- Be S.M.A.R.T.: Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. This goal setting acronym approach has been around for a long time and it still works! You increase your odds of reaching your goal if you answer yes to all of these as you set it:
· Specific – have I described details rather than general ideas of the goal?
· Measurable – can someone else measure and see that I reached my goal?
· Attainable – is this goal actually reachable?
· Realistic – even if it is reachable, is it realistic that I am willing to do what it takes to reach it.
· Timeline – do I have a deadline for reaching this goal?
- Document: If it’s not documented, it’s not going to happen. Most leaders learn quickly (often the hard way,) if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen. Goal setting is similar, it must be documented. The act of writing your goal down creates a sense of commitment and also allows you to read it. Reading your goal gives your mind more confidence that achieving it is possible. We tend to believe what we read, that is why magazines like The Globe can sell stories about aliens abducting Bigfoot. Write your goals down and look at them frequently.
- Why Me!?: Why is the goal important to you? Think about what benefits the goal offers you. What rewards are associated with reaching this goal? Do you want those rewards? If not, you are not going to stay committed to reaching the goal. The bigger the why, the greater chance of success. If your why is big enough, you will usually figure out the how. It is up to you to discover a why that makes you want to achieve the goal.
- No Magic: Resist magically turning excuses into reasons. I have witnessed people magically turn what appeared to be an excuse into a perfectly justifiable reason for not achieving a goal. This powerful magic trick can only be reversed by the magician who performed it. We are all amateur magicians in that sense. We are all guilty of accepting situations as final and giving up on goals. If we want to reach goals (especially those worthwhile difficult goals) we must fight the urge to perform and leave the magic to Penn & Teller.
- Habit Forming: Make goal setting a regular part of your life. Much like a successful diet, goal setting works best when it becomes part of the fabric of your life. Yo-yo dieting is a huge issue in the United States. People get motivated to lose weight, so they start the latest fad diet. After a few weeks (or even hours in some cases) we find ourselves on the downward spin of the yo-yo. The people that have had the most success with losing weight long-term are the ones who have made a healthy diet permanent part of their life - not a temporary prison sentence they are waiting to get paroled from. The same can be seen with goal setting. The more a part of your life it is, the easier it becomes and the greater your success.
- Get Help: Have a coach help you through the process. If you are pursuing a large or long-term goal, you may benefit from the support of a coach. Depending on the importance of the goal, this can be a professional coach or even a trusted co-worker or friend. A good coach will support you, while at the same time holding you accountable to do your best. In most cases, it is wise to not share your goal with everyone. Many people love to pick goals apart and you may find yourself using your energy to defend your ability to reach your goal instead of using it to achieve your goal. A safe, trusted advisor may be just what you need to reach your goal, but choose wisely.
- Impress Yourself: Set goals that impress you. When we start to walk as small children, every step is applauded. This constant positive reinforcement is used to encourage our desire and persistence to walk. Eventually, they stop clapping. This is because you have moved beyond walking and onto more difficult physical challenges. As a leader, you have likely achieved a level of success at work. In order to stay sharp and continue to grow, your goals must progress beyond your current status. It is more important that your goals impress you, than impress others. Michael Jordan did not become the “Michael Jordan” by limiting himself to what impressed others.