When it comes to setting goals, we hear frequently someone paraphrasing that instructive quote by superstar athlete Bo Jackson: “Set your goals high, and don’t stop [until] you get there.” Those words – or maybe a variation of them – seem simple and inspiring to most of us. But there is an ugly truth that follows them. You see, while everyone of us is an expert at setting lofty goals, the truth is that a disappointingly high number of us never achieve them, usually because we just give up on them.
That is not an easy fact to digest, particularly in times like these, when it is sexy to call ourselves entrepreneurs, or when we speak and post so boldly about how hard we are grinding, or when we drown ourselves in memes, literature, podcasts, and pricey workshops for much-needed motivation. But it is true. Too many of us are not living up. In fact, just consider one 2015 statistic from U.S. News & World Report: by now, just a few short weeks into this new year, approximately 80% of all resolutions made on or before January 1st have already fallen by the wayside. So much for bright, new beginnings.
As we all know from personal and professional experiences, setting the goal is one thing, but keeping that goal in focus is no easy feat. It requires that you marshal skill sets and reallocate resources in a way that reflects new priorities. Time may be needed. Discipline may be needed. Effort may be needed. Talent may be needed. Money may be needed. And – to be fair to ourselves, let’s face it – all too often, something in that mix may be at a low level or not present at all. Consequently, while you really may have wanted to accomplish this new goal, it could seem that your current reality has not afforded you much room to make it possible.
When it comes to keeping your goals in focus, we understand the challenges many people fact. And so, we recommend the following pointers:
- It’s okay to set a lofty goal – but keep your feet on the ground.
- Err on the side of specificity. The more detailed the goal, the strategic you can in its planning.
- Make sure that the goal is measurable. Being able to track your progress in a quantifiable manner is important.
- Understand your reality gap. That is, you should comprehend the distance from where you are in your current reality and, as it pertains to the goal, where you would like to be. This will help you establish a realistic timetable for the achievement of the goal.
- Have a clear understanding of your “why”. Ask yourself some probing questions. For what purpose do you want to achieve this goal? How important is that purpose in your current scope of priorities? And after this goal, what comes next?
- Know what is needed to achieve your goal.
- Take stock of the resources necessary to commence work on, and maintain progress towards, the goal.
- If something is lacking, determine where you can get it, and how long it might take you to do so. Then adjust your timetable accordingly.
- Plan and write a lot.
- Transform the initiative that you will undertake into a comprehensive plan, wherein you will have a clear understanding of the goal, the timetable for its completion, the utilization of resources, and your milestones.
- Use those milestones, such as deadlines or mini-goals, to keep you accountable to your plan and to track the progress to your larger goal.
- Writing everything down. The practice of journal-keeping will help you to visualize your goals in words and diagrams.
- You need a support system.
- Identify someone with whom you can share you goal and be open about your progress. Be sure that it is someone with whom you can be transparent and from whom you can take constructive criticism.
- There are going to be a lot of negatives. Know them. Avoid them.
- Do not procrastinate. Without knowing it, you can become your own worst enemy, finding one excuse after another to put off what you need to do, and then, at the last minute, you may be able to deliver your best work.
- Do not be easily distracted by people, events, or things that arouse your attention in the short term and that usual have no connection to your efforts. Remember that time waits on no man or woman, and you are not afforded the luxury of tacit commitment when it comes to achieving your goals.
- Do not be swayed by the negative opinions of others. Your goals are your own, and they must stay that way. When someone outside of your circle of influence offers an opinion about a goal or efforts that do not pertain to them, ignore the person, and continue to do your best to achieve your goal. After all, there is no better victory than to suffocate them under the sheer tonnage of your success.
- Get to work.
- Do not wait for permission to get started. There is no one there to give it.
- Commit the time that it takes to achieve your goal within the reasonable timetable that you have set for yourself.
- Adhere to your deadlines and mini-goals.
- Use proper time management, to take control of how your time gets used each day.
- Make your work a habit, until and even after you have reached your goal. It only takes 21 days of consistent effort to turn your effort into a routine that can yield results upon which more effort can be exerted.
The goals we set for our lives are usually meant to improve us. We see them as avenues for new opportunities and growth. But most times, we can lose focus of these goals and why they matter, and with quiet disappointment, or with a bevy of excuses, we just give them up.
Fortunately, none of us should wait for a new year or a new week to start setting new goals and commencing the work to make them real. Indeed, any moment can be our turning point. We simply have to set specific goals, understand their importance, and have the courage, the desire, and the foresight to achieve them.
Now believe. Then start doing.