How’s 2016 looking? Ready to have your best year yet?
Do you have your goals for the year set? Even more importantly, do you have a plan in place for sticking with your goals?
Here are resources and tips to help you create, and stick with, those big picture goals that will help you build the life you want.
There’s a longstanding, proven goal-setting strategy called the SMART technique. It calls for creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Here’s a breakdown of each.
Specific: Get specific with your goals. Rather than setting a goal to blog more, set a goal to write one blog post per week. Rather than setting a goal to get in shape, set a goal to do 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Measurable: Find or develop ways to track your progress. Maybe it’s a fitness app, or a Google document tracking your workouts, or an editorial calendar for your blog posts. This keeps you on-track and shows you the progress made toward your goals.
Attainable: Make sure that your goals are something that you could realistically attain. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have big picture, fantastic dream goals. You should! But make sure you’re giving yourself marker goals that you can reach. Yes, amazing things happen, and be open to stretch goals, but if all your goals are stretch, it’s too easy to get discouraged and dismiss them altogether, leaving you with no goals and no accomplishments.
[Note]: I’ve also seen the “A” listed as “actionable.” I like this, as well. The idea with making goals actionable is to create goals that pin down actions, not just vague desires.
Realistic: Do you goals lead you in the direction you want to go? Do you have access to the tools, time, and energy required to reach your goals? If you work 70 hours per week and can barely find time to squeeze in a meal, a goal of mastering the guitar, or writing a book may not be your best bets.
Timely: Put your goals on a timeline. As jazz legend Duke Ellington famously said, “I don’t need more time, I need a deadline.” Giving yourself a timeline for your goals helps break them down into manageable chunks that, when taken together, move you closer toward accomplishing your goals.
Image: 周小逸 Ian (CC-BY)
Make Your Goals Real
In his Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting, Michael Hyatt offers several pieces of solid advice. Among my favorites are:
- Write your goals down: “This is critical,” Hyatt writes. “There is a huge power in writing your goals down even if you never develop an action plan or do anything else.”
- Review them frequently: “While writing your goals down is a powerful exercise in itself,” he explains, “the real juice is in reviewing them on a regular basis.”
- Share them selectively: Hyatt used to advise people to share their goals publicly, but after hearing Derek Sivers discuss why telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen, Hyatt had a change of heart. Now he advises people not to share their goals with anyone who is not committed to helping you achieve them.
Image: Vinoth Chandar (CC-BY)
Visualize Your Ideal Life
In her blog post Goal Setting Strategies, life coach Martha Beck offers several tips for setting goals, including the following:
Gaze in the Future: “Use your brainpower right now to imagine what your life would be like if you realized the goal you just identified. Create a detailed fantasy about it. Loiter there a while, observing your dream-come-true with your mind’s eyes, ears, nose, skin.”
Generate Adjectives: “Begin listing adjectives that describe how you feel in your dream-come-true scenario. This is a simple task, but not an easy one. It requires that you translate holistic, right-brain sensations into specific, left-brain words…Spend enough time in your imagined situation to let your brain leaf through its vocabulary, scouting out accurate adjectives. In goal setting as in fairy tales, the minimum magic number is three. Don’t stop until you have at least that many ways to describe those lovely feelings.”
Beck adds that her clients frequently try to squirm out of the process by saying, “It’s hard to explain,” or “Oh, I don’t know,” or “I can’t describe it.” She acknowledges that yes, it is hard, but that we do know; and that if we keep trying, we can describe it.
“Your adjectives don’t have to be eloquent,” she writes, “use simple words like energetic, focused, delighted, and fine. But you owe it to yourself to persevere until you’ve found some reasonably descriptive words.”
Image: INPIVIC Family (CC-BY)
Put a Plan in Place
In Psychology Today, Will Meek Ph. D advises that, once you have goals in mind, you should create an action plan to reach them. His recommended plan is as follows:
- Think about how you can measure progress toward your goal. Do you need to create a spreadsheet, start a journal, or find something else to track it?
- What is the time-frame for you to achieve this goal? For things that need to happen soon, or are more in reach, I’d suggest no more than 90 days for this. For larger life goals, you can project out in years, but you may want to develop a variety of sub-goals to meet along the way, by going back through these steps.
- [L]ist the specific things are you already actively doing, or have you already achieved, to help to reach your goal. Be specific and thorough since this should represent your progress so far, and the things that you will likely need to keep doing.
- What are the next logical steps you need to take to achieve your goal? If the steps are larger, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
- Based on your time-frame for the overall goal, what is the specific time frame for each of these steps?
- If there are things above that seem too far out of reach yet, what do you need to develop, learn, or prepare for to be able to take the steps?
- What can you do today that are part of the steps you wrote about above?
- Who and what are the supports that will help you along the way?
Image: PV KS (CC-BY)
What Do You Really Want?
In a post for Fast Company, Stever Robbins advises keeping the life you want to create in mind as you set goals — as opposed to setting the wrong goals that lead you to a life you don’t want.
For instance, maybe you can become wildly successful and make millions, but those things may come at the expense of family, friendships and personal well-being. Don’t just chase status and money, work toward the life you want.
“Instead of setting life goals,” Robbins writes, “think about setting a life direction. Figure out the things that would create a fun, meaningful, compelling journey.”
He advises to ask yourself:
- How do I want to spend my time?
- What daily activities make me want to leap out of bed?
- What do I want to learn?
- Who do I want to hang out with? Talk with? Collaborate with?
- Now set your goal. Choose one that will create the journey you just designed.
“In fact,” Robbins adds, “the specific goal you set is almost arbitrary—it’s simply setting a direction so the pursuit itself gives you the life that you want. With the right journey, it won’t even matter if you reach your goal.”
An Argument for NOT Creating Goals
In his article Forget About Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead writer James Clear challenges the idea of setting goals and argues that we should create systems instead. Clear describes the difference between goals and systems like this:
- If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
- If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
- If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.
Clear poses the question, if you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results? He argues that yes, you would.
If you find yourself resisting the whole idea of setting goals, or feel like you’re just setting yourself up for failure, consider creating systems that move you in the direction you want to go with your life.
Bonus Tip: The following video is a good reminder that reaching goals depends on action, and that action simply entails taking one step at a time.
My goals for 2016 include doing a monthly how-to video, hosting quarterly webinars, and doing weekly Periscope broadcasts. What are your goals for the upcoming year? I’d love to hear from you. In the comments, let me know.