Recently I sat down and did what a lot of people do – I wrote down some goals. Short term goals and long term goals. Then I walked away from my notebook and carried on with my day. About a week goes by and someone asked me, “Hey! You were talking about some goals you made the other day – how is that going so far?”. After a week? After only a week you ask me about my dreams that I thought about making into goals and how they’re going? Well. Well, you know what? I don’t really know! Because to be honest, I completely forgot about them! (facepalm)
It happens. We set resolutions, we set goals, we put things in our calendars, dates, and reminders, but we get carried off into other areas of our life leaving these beautiful goals and opportunities void of ever coming to fruition. My friend then asked me, “Well why did you forget about them? Did you not develop a plan to go with your goals?”. Now let that sink in… a plan to go with my goals. Hmm. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea after all? But where do I even start?
Goal setting and goal planning are similar to the way you think of something good to eat and set out to cook it rather than buying it from a restaurant. I’m not the best chef but there’s a lot we can learn from a Betty Crocker mentality. But it is intimidating at first, to say the very least, requires materials and kitchen accessories, requires some level of skill, and a follow-directions way of thinking. When you are pretty new to the kitchen you start with a very basic recipe. You pick a meal and say, “Yeah, that looks great, let’s make that”, but how do you actually make that? You find a recipe, you gather ingredients, and you get on your way towards your meal.
That’s how goal setting works too.
You determine a goal, you make a step-by-step plan, gather materials and mentalities, appropriate tools and ingredients, and you’re on your way. When you break something down, like goal setting, into small steps they eventually add up to a whole staircase. Enough about cooking though… let’s get a little deeper into how we can make our dreams into realities.
Creating a plan is the biggest misstep, or missed step, that most of us make. Might as well set our pants on fire because we’re not going to go anywhere fast unless we don't have pants. Anyways… failing to have a plan sets ourselves up for failure and disappointment right from the get-go. It creates insecurities, disillusion, and leaves us two steps behind where we started. So, you say you have goals, but what are you doing and what plans have you made to get there?
Here are my 7 best self-help questions to ask yourself when you find wondering, “How do I achieve my goals?”:
Did you write your goal(s) down anywhere?You may not believe it, but writing goals and aspirations down on a piece of paper (yes, paper, get out the pencil and slowly step away from the laptop), activates the brain-to-hand cognitive relationship. Individuals who consistently commit to writing down goals happen to be 42% more likely to achieve them. WHAT!? Yeah! When you only think about your goals you’re only using the imaginative aspect of your brain, aka, the right hemisphere. When you take the time to sit down and perform the act of writing out a goal on paper, you engage the logical side of your brain aka the left hemisphere. BOOM 1+1 = 2 and we’re already on our way to success – thanks, science.
Are your goals measurable?Not much is worth any value unless it can be scaled and measured, makes sense, doesn’t it? Maybe not? Ok, let’s do this - think about anything that has value in your life, whether it’s monetary or emotional. Got one? Ok, now think about the value it holds to you (maybe it’s worth a lot of money, maybe it’s been passed down for generations, and so on). The object you are thinking of has obtained value because you cognitively measure it, on a scale of personal importance, against other objects, feelings, or various other scales.
This is the same idea that can be applied to how we measure the importance, value, and appeal of the goals we set. When you determine the worth of a goal, the risk, and reward, you are able to determine in which ways you will measure them and how much effort you are willing to put forth in completing that goal. When a baseline measure is established it gives you something to look back on and compare when you are well on your way (completing the small step of your plan). No matter how big, how small, how exuberant or simple the goal is, you must always have something to measure it against, or in other words, a baseline to grow from.
Do you believe in yourself?This seems like one of those questions someone else shouldn’t have to ask you – but I’m going to, so here it goes… do you believe that you are capable, willing, and honestly able to accomplish the goal that you have set for yourself? And think about it hard! Are you willing to work for it, to stay positive on bad days and embrace the good days and to put in the time required? Or are you going to give up like you did before, lose interest, fill the void with something simple, and let the time pass by anyway?
Sometimes achieving success starts with the little guys, aka, the funny little things we do throughout the day that we wouldn’t necessarily think about writing down. These things are called, SMALL WINS! They make you feel good so you can muster up the courage and confidence needed to tackle bigger goals. The more of these you accomplish while keeping the bigger fish in mind the more belief you will end up gaining in your skills, your will, and your need to achieve your goal(s).
Are your goals SMART?SMART Goals are different in that they are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Specific Goals are clear, well defined, and provide sufficient direction. Measurable goals can define various degrees of success with dates and numbers. Attainable goals are those that can and will be achieved; these types of goals also produce confidence to move onto the next one – start small and work your way up to more challenging tasks. Relevant goals pertain to the direction you are working to go – inconsistent goals and un-relatable goals will only take up more time and thus lead you to be less productive. Timely goals are those that have a deadline, a sense of urgency, and increases achievement/celebration.
If your goal doesn’t fit in the SMART format, then you might as well abandon it from the start. A framework is everything – it holds up houses, cars, your body, and your goals. Make a plan, muster up confidence every day, and chip away.
Do your goals excite you?If you’re lacking motivation about your goals, chances are A) They are too large and lack a plan or B) Aren’t really your goals, to begin with. Now that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Setting motivating, exciting, and inspiring goals for yourself should be a positive and motivating experience. Align your goals with the priorities you have set in your life and you automatically maximize the likelihood of success, demand a sense of urgency, and adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude. When you don’t do this – your goal is no longer a reality and you align yourself with a very destructive and frustrating path. I can tell you which one to take… but ultimately YOU have to be the one who chooses which path you will take to your goals.
When is it time to make a plan?First off, if you don’t have goals, then it’s impossible to have a plan (see questions 1-6). Second off, if it’s been weeks and weeks since you set a goal(s), you haven’t come up with a plan, haven’t come up with a way to measure them, then MIKE MIKE GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS!? TIME TO MAKE A PLAN!! Plans are the nutrients of success and so are small steps each and every day – they make any size goal come to fruition and can be easily modified along the way. Without them, we flounder. Instead, break down achievement into small steps, and as many as you may need. The biggest proponent of your success, day in and day out, will always fall back on your recipe. Set a goal, make a timeline, develop a plan, and stay focused!
But what if I get discouraged?Sometimes the recipe for success includes defeat and discouragement, but it’s completely natural and normal. This is how we build resilience and become a better, stronger version of ourselves. Often, I see that people get so overwhelmingly excited about setting goals that they forget about the sustenance that will keep them on track. But do not defer! Setting goals is an ongoing and continuous process – there is no pinnacle of happiness. Stay on track, make time for constant evaluations and measurements, and remember why you started. Your destination may not come right away but there is great beauty in the process to be found each and every time. Make sure the relevance, value, and realistic achievement stay close to mind.
Set out with wild abandon (don’t forget your plan!) towards your goals and I promise you won’t regret it. Remember that your recipe for success in anything that you do is by understanding the relationship between achievement and failure. Be real with yourself and always keep close to mind that becoming a more resilient individual is a constant, continuous and lifelong process.
Clearly, define your goals, set a reasonable and actionable plan, and don’t let others get in your way! You might be better at making recipes for your life than Betty Crocker… but the only person you should strive to be better than is the person you were yesterday. Now let’s go set some goals!