Many people tend to do goal setting in January. It seems like a good time to do it, since you’re setting your New Year’s resolutions and hey, it’s a fresh year and time for a fresh perspective and fresh set of goals. But what about the rest of the year? What about while you’re working diligently to achieve those goals, and something happens that totally changes the situation and maybe even makes those goals you set at the beginning of the year obsolete? What do you do then?
There are no rules about when goal setting can or should be done. Yes, that’s right – you can set goals anytime you want to. And especially anytime that you want to achieve something! Setting goals is the easy part and following a simple process for setting your goals enables you to move on to the harder work of achieving them.
Step 1: Assess the current environment. Ask yourself what do I want to achieve? Is my goal achievable? Do I have everything I need to work for and achieve the goal? If not, what do I need to enable success at achieving the goal and where do I get it?
Step 2: Set the goal. When setting a goal, it is important to make sure it is specific and achievable, has an associated measure of success, and a timeframe for accomplishing the goal.
Some people have trouble getting started with defining specific goals. If this describes you, one solution is to take a step back from trying to define “how” you will accomplish something and “what” you will do, and instead spend some time visualizing “why” you want to do something. Once you have the “why” identified, the “how” and “what” become much easier. The author Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why describes a “naturally occurring pattern he calls “The Golden Circle.” The circle works from the inside out and starts with “why” then progresses to “how” and finally to “what.” This is the order in which inspiring leaders think, act, and communicate. It is also the opposite of how the rest of us think, act, and communicate.
Another technique that helps with successful goal setting is breaking goals into smaller parts. This makes them not as overwhelming and therefore they seem much more achievable. There is an approach out there around setting “micro-goals.” That is setting goals that are baby steps to the bigger goal but because they are small (or micro) feel more achievable and less overwhelming than trying to accomplish it all at one time. Once you have set your goal, identified how you will measure success, and committed to a timeframe to accomplish the goal you are on your way. The next step is:
Step 3: Implementing the plan to achieve the goal.
One roadblock to success in achieving goals for many people is accountability. Some people are good at holding themselves accountable and once they have committed to a goal, they are disciplined enough to stay at it until they have achieved success. Others of us need help with accountability. If you are in that category, it is often helpful to enlist the help of an accountability partner. A friend, partner, or coach who knows the goal you are trying to achieve and helps keep you on track when you might otherwise slow down or abandon your goal.
There is one last important factor when you are working towards your goals – Adjustment. As you are measuring your progress, if you are seeing indications that maybe the initial goal setting was less realistic than you originally thought, or other things happened that impacted your ability to achieve the original goal, don’t be afraid to reassess the goal. Adjusting the goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means that you are being realistic and giving yourself the opportunity to succeed. If you stick to the original goal once you know that it cannot be achieved, you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, give yourself permission to make adjustments as you go without losing sight of your overall goal.
Most of us set goals because we want to achieve something new or make some improvement in our lives. Planning for success right from the start will help us keep learning, growing, and achieving!