Over the course of the next 5 weeks or so, I will be writing a few short articles about the nature of Goal Setting and Achievement. We all have genuine, well-intentioned goals or targets based on strong, reasonable desires but quite often the aim is never quite right and the target is missed. Fortunately, there are few very simple tools available to us all to improve that aim and give us confidence to stay on track and achieve our goals.
What do you want?
A new car? Stop smoking? Lose 20lbs? Get ripped?
Each of these is a valid, perfectly reasonable objective. But each of these requires a little thinking and some degree of forethought.
You might have cash readily available for a new car and can go out and buy it today. In which case, well done! However, it strikes me that in that situation, buying the car is no more a goal than simply buying a book on Amazon. A goal is something you aim towards and seek out; it’s a challenge! Therefore, let’s pretend you don’t have the money to buy a car but decide that you still want it.
In order to generate the money to buy the car, you are going to have to make some changes elsewhere in your life. What change do you make? Tighten the belt and save? Do you seek to generate income elsewhere to make a little more? Do you declare that to the taxman? How much belt-tightening are you willing to make and over how long? How much harder are you willing to work to generate the extra money? Wouldn’t it just be easier if the money was here and you could just go out and buy the car already!?! Is it too difficult and who cares anyway about the stupid car, I only wanted to impress the missus anyway because she thinks I’m middle-aged and boring…………
Ah…..so you didn’t want a car, really. You wanted to impress your wife because she’s been nagging you and you immediately thought about a car to make some kind of positive change?
So what is your goal really? Is it the car or is it to make your wife happier by showing her a youthful, spontaneous you?
The point is that the goal you think you want isn’t always the goal you actually want. It doesn’t necessarily make the want of a new car any less valid but if your actual goal is to impress the wife then perhaps there are other ways, that you haven’t considered and that are more within your means?
Consider the car again.
“Wouldn’t it just be easier if the money was here and you could just go out and buy the car already!?!”…..I need the car because my other one keeps breaking and I’m paying out so much on minor repairs that it just makes no sense to keep this one when I could spend some money and have a newer, more reliable model.
So is your goal to have a new car or is there a way to make your car more reliable and stop it breaking so often? Have you considered spending a little more on the ‘top level’ service instead of the cheap option?
How many goals will you have at any one time? Any good goal deserves time, effort and other resources. How much change can you handle? Understand your capacity for change and prioritise. Giving up smoking AND losing weight require tremendous commitment. Not only that but giving up smoking is known to increase appetite and therefore weight. By not understanding your capacity for change, or the interplay between goals, you set yourself up for failure in one, likely both.
You’ve got to be very honest with yourself.
It might be that you REALLY want that car purely for the love of the car, how it makes you feel, the sheer vain way you know you’ll look driving it around. And you know what? That’s a purely valid reason too. If you want to lose 20lbs so you can look good on the beach then own up to it, vocalise it and tell others; you’ll be surprised how many others are thinking the same thing – now you’re part of a community of like-minded individuals and even more likely to succeed! If others laugh and you give up then perhaps it wasn’t really that important to you?
My point with this is that the more honest you are with yourself about your desire to achieve a goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. I’ll come on to why this is when discussing Motivation next week.
My three takeaways for Goal Identification are:
1. Keep asking “Why”. Why do you want that thing you think you want? Get to the heart of it, identify the actual goal and then work back outward to see if there’s another, more effective / simpler / cheaper way you can achieve it.
2. Understand your capacity for change. Stick to one, maybe two, things and understand any interplay between them. Then throw all you have at it to set yourself up for success.
3. Be honest. Be 100% honest with yourself about what it is you want. Don’t be afraid to write it down or vocalise it. If it’s truly important to you, it won’t matter what others think and you’ll be surprised to find others are thinking the same thing.