Hi everyone, it’s Stephen and welcome to Week 4 of our reset course. This week we’re turning our attention to the ‘mindful action’ module and the beginning of our plan-do-review cycle. We’ll cover how best to plan (and write) your goals for success (whatever that means to you) and what to do if you’re struggling on where to start.
In my experience, one of the big reasons for resolutions or goals failing is that people don’t take the time, or don’t know how to properly plan and write effective goals. As Denzel Washington says in his 2015 commencement speech “Dreams without goals, are just dreams”.
So, we want to take our dreams (or in our case, our current compass points) and turn them into something more tangible – bitesize goals that we can action and use to make improvements.
A NOTE ON SMART GOALS
Now before we dive in, it won’t take you long after a quick Google search on goal-setting to come across the SMART acronym, which many of you will be familiar with. SMART is a method you can use to ensure that each of your goals are (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound).
This can be a useful approach for admin tasks and to-do list type goals. However, when we’re talking about trying to implement longer-lasting habits or goals that have a broader focus, it can be detrimental to write all your goals as SMART goals.
Often the approach I use instead of SMART is to go through my list and simply ask the questions “how will I know when I’ve achieved this?”, and “do I need to do this by a particular time?”. If I can answer those questions, then often the intention is well-written enough to start.
The following tips will help you gain clarity in writing good goals that will set you on your way towards your compass points. The linked worksheet will take you through each of the steps to help you write your goals for the upcoming weeks.
So, firstly, look at your current compass point, pillar or area that you want to improve. What would you like to achieve here? Why would you like to do this? What does improvement look like? We need to have a clear vision of what’s important to us about this in order to focus our work on it. Without a clear vision, we hamper ourselves before we even start.
The classic resolution example of ‘becoming more healthy’ highlights this point well. Although it’s a great sentiment, it falls down as a goal because it’s not clear enough. We need to make it clearer what the goal is, as well as why we’re doing it.
Instead of simply saying that you want to “become more healthy”, think why you want to become more healthy… is it because you want 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 be more physically capable?
Each of these reasons will have a different focus and a different measure of success, so first, let’s get clear.
Break it down
So, now we’ve got a clear idea of what we want to achieve. However, just knowing where the finish line is doesn’t always help us run the race. Big goals can be overwhelming, often it’s difficult to know where to start. So, we need to remove that feeling of ‘this is a huge project’ and break it down into manageable chunks.
Say your current compass point is that you want to be able to work for yourself, which you’re doing because you want more flexibility in picking what you work on and when you work. Great! But… where do you start with that?
I find often working backwards from your end point helps with breaking things down and finding the start point. So if you want to work for yourself, you’ll need to register as a business or sole-trader, you’ll need to have a product, or service that people will pay for, so you’ll need to have tested the market and tried your idea out. But before that you’ll need to have had an idea that you can test out, so you’ll probably want to brainstorm some ideas.
So your first step, before doing anything else, is to simply set some time aside to brainstorm some ideas that you would find exciting to do. That’s a manageable step that could be done in 30minutes, rather than being overwhelmed with the concept of creating your own business empire from scratch and doing endless ‘research’ on how to set up a business.
Process or To-Do List?
For our purposes, goals can be broken down into process goals or to-do list goals. Process goals are when we’re looking to develop habits and don’t necessarily have an end date in mind – we’re focusing more on putting the time in, rather than the immediate result. Examples of process goals are: reading or writing at least 20 minutes a day, doing yoga each morning, practicing guitar for 10 minutes after work.
To-do list goals, however, are one-off goals that you work towards with a clear end in mind. Examples of to-do list goals could be: decluttering your house, buying a bike, building a piece of flatpack furniture, replying to an email.
It’s likely that on your journey towards your compass point, you have both types of goals. It’s important to make the distinction because the way that you approach each type of goal will be different, but also, you don’t want to take on too much of each type of goal at once. In week 5 we’ll look at how best you might approach structuring your time to deal with each type of goal.
Prioritise your goals
And finally, another big reason why resolutions, or goal-setting fails is that people take too much on and get overwhelmed. We might have a big list of goals that we want to achieve in order to reach our compass point, but we can’t do everything at once, so let’s prioritise those goals we need to complete first and just focus our attention on them during our day-to-day. We can come back to everything else when it’s time.
A good rule of thumb, is to only be working on one process goal at a time. It takes a while to get in the habit of something so that it becomes autopilot and we don’t have to really think about it anymore (think about brushing your teeth… which you now do without thinking about it, twice a day… hopefully).
But don’t overload yourself with endless to-do list goals either. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Then if you finish early you can treat yourself, or go on to do a bonus activity.
The slow and steady mindset approach really helps with this – we want to just continue moving in the right direction. If you find that you’re struggling to focus on your goals on a regular basis or are just having a low energy day, then give yourself some breathing room and focus on just improving that 1%. What can you do today that nudges you in the right direction?
Some days you’ll make greater leaps than others, but as long as you keep that motivation going and continue moving towards your compass point, you’ll get there eventually.
The worksheet this week will help you go through the process of planning your first goals to make sure that you’re on the right track for your compass point.
Let me know how it goes in the comments section, or get involved in the conversation by joining our Discord server. I’ll hopefully be starting a mailing list soon as well, so keep an eye out for that – I’ll be asking for your help in shaping the topics of upcoming videos.
In week 5 we’ll start to look at how best to approach the ‘doing’ of your goals.
Have a good week everyone, and I’ll see you next time.