I’m keeping it simple here with 3 steps to successful goal setting but first, let’s tackle the fact that setting goals is a hot trend. And, not setting goals is a hot trend. No matter whether you follow the mainstream adages or not, there is no denying that it’s a good feeling to start the new year with a clean slate and some direction of what you want to achieve.
But for all the good intentions, New Year’s resolutions often fall flat with very few people actually achieving goals set at this time of year. In fact, a Forbes article claimed that University of Scranton research suggests just eight per cent of people achieve their New Year’s goals.
One problem is that people succumb to pressure to kick off lofty goals on January 1 and therefore, those objectives are often not grounded in reality. We are a society compelled to achieve more and more but it’s always good to remember that without realistic goals and some planning to achieve them, overwhelm can kick in.
WHAT ARE THE 3 STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL GOAL SETTING?
Let’s jump in to 3 simple steps to set you up for success.
STEP 1: REFLECTION
It might seem counter-intuitive to look back when planning forward but this is an important step. Reflecting on the previous year provides the opportunity to celebrate your wins and let go of what didn’t work so well. Author Richard Wagamese described it beautifully in his book, ‘One Native Life’.
“My people say that there are seven hills to life. Each hill is a vantage point for looking back, though not everyone takes the time for reflection. The Ojibway say it is only in looking back that you discern the trail, identify the climb and rest contented in each stage of the journey. From there you can look back on the vast panorama of your life and come to know who you are by the virtue of who you’ve been.”
Here are a few questions to guide you through a meaningful reflection process.
What did I set out to achieve in 2022 and did I do everything possible to support myself in achieving those goals? If not, what can I change?
What worked in 2022? Did I take time to celebrate those successes?
What gave me pleasure in 2022?
What was missing? Does it matter that it was missing?
What were my roadblocks and how can I overcome them? Did something or someone hold me back in 2022?
Did I reach my financial targets? If not, why not? How can I have a different outcome and financial success in 2023?
Who inspired me in my professional life? How can I build a meaningful connection with that person in 2023?
STEP 2: VISION & VALUES
This is a two-prong approach that works in unison. Although it can be challenging to craft a vision for your year, it is an important step because as you start to create an action plan, you will need to come back to that vision again and again. That vision formulates from the reflection exercises mentioned earlier and contemplating what you may want to achieve this year and aligning it all with your values. Have your values changed in some way as I start the new year?
A motivational ritual is to set a word or theme to catapult you through the coming year. Did something jump out in your answers to the above questions? Ask yourself this: “When I’m standing here on December 31, 2023, what does my life look like?” Your theme might resonate through that visualization and when that happens, it is clear as day! Using that word or theme throughout the year will keep you grounded and on track to achieving your goals and targets.
STEP 3: PLAN YOUR WORK & WORK YOUR PLAN
All the planning in the world doesn’t matter if it isn’t actionable. To avoid seeing your goals fizzle, break them down into smaller, achievable steps and build a plan that prompts you to take action. There are platforms out there that will help you capture what needs to get done and when. Two of my favorites are Asana and Reminders. I also cross-reference some tasks and insert them right in my calendar, color coding them of course. You can learn more about that in my blog on time management here.
When it comes to the format you use, understand that our brains work differently so finding a process that works for how you’re wired is paramount to your motivation. If you are a visual person, a vision board or mind map could work best. If you like to organize your tasks into a list format, a project management system might work. Explore your options and try different things.
Above all, one essential piece to an effective plan is starting with the end in mind. What that means is deciding what you want to achieve (the end goal) and by when you want to
complete it. Then work your way backwards. It becomes a bit of a dance to work out your action plan from beginning to end but avoids the mistake of mapping out the steps to take from the start date, only to discover that you don’t have enough time to meet your deadline.
Here’s an example. Your goal is to take a vacation to Spain in November 2023. Obviously, you will block the time for your vacation in that month. Then roll it backwards of what you have to do to make that a reality. That might include saving $2,000 for the vacation and therefore breaking that into putting aside $200 per month starting in January. Your plan could also include researching accommodation and getting it booked by April. You get the idea.
And an example for your professional realm. If you want to complete a business plan by March 1, 2023 you can start there, and note all the parts of the plan and dates to complete by. You’ll want to complete the financial plan close to the end to accommodate costs you’ll need for your marketing and other goals so slotting in enough time to complete that is key. You can then jump back to the beginning to line up the timeline for your mission, products, research and marketing plans.
SOME RESOURCES AND TOOLS TO HELP
Get Your FREE Treasure Map
If you’re keen to have a visual aid to launch your planning process, download my FREE Treasure Map here. This specially-designed 2 page template will guide you through creating a vision, aligning it with your values and essentially charting a course of action.
My Hugely Popular ‘Set Your Intentions’ Mini Course
If you want to delve in deeper, I’ve updated Lighthouse’s ‘Set Your Intentions for Your Best Life’ online course. Year after year, people have used these tools
to plan out goals of what they want to achieve. It’s a self-directed
mini course with fresh content, online instruction and exercises that will
guide you to chart your own course. It’s meant to be fun and introspective so take a look and sign up today.
Here’s to a year of making dreams come true.