Goal setting is an important tool for anybody who wants to improve themselves. However, goal achieving is often a neglected part of the personal development process. Plenty of people set goals (just look at New Year's Eve), but few of these goals ever come to fruition. Why is that?
Let's face it, we're often full of enthusiasm when we're dreaming about what we want to achieve, but gradually the feeling fades and we're left back at the start - dreaming.
Goals fail because not enough thought and effort goes into achieving them. Setting the goal is only part of the journey, you must put in a conscious and consistent effort into burning the goal into your mind.
Thankfully, there's plenty you can do to improve your chances of turning your dreams into reality.
Many factors go into creating an effective goal, and it's something I'll be writing about in more depth in the future. Here are a few key points:
- Be specific - The more specific the goal, the better. "Exercise more" is not specific, but "Exercise every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before work for twenty minutes" is much better. Doesn't that sound less like a dream and more like a plan?
- Set a date - As plenty of people have said, "a goal without a deadline is just a dream". Giving yourself a reasonable deadline can help stop the "I'll start it tomorrow" syndrome that can creep up on you. A deadline promotes action, and helps you prioritise your tasks. Would your boss ever give you a big project to be completed "whenever"? Didn't think so.
- Commit to paper - It sounds simple, but it's a step some people can miss. Write your goals down. This not acts as a form of commitment, but it stops you from forgetting them too!
Once you've got your goals, you need to plan how you'll achieve them. This process is really down to personal preference, but a good start is to write down the first concrete action you can take toward achieving your goal. If you like to think further ahead, you can write down the next three steps, or a more detailed plan for anything complex. It's really a case of finding out what works best for you. Don't be afraid to experiment with different methods until you find something that works.
Mind-mapping can be a great help at the planning stage, and it's often beneficial to write down as many ideas as you can at this stage. Always go for quantity, and never throw out an idea when you're mind mapping. The important part is to create a safe environment for your creativity, so you don't want to stifle it by throwing out ideas at an early stage. Some ideas that sound bad may even turn out to be useful once you've had time to think about them. Once you've got all your ideas, you can start to review them and put them into a coherent plan.
As an example, if I had a goal of increasing traffic to my blog I'd want to get as many ideas as possible, and then create an easy to follow plan in small steps that I could complete every day. This might include posting on certain days, contributing to relevant forums on a daily basis etc.
If you're stuck at this part, don't worry. Solutions have a habit of appearing when you're least expecting them, so as long as you're constantly reviewing your goal (as covered in the next section), you'll do fine. Just make sure you have some paper handy for when the answer arrives!
Once your goals are committed to paper and planned out, you need to make sure you review them on a regular basis. Reading and re-writing your goals helps to galvanise them, and creates the drive and momentum that will push you to achieving them. Read your goals every morning and every night, and review them every week.
Do what works for you. Write your goals on an index card and carry them around, record them to a tape and play it whilst driving to work, write them on a huge poster and stick it to the ceiling above your bed! The important thing is to really hammer them into your brain. Goals that get forgotten don't get achieved, so make sure you're regularly topping yourself up.
Don't be afraid to tweak things if they're not going as well as you'd like. Modify plans as regularly as you need to, because even if things are going well, you will almost certainly learn new things that will help you achieve your goals even faster.
To summarise - if you want to achieve your goals, use the following methods:
- Set Excellent Goals - Write down your goals, and make them as specific as possible. Give yourself a deadline to help you prioritise your actions.
- Plan how you'll achieve them - Once you've written your goals down, make a plan as to how you'll achieve them.
- Review your goals regularly - Review your goals and plans as regularly as required. Burn them into your subconscious!