Why set goals? The answer is simple: because you want to succeed.
And that’s where almost anything goal-related ceases to be easy.
Think about when you’ve set New Year’s resolutions. How did those work for you? The website Brain Statistics says only 8% of people successfully achieve their resolutions. If you were back in school, that 8% would be a failing grade.
Why do resolutions fail? According to an article in Psychology Today, New Year’s resolutions are “a form of ‘cultural procrastination,’ an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, according to Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.”
“Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obsesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.”
So, how about we get smarter about achieving our goals?
You’ve probably heard this about why goal setting is important: “Only 5% of people set goals, and that 5% achieves more than the other 95% combined.”
That conclusion supposedly comes from a study at Harvard or Yale. It turns out that is an urban myth.
However, Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University did do a study of goal achievement. Some reports on the internet say she found that just by writing down your goals you are 42 percent more likely to achieve them. I asked her if I could use that number to represent her findings. Her response: “Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals.” No numbers cited.
Join me for this goal-setting process
I take my role as your mentor and coach very seriously. Therefore, for 2017, I plan to walk you through your goal-setting endeavor so that you meet your goals. Whether you are setting personal goals or professional goals, I will walk you through the process.
I wish I could sit down with each of you, face to face, to go through this process. But I can’t, so here’s my option.
Beginning in January, I will share my goal-setting process with you. I will take you through the questions I ask myself, so you can get a look inside my brain.
Then each month in 2017, I’ll update you on my progress—or lack of it. I’m really putting myself out there so you can see that you can do this. I know that I tend to procrastinate on things I don’t want to do. With your support, I’ll get past that and meet my goals. And so will you.
Along the way, you will experience why goal setting is so important. We’ll explore
- how to handle procrastination
- how to hold yourself accountable
- how to get others to hold you accountable
- how to break big targets into small, manageable chunks
- how to manage your time
- how to prioritize your to-do list to get the results you want
- how to grow from lessons learned
- what to do when things change
- and so much more
Are you in? If so, get a jump on the process by downloading this free goal-setting template. Play around with it over the next week or so and take a stab at coming up with your own SMART goals. You’ll be glad you did.
Try this goal-setting exercise
Use the SMART framework to write your goals, following the steps below. SMART goals work for business as well as personal growth.
Step 1: Write
Here are definitions and an example for SMART goals. Then read on to see how a moose taught me the value in setting SMART goals.
SPECIFIC: You must be specific when you write SMART goals. It’s not just “I want to lose weight.” It’s “I want to lose weight on the paleo diet.”
MEASURABLE: You must be able to quantify your goals. “I want to lose 40 pounds on the paleo diet.”
ATTAINABLE: Your goal must be attainable. “I want to lose 40 pounds on the paleo diet and by scaling tall buildings.” What do you need to learn to do in order to scale tall buildings? What’s your plan for learning that?
REALISTIC: Your goal must be realistic. “I want to lose 40 pounds on the paleo diet so I can wear a size 2.” If you’re a size 16, that may be an unrealistic goal. Make sure your goal will test you but is not beyond what can be done.
TIMELY: Set time limits. This will give you a sense of urgency. It will help your unconscious align with your intention. “I want to lose 40 pounds on the paleo diet by losing 5 pounds a month for 8 months.”
Step 2: Share
Share your goals (preferably in writing) with a friend. My friend Shawn Mahoney did just that when he decided to lose 100 pounds. He shared it on Facebook and posted updates often. His friends encouraged him and served as accountability partners. He lost that weight and has kept it off for more than 5 years. (You can learn more about Shawn here.)
In an office, post the company goals somewhere employees will see them. Note progress toward those goals on a monthly or quarterly basis. Sales teams do this routinely, and it helps them make their sales.
Step 3: Review
Review your goals daily. Write your current top goal on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror and in locations where you’ll see it every day. That reinforces the goal in your mind.
In an office, post your goals somewhere you’ll see them, on your desktop or calendar. Challenge yourself to check your goals at the beginning of each day to keep them in your focus. Review them at the end of the day to celebrate any progress toward those goals.
How to write SMART goals, courtesy of a moose
Several years ago we took a family vacation to Maine. Being a good business person, I set goals for the outcomes I wanted. I even wrote them down and shared with a peer group.
“Goals for Maine trip: to get a green tourmaline ring and to see a moose.”
We worked our way up the Maine coast, where I found a green tourmaline ring that spoke to me. Then we headed in to Moosehead Lake, a very large lake in upstate Maine. We even took a moose safari, a three-hour boat trip on the lake.
Everyone told us we would surely see a moose, because it was in the 90s and the animals would come down to the lake to cool off.
Obviously, the moose didn’t get the memo. They didn’t show.
The only moose we saw was one on the side of the road. It looked like a youngster taking a nap, but he was dead.
Technically, I met my goals. I got the ring, and I saw a moose.
However, had I used SMART goals, I would have declared my goal to be “see one moose, upright and breathing.” Not dead on the side of the road.
Be sure your SMART goals pass the moose test.
© Pamela A. Scott 2016