Well, don’t look now but this year is almost half way done. You remember last January don’t you? That’s about the time you were going to make this year the best ever. Like so many, you’ve just realized time is running out. In fact, the last six months are generally more challenging in terms of practice production. So before you write this year off as a lost cause, let me encourage you to dust off those goals and get moving. It’s never too late!
REMEMBER: The quality of your professional life depends not on what you know, but on what you DO with what you know. The attainment of EXCELLENCE requires Effective Action.
Stephen Covey’s Simple Secrets of Goal-Setting
Gaining control of your life by setting goals is at the center of most self-help, management, leadership and time-management systems. But there are traps in goal setting.
While we can control our choice of action, we don’t always think ahead to the consequences of our choices. The results for many goal-setters, therefore, are either…
1. Severe blows to their integrity and self-confidence when they don’t achieve their goals–because the goals are based on illusion, with little self-awareness or regard for the principles of how people grow and change, or…
2. Undesirable results when they do achieve a goal because even though the intention was worthy, accomplishing the goal creates other undesirable results.
Example: Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to cut alcohol consumption in the USSR and wound up encouraging the use of narcotics.
Lesson: Goal-setting works only when a goal is to do the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way. Successful goal-setting is therefore a much more rigorous exercise than simply writing down dreams, such as to be a millionaire by age 30 … become a famous actor … run my own company.
THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE
To empower yourself by setting and achieving meaningful goals, you must unleash the powers of your conscience. Before setting a goal ask yourself:
What do I want to accomplish?
What contribution do I want to make?
Why do I want to do it? (This is the key to motivation–the motive.)
If a goal is not connected to a deep “why,” it may be a good goal, but it usually isn’t the best goal for us to strive for. It really might be someone else’s goal, such as a parent (or even a consultant). How am I going to do it? Just “winging it” won’t do.
Self-awareness helps you to set goals with an honest view of where you are now–with no illusions and no excuses. Asking yourself hard questions is essential to setting realistic goals. Ask:
Do I really want to do it?
Am I willing to pay the price?
Do I have enough strength to actually do it?
To make sure you set goals that truly challenge you, ask:
Do I feel responsible for my own growth?
Am I settling for mediocrity when I could attain excellence?
Am I blaming others for my own inability to set and achieve goals?
SET GOALS IN CONTEXT
Answers to these what, why, and how questions create the context for setting your weekly and long-range goals.
Example: What you want to accomplish might be to maintain a healthy body. Why you want to accomplish it may be to set an example for your children to stay healthy and strong or to build your personal character strength. How you will achieve the goal might be by increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables … and by doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times each week.
Write this context down. It helps imprint the goals in your mind–and helps you to stay focused. Reviewing the context regularly–at least once a week–keeps you focused on your conscience, your inner fire. You connect your specific goals to the broader relationships in your life.
Common flaw in ambitious, energetic people: They set so many goals they can’t achieve any of them. They often set terrific goals and when they pick up a valuable book, attend a seminar, or have a conversation with someone, they come away with an idea of something else they really want to do–a new goal. They then either write it down in a frustrating clutter of things “to do,” or the idea floats in and out of consciousness–creating a nagging feeling that they aren’t doing something they ought to do.
Much more effective: Keep a “perhaps” list of goals below your primary list. Writing an idea down on the “perhaps” list isn’t a firm commitment. Your integrity is not on the line–yet.
Look at that list each week as you review your goal context. Decide whether to move it up to an action goal … to keep it on the list to consider further … or to discard it because you decide it really is not that important.
Key question: What could I do this week that would have the greatest positive impact on my long-term goals?
As you review your goal context to set goals each week, think about your different roles and responsibilities. Connect with your conscience. Do not be driven merely by urgency or reaction to what has happened thus far.
Examples: As you think about your role as a parent, consider your goal context of being more attentive, more sensitive. You may think of something you can do that particular week to meet a need of one of your children.
Or, as you think about your role as a manager and your goal context of building a cohesive, motivated team, you may become aware that while you successfully got the team to work hard on a recent project, you now need to tell each member how much you value their contribution.
There will certainly be times in your life when some activity; caring for a new-born child, starting a business, caring for an ill parent–requires an intense investment of time and energy. You might feel that you are losing track of your goals–that you are out of balance.
But short-term imbalances are often necessary to achieve long-term balance. Balance is living, loving, learning and leaving a legacy—over a lifetime.
It seems people spend more time planning vacations than planning their careers! A few hours invested every year in serious goal setting and reviewing progress yields huge results. So, why don’t people do it? Procrastination. It makes sense, but people don’t do it until it becomes urgent. Goals give direction and purpose to our efforts. They keep us on track and increase the probability of our success.
The five elements of SMART GOALS are:
Goals must be specific. Avoid vague and elusive terms: Make them concrete. State them in terms that motivate because they’re clear and concise.
How do you know if you’re progressing without a yardstick? When your goals are specific and written in measurable terms, you provide yourself with a method for immediate feedback.
Too much or too little challenge is de-motivating: You’re either overwhelmed by the pressure or underchallenged by standards that fail to bring out your best.
Energize yourself by setting goals that are within your realm of possibilities. Is it realistic that you’ll fly to the moon this year?
Realistic time frames help avoid procrastination. I once heard it said, “There are no unrealistic goals–just unrealistic time frames!”
When an airplane taxis for take-off, the pilot has all the technical ability along with years of practice. He has already spent time pre-flighting his plane before boarding. So as he sits at the end of the runway headed into the wind, he knows that at take-off he will give 100% throttle. He will not back off the gas until he has reached cruising altitude and is on course. Then and only then can he back off or settle in. Too often I think clients feel that hiring a consultant is the takeoff. It’s only the ground school. You can’t let off yet, you’ve only begun. Peter Drucker said it well, “Change Ready, Aim, Fire, to Ready, Fire, Aim. Get ready first, then start before you have perfect aim.” Don’t wait until you feel good about everything. Just go–and don’t look back, don’t let up.