[Updated: Jan 18, 2018]
By JESSE LYN STONER
Although January is typically the time of year when we turn to goal setting, too often, it is a waste of time.
Let’s be honest. How many times have you achieved all of your yearly goals?
The problem is not with goals. Goals provide focus, create momentum and help us stay on track.
The problem is with the goal setting process itself – choosing the right goals and setting up the right support for them.
Before you set goals this year, keep these six things in mind:
1. Start with your current goals
When goal setting, keep your previous goals in mind to create a sense of flow. Don’t just start over anew each year.
For goals that have been accomplished, identify the next step.
If you didn’t achieve the goal and it’s important, bring it forward. Consider whether it needs to be made more crisp or tweaked in some way.
2. Connect your goals to a larger purpose
This shows why they are important, and helps answer the question “What’s next” once they are achieved.
When you are clear about where you’re going, your goals become the means to achieve it.
There’s an old joke about how many therapists it takes to change a light bulb. The answer is “Just one. But the light bulb has to really want to change.”
The same is true for goals. If you choose a goal because you think it’s something you “should” do, it will be difficult to stay committed. This is why so many diets fail.
Set goals that move you toward what you really desire. It will be easier to stay committed to a diet if you see exactly how it will help you live a more fulfilled life.
3. Goal setting is not always a logical process
Usually I recommend making your goals SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
However, sometimes it can make a difference to just hold the intention of something you really want to do, even if you don’t have any idea of how you will achieve it.
4. Write your goals down and put them somewhere visible
The act of writing goals is important. It’s not enough to just keep them in mind. The act of writing them helps you make them more clear and crisp.
Then, put your written goals somewhere visible, where you’ll see them everyday.
Goals that are filed in a drawer are likely to be forgotten. You don’t have to study them each day.
If they are somewhere visible, your eyes will glance over them regularly, giving you a gentle subliminal reminder.
5. Don’t keep your goals a secret
Make your goals visible. If you share them with others, they will be able to point out opportunities you’re not aware of.
They might have some suggestions you haven’t thought of. And they will be able to offer support as you proceed.
6. Set up processes and practices that support your goals
Supporting processes and practices are the engine that enable you to take continued action on your goals.
On a personal level – consider what regular practices and routines are needed to develop the habits that will support your goal – perhaps a regular exercise time?
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For a team, look at both your formal and informal ways of working together. Consider processes for communication, accountability, training and rewards.
For example, if teamwork is one of your goals – are there rewards for team performance or is the focus on individual contributions? Systems that are not aligned with your vision and goals will derail you. Make sure you have a good feedback system in order to know how you’re doing.