Setting out on a journey without knowing your destination will only end with you getting lost. Whatever it is you want to achieve, goal-setting is the equivalent of typing your end-point into your GPS.
You probably have an idea of your goal already. Whether it’s related to business, fitness or something else entirely, chances are you are able to say what you want to achieve. But there are a number of steps you should work through to change your aspirations into a goal you can work with to reach a successful outcome. It’s important to write down your thoughts and commit them to paper – storing your goal in your head isn’t concrete enough.
This is the first point at which many of us fall down. It’s not enough to say “I want to run my own business” – you need to add the detail. If you’re struggling, try a visualisation. Picture yourself in the future having achieved your goal. What does it look like? How do you spend your days? Who are your customers? Do you have employees? How much time do you spend working, and where do you do it? The more specific you can be, the better. The same can apply to any goal – if you want to lose weight for example, how much weight? What size clothes will you be wearing? Where will you go in your new clothes? What specifically will you buy yourself to wear?
Decide on a timeframe
Without committing to a deadline you’re opening the door to procrastination. Saying you’ll achieve your goals “one day” doesn’t give you the motivation to get started today. Maybe you want to have your business making a profit by the time you’re 30, or perhaps you want to fit into a size 12 dress by your sister’s wedding next year.
Know how to measure it
What will success look like? If your goal is “be fitter by my next birthday”, what constitutes “fitter”? You need to decide what your criteria are for being able to put a big tick in the “did it” box! “Be able to run five miles by my next birthday” is much better – you can measure five miles and you’ll know for sure by your birthday whether you’ve achieved it or not.
Pause for a reality check
Before you go any further, stop and take stock. Look back at what you’ve written so far and rate it from 1-5 according to how achievable it is, with 1 being “It’ll be almost impossible and 5 being “I’ll achieve this, no problem”. The key is to find a goal that will stretch you but without being so challenging that you’re setting yourself up to fail. It must be achievable otherwise what’s the point in trying? If your goal is too easy or too hard, tweak it a bit until it feels right.
Be clear on your reasons
You know what you want to achieve but it’s vital to also know your reasons. Ask yourself: “why is this important to me?” and write down your answer. Then ask: “And why else is it important?” and again write your answer. Repeat until you’ve run out of reasons. You’ll find the more times you ask yourself, the stronger your reasons will become. For example, asking yourself why you want to lose three stone might initially get the response: “Because I want to feel good in fashionable clothes”. Ask why else and you might reply: “Because being very overweight is bad for my health”. And ask again and you may say: “Because I’m scared that my weight will shorten my life”. All of those reasons would be valid and important, but the last one is most likely to motivate you to take action.
Attach your feelings to a positive outcome
Close your eyes and imagine you’ve done it. You’ve succeeded in achieving your goal. How does it feel? How do you feel when you wake up in the morning, and how do other react to you? What’s different about your life from how it is now? And now do the opposite – imagine you’ve reached your deadline and you haven’t reached your goal. What’s that like? You’ll find that recalling the feelings associated with succeeding or failing will motivate you on your journey towards your goal.
Commit to taking action
You now have a really strong goal written down. So ask yourself how committed you are, on a scale of one to ten where one is “I’m really not feeling this” and ten is “Yes! Let’s get started already!” Assuming you haven’t chosen ten (and it’s fine if you haven’t – it’s absolutely normal to have a few reservations when you’re starting out), ask yourself what it would take to move one or two steps up the scale. It might be something simple like extending your timeframe a little, or you may feel you need to do some research into the business/weight loss/fitness options available before you feel you can fully commit.
Take the first step
And you’re good to go! You’re clear on the “what”, “when” and “why”, and now you’re ready to start thinking about the “how”. You’ve got a strong, clear, achievable goal in sight and you’re now ready to press “start” on the metaphorical GPS and take your first step on the path towards your exciting destination!