Many of us know that goal-setting is powerful. Having goals gives your life direction and makes the journey fun and rewarding. It keeps your life satisfying and full of opportunities to grow as a person and also gives a sense of accomplishment along the way.
However, a powerful but often over-looked factor in goal-setting is how to effectively set goals in order to make sure they actually happen.
Right now, you are a product of the decisions you have made in your past. Yesterday and every day before that, you made choices that have affected the shape that your life is in right now. If you continue doing the same things, your life will probably be the same tomorrow.
Einstein’s definition of insanity is:
“Doing the same thing and expecting a different result”
Goal-setting is a great way to ensure you don't have the same year this year as you did last year. You’ve probably heard of the numerous studies that show the difference between success and failure in people who write down their goals.
I have personally seen so many powerful things happen through the process of writing down my goals and making a plan to achieve them. It is definitely a highly VALUABLE activity that's worth doing.
This year I’ve spent time improving my goal-setting process to make it even more effective. I have incorporated some helpful tools and techniques into a 6-step process which I used to set my goals for this year.
If you've already set your goals, you may wish to use this as a checklist to make sure you have the other steps in place to make sure you achieve your goals.
It's not as complex as it looks. It's actually a way to make the process of goal-setting simpler if you follow it step by step and will definitely help you make this the year your goals happen.
It may seem like it could take a long time but it doesn't need to. It can be done in less than an hour. I did mine in a few short sessions over a week as I enjoyed taking the time to think about my goals carefully.
If you're short on time, I recommend you set a timer for 2-5 minutes for each step and just get it done. You only have one life - so it's worth taking the time to plan it!
Step #1: Write a dream list
The first step in my goal-setting process is to write down everything that you want. I recommend using a large notebook for this.
Write everything down that you want to achieve, be, do and have.
When you're writing, focus on WHAT you want, not HOW you're going to get it.
There are 2 great questions that help you in this process:
- What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
- What would I do if I had all the time and resources I needed?
Search inside yourself and ask what exciting stretch goals you’d love to achieve.
If it’s a big enough goal, it will probably be slightly (or massively!) terrifying and exciting at the same time.
Writing a dream list enables you to look at everything in one place. Then you can start to sort through and prioritise the things that you want. Make sure that everything on your dream list is aligned to your values and deepest desires. It's important that you only write things that you'd really love - not things you think you 'should' want.
Step #2: Categorise your dream list
Once you have written your dream list, it's time to categorise your dreams and create goals out of them.
There are 3 ways that I suggest you categorise your dreams to make them into goals: Time-frame, task or habit, and ‘Be, Do, Have.
a. Time frame:
Next to your list of everything you want to achieve, categorise each one into the month or year you want to do them, or complete them by.
All the dreams that you don't want to go for this year, create a separate list and put them in a place you can go back to. I put mine on a google spreadsheet and set an alarm reminder to revisit them next year.
You’ll also realise that some of the things you want don’t actually have a time-frame because they are habits you want to have.
In most cases, once dreams have deadlines or ongoing habits and trusted systems attached to them (such as calendar reminders), they become goals.
Which brings us to the next part of categorising your goals.
b. Action or habit goal
The next step, and possibly the most important in categorising your goals, is to separate your goals into those that are action-based (usually with a definite ‘complete/end’ date or ‘deadlines) and those that are ongoing (goals that are ongoing actions or habits).
For example, an action goal might be to write a book. Once you’ve done it, you’ve done it – therefore, this would be an action goal.
A habit goal might be around the kind of person you want to be, the things you want to have in place as an ongoing lifestyle choice such as maintaining your weight or to being a great friend. These goals don’t have a time frame, they are things we want on an continous basis, perhaps for life.
c. Area of life
The final way to categorise your goals, is to separate them into the different areas of life. This is a great way of ensuring you’re covering all of your bases and are taking a balanced approached to your life.
For example, if all of your goals are business goals, you may be missing out on creating a deeper sense of fulfillment of life – by the type of person you want to be, places you want to go and the experiences you want to enjoy.
You could choose to categorise by 'Be, Do, Have' (who you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to have), or the areas of life that are most important to you.
Here are some examples of the areas of life:
- Me Time/Self-Care
- Personal Growth
- Making a Difference
Step #3: Write down why you want each goal
Asking why you want something may seem either obvious or pointless, but is an important step in achieving your goals. It's often overlooked in the process of goal-setting and is powerful because it helps you connect with the emotions of your goals. You should make sure you know the reasons that are important to you to fuel the fire of your motivation.
Having compelling reasons for why you want to achieve your goals is so important - otherwise, your mind may try to get you to take actions that sabotage your focus. You need to have a solid reason not to take those negative actions in order to resist temptations.
Knowing the reason behind your ‘why’ is one of the most powerful forces that will keep you going. It will also help you decide whether you really want that goal. Procrastination doesn’t stick around for long when you’re really clear on why you are doing what you’re doing.
Maybe your ‘why’ for improving your business is to make a bigger difference in the world and help more people. Or maybe you simply want to have a feeling of accomplishment – to prove to yourself that you have what it takes.
