By the end of this session, you’ll know effective goal setting techniques to help you progress.
Effective Goal Setting for Personal Growth
Greetings, fellow seekers of personal growth! This session is all about effective goal setting. Welcome to Week 4 of our ‘reset course,’ where we’ll delve into the ‘mindful action’ module and embark on our plan-do-review cycle. We’ll explore how to effectively plan and write your goals for success (whatever that means to you) and address any challenges you might face in getting started.
In my experience, one of the primary reasons for resolutions or goals falling by the wayside is that individuals either don’t dedicate sufficient time or lack the knowledge to properly plan and write effective goals. As Denzel Washington eloquently stated in his 2015 commencement speech, “Dreams without goals, are just dreams.”
So, let’s transform our dreams (or, in our case, our current compass points) into something more tangible – bite-sized goals that we can take action on and utilise to drive positive change.
A Quick Note on SMART Goals…
Before diving in, a quick Google search on goal-setting will undoubtedly introduce you to the SMART acronym, a familiar tool to many. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
This method proves useful for administrative tasks and to-do list-type goals. However, when aiming to implement long-lasting habits or goals with a broader focus, confining all your goals to SMART can be detrimental.
Instead of SMART, I often adopt an approach where I simply ask myself two questions: “How will I know when I’ve achieved this?”, and “Do I need to complete this by a particular time?”. If I can answer these questions, then the intention behind the goal is often well-defined enough to get started.
The Steps to Effective Goal Setting
The following tips will guide you in writing clear goals that will set you on your path towards your compass points. The linked worksheet will take you through each step to help you formulate your goals for the upcoming weeks.
1. Get Clear
Firstly, examine your current compass point, pillar, or area you wish to improve. What do you hope to achieve here? Why is this important to you? What does improvement look like? Defining a clear vision of what matters to us in this area allows us to focus our efforts effectively. Without a clear vision, we hinder ourselves before we even begin.
The classic resolution example of ‘becoming more healthy’ highlights this point well. While it’s a noble sentiment, it falls short as a goal due to its lack of clarity. We need to refine the goal and the reasons behind it.
Instead of simply stating that you want to “become more healthy,” consider why you want to become more healthy. Is it to improve your energy or mood levels? Because you’re finding it difficult to concentrate? Because you want to lose weight? Or because you want to enhance your physical capabilities?
Each of these motivations will have a different focus and a different measure of success. So, let’s get clear first.
2. Break it Down
Once we have a clear idea of what we want to achieve, the finish line doesn’t always make the race any easier. Big goals can be overwhelming, often making it difficult to know where to start. So, we need to eliminate that feeling of ‘this is a huge project’ and break it down into manageable chunks.
Let’s say your current compass point is to become self-employed, driven by a desire for greater flexibility in choosing what and when you work. Great! But… where do you start?
I find that working backwards from your end goal often helps in breaking things down and identifying the starting point. So, if you want to work for yourself, you’ll need to register as a business or sole trader. You’ll need a product or service that people value, so you’ll need to test the market and trial your idea. But before that, you’ll need to have an idea worth testing, so you’ll probably want to brainstorm some ideas.
So, your first step, before doing anything else, is to set aside some time to brainstorm ideas that you find exciting to pursue. That’s a manageable step that could be done in 30 minutes, rather than being overwhelmed with the concept of creating your own business empire from scratch and engaging in endless ‘research’ on how to set up a business.
Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to start small and gradually build momentum. Don’t feel pressured to tackle everything at once. Instead, focus on taking consistent, incremental steps towards your goal.
3. Process or To-Do List?
For the purposes of our discussion, goals can be categorized into process goals and to-do list goals. Process goals are those where we aim to develop habits and don’t necessarily have a specific end date in mind. Our focus is on dedicating time to the process rather than achieving an immediate outcome. Examples of process goals include reading or writing at least 20 minutes a day, practising yoga each morning, or playing the guitar for 10 minutes after work.
To-do list goals, on the other hand, are one-off goals that we work towards with a clear end in mind. Examples of to-do list goals could be decluttering your house, purchasing a bike, assembling a piece of flatpack furniture, or responding to an email.
Throughout your journey towards your compass point, you’ll likely encounter both types of goals. It’s important to make this distinction because the approach you take for each type of goal will be different. Additionally, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many of each type at once. In Week 5, we’ll explore strategies for effectively structuring your time to handle each type of goal.
4. Prioritise Your Goals
Another common reason why resolutions or goal-setting fail is that individuals take on too much and become overwhelmed. While we might have a long list of goals to achieve in order to reach our compass point, we can’t do everything simultaneously. So, let’s prioritise those goals that need to be completed first and focus our attention on them during our day-to-day activities. We can always revisit the remaining goals when the time is right.
A good rule of thumb is to only work on one process goal at a time. Developing a new habit takes time and consistent effort before it becomes second nature, like brushing your teeth, which you now do without thinking twice, twice a day (hopefully).
Similarly, don’t overload yourself with endless to-do list goals. Allocate more time than you think you’ll need for each task. If you finish early, you can treat yourself or tackle a bonus activity.
Adopting a slow and steady mindset is key to success. Our aim is to maintain forward momentum in the right direction. If you find it challenging to focus on your goals consistently or are simply having a low-energy day, give yourself some breathing room and focus on making small improvements, even if they seem insignificant. What can you do today that nudges you in the right direction?
Some days you’ll make greater strides than others, but as long as you maintain that motivation and continue moving towards your compass point, you’ll eventually reach your destination.
This week’s worksheet will guide you through the process of planning your first goals and effective goal setting to ensure you’re on the right track towards achieving your compass point.
Please share your experiences in the comments section to engage in the conversation. I’m also planning to launch a mailing list soon, so keep an eye out for that. I’ll be seeking your input in shaping the topics of upcoming videos.
In Week 5, we’ll delve into effective strategies for tackling the ‘doing’ aspect of your goals.
Have a good week everyone, and I’ll see you next time.