Goal setting can help you achieve your purpose, while growing both at a personal and professional level.
Problem is, we are so good at setting goals, but not so much at following them through to the end. Some we abandon midway, while others we give up on when we encounter obstacles and challenges along the way. Heck, there are those that never even get to see action beyond the leaflet they were scribbled on!
When we fail to achieve our goals, it could be that we have set lofty goals whose achievement is unrealistic. Other times, we may be employing a not-so-effective strategy. In other instances, it could be due to total inaction because in our mind, we still have time and can always circle back later at a “more opportune time”.
Thing is, though, setting goals and working towards achieving them doesn’t need to be a chore.
When you start crossing them off your list (however small) you will find the transformative power that lies in that. Transformative in the sense that not only does achieving your goals give you a sense of accomplishment, but also because they are intertwined with your purpose and are the stepping stones to help you fulfil your purpose.
Differentiating between the Different Types of Goals
As I’ve outlined in my career handbook, The Irrepressible Mind: Nine Steps to Overcome Adversity, every one of us has different goals centred around different facets of our lives. These include spiritual goals, educational goals, career goals, financial goals, health goals, relationship goals and more.
I like to group them as either personal or imposed goals.
Personal goals are goals unique to you as an individual that you set to improve your situation or achieve a specific outcome.
Imposed goals are those that you have little choice in and are key to getting you where you need to be. A good example is educational requirements for when you want to target specific employment opportunities.
Regardless of the type of goal, when you are goal setting, a good approach to help you achieve your goals would be to break them down into two types of goals based on duration of achievement: short term vs long term goals.
Short term goals
Short team goals are goals you can accomplish in a relatively short space of time. It could be days, weeks or months.
Short term goals could either be a component of a long-term goal or something tied to your immediate situation.
For example, you could have a long-term goal of advancing your career to a certain level in “x” number of years. A short-term goal that could accelerate your path there is to gain new skills or certifications. The steps to get you there could involve enrolling in evening classes or online coursework.
Same case with a long-term goal of achieving better physical health. Some short term goals to get you closer to your ideal body weight would be to, for instance, shed three pounds every month over a certain length of time. The steps to get you there can include regular exercise and making some changes to your diet.
Short term goals don’t require much in terms of planning. The beauty with them is that they can give you the impetus you need to keep chasing your long term goals because achieving them is a deeply rewarding feeling. And usually, they are the smaller steps you need to take to get you closer to your vision.
However, it’s important to note these goals down and put the effort in to cross them off your list as it’s easy to overlook them when life gets in the way.
It’s easy to lose motivation, something you probably understand too well, especially if the progress you had hoped to make yesterday did not happen as you had hoped. And that, of course, will mean pushing the associated long-term goal further down the road. That’s not what you want.
Long term goals
Long term goals are goals you plan to accomplish over a longer duration of time, usually years. It could be becoming a leader at your organization through promotion, launching your own business, aiming for early retirement and so on.
Long-term goals can be tricky to navigate and require good planning and execution to get there. This is why it’s important to devise a good strategy to up your chances of realizing them.
Setting Goals: Employ the SMART Goals Approach
Understanding the importance of goal setting and the steps you need to take to achieve those goals paves the way to success.
Setting a goal by itself is not enough if you are not going to take the necessary steps to achieve it. As Tom Landry says:
Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.
Without a good action plan, many goals are bound to fail, particularly the long-term ones.
A simple goal setting template you can adopt is the SMART goals method.
This is a technique that involves applying Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound objectives to help you stay the course.
Setting goals is a positive exercise because it gives you an abstract picture of what you could become or where you can be if you follow through on your plans. The first part is the easier part, the latter, the more challenging one.
While setting SMART goals and having a solid plan is nice and all, it’s within yourself that the biggest shift needs to happen. Because the harsh reality is that the road to realising your goals will be paved with challenges and setbacks that suck the motivation out of you.
Thus, it is important to develop the resilience to enable you to navigate around the roadblocks effectively.
It begins by acknowledging that the process to achieving your goals will not be a stroll in the park. However, armed with a good plan and being positive and resolute in your desire, there is no reason why you should not achieve what you set out to.
The good thing about goals is that the small wins always add up, providing the fuel you need to get over the next hurdle. The secret is not to give in when you encounter obstacles, but to keep at it. The wins will follow as night follows day.
One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves. ~Karen Casey