4 Key principles of setting goals that work

14 Jul 2017

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Wise words and ones which I have to admit, I’ve tried to keep in mind all my life; certainly, in my career and also in my own home life.
I once read that the most important benefit of setting goals isn’t achieving your goal; it’s what you do and the person you become in order to achieve your goal that’s the real benefit. How true and I firmly believe that goal setting is powerful because it provides focus. Goals are great because they cause us to stretch and grow in ways that we never have before. In order to reach our goals, we must either do something differently or become better.

This article looks at how to set goals and how you can make them practical and dynamic.

1. Take a snapshot of where you now and reflect.
The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we’ll get there is to know where we are right now and what our current level of satisfaction is. The purpose of evaluation is twofold. First, it gives you an objective way to look at your accomplishments and your pursuit of the vision you have for life. Secondly, it shows you where you are so you can determine where you need to go. Evaluation gives you a baseline to work from. Mark yourself out of 10 for each area you’re reflecting on. For personal goals it could be job satisfaction, health, spending quality time with family, holidays or it could be customer satisfaction, internal leadership, sales pipeline, targets, moral, website stats, turnover, profit etc. Maybe you feel your pipeline is currently at only 5 out of 10 but your website is looking good at 7 out of 10. Maybe you need to spend more time with your family so rate that 3 out of 10 and maybe you want to run that half marathon but have just managed a 5k; give yourself a round of applause for that achievement and now push yourself by marking that 5/10, Try it. Determine where you are and write it down (I love a good word cloud) so that as the weeks and months tick by you will see just how much ground you’re gaining—and that will be exciting!

2. Define your dreams and goals.
So you’ve taken a snap shot of where you are now. Where do you want to be? You’ve given yourself a score of 6 out 10 for health, what would 10 out of 10 look like? What would you be doing differently to what you’re doing now? What are your dreams and goals? This isn’t what you already have or what you have done, but what you want. Have you ever taken the time to truly reflect, to listen quietly to your heart, to see what dreams live within you? Your dreams are there. Everyone has them. They may live right on the surface, or they may be buried but they are there. Take time to be quiet. This is something that we don’t do enough of in this busy world of ours and something I struggle with! We rush, rush, rush, and we’re constantly listening to noise all around us and allowing ourselves to consume the daily posts and views on social media. I have recently learned that the human heart was meant for times of quiet—to peer deep within. It’s true and I think it’s referred to nowadays as Mindfulness. Schedule some quiet “dream time” this week. No other people. No mobile. No tablet. No computer. Just you, a pad, a pen and your thoughts.

When you are quiet, think about those things you would love to accomplish? What would you try if you were guaranteed to succeed? What would you do if were not afraid? What big thoughts move your heart into a state of excitement and joy? Think about what you’ll be doing to move your scores from your earlier snap shot into 9’s or 10’s. Now, prioritise. Which are most important? Which are most feasible? Which would you love to do the most? Put them in the order in which you will actually try to attain them. Remember, we are always moving toward action—not just dreaming.

3. Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.
I wanted to avoid using corporate style acronyms but S.M.A.R.T. is an easy one to remember. It means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed.

Goals are no place to waffle and no place to be vague. Ambiguous goals produce ambiguous results. Incomplete goals produce incomplete futures.

Always set goals that are measurable but don’t over complicate things. The very simple mark out of 10 can be sufficient and there are plenty of customer satisfaction models out there to help you identify a metric.

One of the detrimental things that many people do—with good intentions—is setting goals that are so high that they are unattainable. Just don’t underestimate your ambitions; being over conservative is just as bad as setting unattainable goals. I will never forget my time at the Disney University in Florida and specifically the story about how the laundry team (can you imagine the size of that place!) were empowered to set their own targets. Management thought that they would want to take the comfortable option and target a relatively low production figure. They didn’t. The laundry team met and worked out what would be attainable with a few changes to process and they not only met what management had expected, they “smashed it out of the park” (their words, not mine). Empowerment and enabling leadership are whole other topics but for this instance, the team recognised their abilities and knew what could be attainable, plus they made changes to make it happen.

The root word of realistic is “real.” A goal has to be something that we can reasonably make “real” or a “reality” in our lives. There are some goals that are simply not realistic. You have to be able to say, even if it is a tremendously stretching goal, that yes, indeed, it is entirely realistic—that you could make it. You may even have to say that it will take x, y and z to do it, but if those happen, then it can be done. This is in no way to say it shouldn’t be a big goal, but it must be realistic. After all, how do you eat an elephant..?

Every goal should have a time-frame attached to it. One of the powerful aspects of a great goal is that it has an end—a time in which you are shooting to accomplish it. Give yourself milestones too so you can check that you’re on the right path; revert to the first action we talked about and do a Snap Shot. Try breaking down big goals into different parts of measurement and time-frames—that is OK. Set smaller goals and work them out in their own time. A S.M.A.R.T. goal has a timeline.

4. Have accountability
When someone knows what your goals are, they hold you accountable by asking you to “give an account” of where you are in the process of achieving that goal. Accountability puts some teeth into no. A goal isn’t as powerful if you don’t have one or more people who can hold you accountable to it. It could be your best friend with whom you’ve compiled and shared your goals with or for your business, it could be an outsider who will be able to challenge you along the way, not chastise you for not delivering but help you find the reason why actions have or have not been achieved and remind you what the consequences are.  I’m a firm believer that true success doesn’t come from the outside but from within. Taking greater personal accountability is the key to succeeding in everything you do.

And finally…
Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.
So come on, what goals will you set today for tomorrow and beyond? Good luck!

We’d love to help you with your goals at effloresce. Whatever stage you’re at, please feel free to get in touch with us for a natter.