” will happen and you’ll experience situations completely impossible to anticipate. When this happens, us it as an opportunity to learn from the situation and apply it future stumbling blocks.
So, from the beginning, make sure you’re planning on a few bumps here and there – maybe even a cliff or two – and always, always, always get right back up and on your route NOW!
Achieving success feels great! So, just be sure to take some time and celebrate in a way that enhances your experience. Even it it’s a small victory, celebrate the heck out of it! A win is a win and allowing yourself to enjoy these times makes the anticipation for the next one even more exciting.
9. Never Stop Progressing
As you maintain daily focus on your goal and consistently follow your plan, success is inevitable. I say this with complete confidence!
But, what happens when you’re “done” and have achieved your goal?
I think it’s safe to say that you’ll find yourself looking even further up the Success ladder. With your ambition tank overflowing, you’ll start seeing opportunities for improvement and success everywhere. Just be sure to chase them 🙂
I have a request. Whether you follow my strategy exactly or develop you own means of success, please, please, please! Do not be afraid to share your success! Allowing others to take part in your success provides countless opportunities for someone somewhere to receive the inspiration they so desperately need to get started on their own path to success. Thank you!
As promised, I’ve taken focal elements of my goal-setting and success strategy and compiled them together into a workbook. I mentioned above why I only set one goal (two max) at a time and I continue with that advice here. I’ve developed this workbook as a means to help you visualize and focus on one goal at a time so as to ensure the highest rate of success possible.
Add the necessary information into the form below an receive an emailed link to your free workbook immediately! I look forward to hearing about your success.
Good luck in all you do!