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Really Effective Goal Setting
by Chris Wesley
Goals are just statements about what we want to do. Saying "out loud" what you want is useful in moving from a dream to a new reality. I wrote some really useful tips on writing good goals and if you read those, you'll write better goals. By the way - if you want to get reminded of your own goals by email on a regular basis for free - use my online goal reminder system. I use it a lot personally. I get a reminder daily to "run three times a week". Do I do that? Honestly - no! It leaks But it does work- in that I exercise far more than I would do without these reminders.
Anyway, I've been helping clients set powerful goals for more than a decade now and I've learned a lot about what works best, so I thought I'd take a little time to give some specific feedback on some real goals which have been set my real people using my goal reminder system. These people all chose to share their goals - so there's no breach of privacy here. When you share your goals in this system you get to see the goals of others who shared theirs.
OK let's get started with some real goals, currently in my goal system.
"Think positive, stay focused"
There are very many goals like these in my system. It's a lovely sentiment - but it's not really a goal in the sense of that term we're using here. It is difficult to embed. What exactly will you do? How will you make it a part of your life? You can't say when it's done, or how well it's done. You can't measure it. You can't say what you will do or when you will do it. It's all-encompassing too. It's also two different things: thinking positive and staying focused.
Like a Mushroom Double Swiss - it looks delicious but it's too big to take a bite out of.
Let's look at the negativity angle. I would suggest you pick one thing to be positive about. Choose one where your negativity is hurting you. Make a new goal to document your negativity about X in a 500 word essay by a certain date.
Now - you can count those words - so it's measurable. You can clearly say if you did or didn't do it by the deadline date. And if you do it well, you will have learned a lot about where your negativity is coming from. It's the first step in a journey towards being more positive. The next step (next goal) might be to write another essay critiquing your negativity. This will help your intellectual brian get some leverage on your emotional negativity. Hopefully you'll see some things you tell yourself which aren't entirely true, and you can dismantle some beliefs.
Oh yeah. Me too. But this goal won't get it done. When? What - exactly? How? And it's huge! Far too large to find attractive. It invokes the "bugger that" reflex. Better then, to divide and conquer. Pick a room. Now pick a thing in that room which would take no more than two hours to fix. Now put it in your diary (or my goal system) and make it happen. Perhaps it's replacing the moldy sealant around the bath. It's far far better to pick a small thing that gets done than to pick a huge one that doesn't. The idea of choosing something so small not even you would give it the finger is very powerful. It generates movement, and that generates belief and enthusiasm.
"Get a well-paying job by mid-April"
Lot's of these too. Well, it has a date - which is good. But it's another huge elephant which is not directly actionable - you can't go out and do it today - it's a process you have to follow. Far better then, to make stepping stones - goals - along the way to this larger goal. Firstly, define "well-paying". What does that mean for you? Come up with a number. Now what kind of job do you want? If you don't know - you'll need an intermediate goal to find out. What else do you know about what success looks like? Where are you living? How long is your commute? What must be present or absent from this well-paying job in order for you to be happy? Is this goal realistic? Is mid-April do-able? Chances are the answers to all these is "dunno" and in that kind of a world, you won't take the goal seriously. it will become a joke within a few days ad your reminders will feel like ridicule. So break it down. Write down the answers you know, and for those you don't know - write down an action which will help you find out.
"Leave <my company>"
Feels good to say it, but it won't feel good to keep seeing that you haven't done it. Again and again. So - it's too big. Unless you're something of an animal you'll want a new job to jump on to. What is it? How will you find it? Break dreams into strategies and strategies into tactics and tactics into goals. And see above.
"Write things down"
Hmmmm. Well, you wrote that down, but now what? I bet it hasn't worked because it's impossible to embed. What things will you write down? What will make you do it tomorrow that didn't make you do it yesterday? You need structural changes if you want to change what you commonly do.
Well, I hope this has been helpful. There are hundreds of active goals in the system, and I could go on all day but I have to earn a crust so I'll stop there.
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