The ‘why’ you want something is an important question to ask yourself, because if you don’t know why you want it, then you are less likely to go after it and get it.
Our goals must have powerful, emotionally driven reasons for why it is crucial to achieving them. As human beings, regardless of our personality, we are all driven by our emotions. This can be used in a positive way if we can start attaching pleasurable thoughts to achieving our goals.
Write down your underlying, deeper reasons for each goal you've chosen.
Step #4: Make your goals clear and specific
When you know what you specifically want, you have a powerful force that will help keep you going when the going gets tough.
It’s important that we are specific when thinking about what it is we really want. Being specific stops us having an ‘out’ and keeps us on a clear path. It’s a riskier way to set goals; it’s living on the edge, but when you achieve the goal (which is much more likely when it’s specific) it’s a lot more satisfying and rewarding.
If you set a vague goal such as “I want to get fit”, it’s easy to say ‘”I think I achieved my goal, I feel a bit fitter”. However, it’s a lot more powerful and rewarding to say “My goal was to run 3.5km in 20 minutes - and today I did it!”
Take the risk and pick something more specific that you can measure – that you can know for sure that you succeeded. Vague goals aren’t much better than having no goals at all! So make your goals measurable, and you will see the results.
Once you have your final goals written, I suggest you put them in places where you will see them every day e.g. on your phone, laptop, online journal or bedroom door.
Step #5: Create an action plan to achieve your goals
Finally, write down how you are going to make your goals happen. Decide on the actions you need to take and build them into your schedule.
This is one of the most important steps. You simply take every single goal – be it ‘task or habit’ and create a separate plan for each one. Work out what habits you need to do daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly in order to achieve your big goals.
Decide WHEN exactly are you going to do each one and HOW?
What’s your next step for each one?
Create systems to support them. Write everything into your calendar. Set reminders and alarms to ensure you get them done.
Remember an essential step in goal achievement is to take action - no matter what. Writing things down and having goals is crucial, but action is what is going to get you the results. Action, even if it’s not perfect, is far better than inaction any way.
If you want to change your habits and your life long-term, then you need to commit to working on this daily and not just when it’s convenient.
Your action plan can include things such as planning and preparing, telling some trusted people about what you are doing or hiring a coach.
Step #6: Diarise a regular review
Now that you have everything sorted, you need to block out some time in your calendar REGULARLY (that’s the KEY word!) to read your goals, change anything that’s needed, and schedule in times in your diary or calendar to DO THEM! Your goal list should NOT be a static document that you write once and never change. It should be a dynamic, living, work in progress. There’s no way it’s going to be perfect the first time you write it. So schedule time to review it regularly – daily if it that’s what it takes!
I read my list most mornings to keep mindful of why I’m doing what I’m doing, and make sure my diary for the day includes activities that relate to my ultimate goals. I put aside an hour every Friday to read through and make notes and changes to my goal list.
Remember, once you’ve set your goals and committed them to paper (or electronic device), you’ve placed yourself ahead of most of the population that won’t take the time to do this. Amazing things will start to happen and those
things that you need in order to achieve these goals start coming to you. Any set-backs you experience simply don’t matter – you’ve made your decision
and you keep moving forward. Progression is the goal, not perfection – you will experience failures, so learn from them, relax, smile and keep going.
So in summary:
- Write a dream list
- Categorise your dream list
- Write down why you want your goals
- Make your goals clear and specific
- Create an action plan to achieve your goals
- Diarise a regular review
These are the tools that I find extremely useful in getting very clear about what I want to achieve in a year and how – I hope that they help you too.
I suggest that you diary in at least a few hours of time to go somewhere quiet where you can think, plan and nut it all out. I guarantee it will be one of the best things you do all year.
Finally, it's important to remember that once you've set your goals, make the decision that no matter what comes your way; you’re going to stay committed to the journey.
You can evolve and change your goals along the way of course, but decide that you won't give up on yourself.
Here are my top goals for 2019:
Create an online course
Write 50 blog posts
Run 12+ live events
Do 250+ Workouts
Do 3,000+ sets of weights
Do 150+ hours of cardio
Eat 350+ days of paleo
Eat 350+ serves of greens
Educate myself every day
Take 50+ rest days
Journal 5+ days each week
Take at least 3 holidays
Visit 1+ new place each month
Follow my morning routine
Plan & Schedule the day and stick to my highest-priority actions
Write a social media post
Listen to a podcast, audiobook or Ted-talk
Post on 'Streaks' Habits app (I have habits there I keep track of like take vitamins, foam roll, journal etc.)
Do a weekly review
Do a 1-hour strategic thinking and planning session
Write and post a blog post
Clear my email inbox to zero
Reconcile my finances and accounts
Go through my phone and file from the week
Plan a new place to visit
Review the month
Plan the following month
Go away for 3 nights to relax, refresh and review the quarter
Set specific goals for the coming quarter
I hope this 6-step goal-setting process is helpful for you. I'd love to hear how you go with it.
Wishing you huge success and happiness in 2019,