The Key to Setting Goals

When was the last time you had an important goal?  What was it?  Was it a short-term goal or a long-term goal?  How did it go? Did you reach your objective?  Why or why not?

We all have goals and plans at one time or another.  They can range from hitting the two-mile mark on our daily walk, to going back to school for a second career, or checking off all those places on our bucket list.  And just about anything in between.  A toddler just learning to walk with fierce determination has set himself the highest of goals, even though he may still not have the language to describe it.

Yet very often we fail to reach the goals that are important to us.  Even if we do, there may be times of backsliding or losing motivation along the way, or even after we reach our objective.  It’s been said, “It’s easy to quit smoking (quit drinking, lose 10 pounds) – I do it all the time.” The trick is staying stopped, maintaining the change.  So what’s the best way to set yourself up for success?  Here are some tried-and-true ideas to inspire you.

  • Know your why.  Your “why” is your larger purpose.  Without a strong enough why, it’s difficult to maintain your focus and determination to succeed when obstacles present themselves on the way to your goal, as they surely will. What makes this goal important to you?  How will you benefit from its attainment?   Having a clearly defined “why” is the foundation of success.
  • Set SMART goals.  Goals that are focused and well-defined have a better chance of success.   SMART is an acronynm that stands for Specific, Measurable, Action Plan, Realistic and Time Framed. SMART goals help improve achievement and success because they clarify exactly what is expected A SMART goal defines specifically what the objective is, how success will be measured, and what actions will be taken. A SMART goal will also assess whether the goal is realistic and reasonable, and target a time frame for completion.
  • Enlist support.  This could mean family, friends, a support group, or a combination of all three.  Having the support of significant others can greatly increase the chances that we’ll achieve our goals.  Support can be tangible, such as a spouse volunteering to help with household chores so you can work on your project. Emotional support is just as important – encouragement and championing you at times when your motivation is fading can help you keep going in those times when the going is hard.
  • Accountability.  Having someone – a coach, a mentor, a support group – to be accountable to helps keep you honest, responsible, and moving forward.  You will need to choose someone with whom you can check in regularly, and they will need to be willing to ask you hard questions, if necessary.  Having someone to point out when you may be making excuses or getting off track can go a long way towards keeping you moving ahead. 
  • Mindset is key.  Confidence and a positive attitude, even in the face of obstacles, can mean the difference between success and failure.  Henry Ford may have said it best:  “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” 

Coach’s action step:  If you have had a goal in mind for a while, but haven’t yet taken action on it, take some time when you can focus and write your goal at the top of a page. Then write:  Why I want to achieve this goal, listing all the reasons why you, and others if included, might benefit from your achieving it.  If your goal is to obtain an advanced degree in your field, your why might include things such as:  to move up in your job, to start your own business, more meaning in your current position, more financial security for yourself and your family, taking great vacations, fulfilling a lifelong dream – whatever comes to mind. This exercise will increase your awareness of the positive rewards to be gained from attaining your aim, and build motivation to move forward

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