DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU WANT?
When your wishes turn into daydreams and then into active desires that are fuelled by passion and enthusiasm then you are ready to set some goals that will really work for you.
Goal setting is a powerful technique that allows you to expand your horizons and stretch your limits so that you can enjoy new or better things for yourself. They help to keep you focused so that you can put your energy into doing the things that will give you real results as well as helping you to generate the persistence and determination that will guarantee your success.
Perhaps you have already noticed just how easy it is to say, “I know what I want,” but when it comes down to the specifics what then? Do you really know enough about what you want to be able to recognise success when it comes?
Take the simple example of getting fit. I’m sure you have heard many people say, “I want to get a bit fitter,” perhaps you have even said it yourself, but what does that really mean? What exactly do you expect to change and over what period of time? Failing to add specific details to a goal or new outcome is one of the biggest reasons for failure. It means your goals forever remain little more than a vague idea, unformulated, ungrounded and lacking in the specific details needed to give them the meaning and purpose to drive you forward.
Failing to add specific details to a goal or new outcome is one of the biggest reasons for failure. It means your goals forever remain little more than a vague idea, unformulated, ungrounded and lacking in the specific details needed to give them the meaning and purpose to drive you forward.
Creating meaningful goals is central to the coaching process. Without them how will you know where you are going, how you will get there, or indeed be able to recognise when you have arrived? It is interesting isn’t it, how many people spend fifty weeks a year ‘planning’ their two week holiday, yet give little or no thought to planning the quality of their lives.
One of the reasons that having an inspiring goal to work towards is so helpful is that it deliberately throws you out of balance by creating a compelling image that is so much better than what you already have in reality. It’s this conflict between what you imagine and what already exists that then creates the drive and creativity necessary to pull you forward.
YOUR GOALS ARE IMPORTANT
So let’s get down to some serious goal setting. After all, it’s just as important to have an honest and effective relationship with your own inner coach as it is with a professional coach and setting some valuable goals for yourself is an essential step in the coaching process.
In the pages that follow you’ll find a number of exercises on goal setting that are designed to heighten your self-awareness so that you can act as your own coach in areas that are of importance to you. I recommend that you take your time with these activities and make a note of your findings in your wellness journal.
Take a moment to go back to those goals that you thought about when you completed the Wheel of Wellness exercise and use the checklist below to make sure they are still appropriate and achievable.
- Make your goals realistic. If they are too ambitious you will be discouraged. If they are too easy, they will not stretch you enough.
- Make sure you are passionate about what you want to achieve. Believing in what you do creates focus, motivation, clarity and direction.
- Make sure your goals are your own, not someone else’s expectation of you. A half-hearted effort is counter-productive and can end up being demoralising.
- Be clear why you want to change. What will your new goal give you that you don’t have already?
- Create a timeline to move forward. Aim to take at least one action step daily to reach your goal. If you want a slimmer body then step on the scales today and decide exactly how much you want to change.
ACTIVITY: GOALS PAST AND PRESENT
GOALS FROM THE PAST
Before looking ahead to your new goals, it’s worth taking a moment to look back to any goals that you may have discarded, or have left unfinished from your past. Consider:
- What goals from your past you have given up on?
- Are any of these goals still relevant to you today?
- Think back to about a decade ago. How did this younger version of you, envision your health being today? Was your vision of your future health very different from the actual quality of health that you have now?
GOALS FOR THE PRESENT
Review what you drew on your wheel of wellness and pick two or three areas where you rated the quality of your wellness at less than 7. What were those areas?
Which of these areas would you be the most willing to work on?
Assuming you are going to be successful, what achievement would give you the most pleasure and the greatest return for your effort?
Now, before doing anything else take a moment to check that this goal is in harmony with your values?
For example, if you’re tempted to use the words, I really should, ought, or must in relation to your goal, it is likely that this goal is more strongly influenced by the values of other people rather than your own. So consider how you could phrase your goal so that it inspires you and truly reflects an outcome that you believe is worthwhile.
Finally, remember that whilst your goals should always motivate you, there is also the danger that by placing your attention firmly on what you hope to enjoy in the future you can become distracted from enjoying the present. So keep this balance in mind and remember to celebrate your milestones of achievement along the way.
IT’S GOOD TO BE SMART
When it comes to coaching yourself knowing how to formulate goals that are ‘SMART’ will be a tremendous asset to you. Let me remind you what SMART stands for and as I do, think how you could rewrite your own goals using these guidelines.
S ~ SPECIFIC
It’s important to be as specific as you can when you think about your goals. Being clear about your final outcome is essential because it lets you measure your progress more accurately whilst you are on your way. So ask yourself, what will you hear, see and feel when you have achieved success? How will you know that you have achieved this goal, what exactly will have changed?
M ~ MEASURABLE
How will you measure your success? For example, if you want to lose weight what will the scales have to read to let you know you have achieved your goal?
A ~ ACTION ORIENTATED AND ACHIEVABLE
If you don’t take action it will never happen. It’s essential that you take some action towards achieving your goal as soon as you can to help create the momentum you will need to carry you through.
R ~ REALISTIC
Ideally, your goal should stretch you, but it shouldn’t be so big that you feel daunted from even starting. Aim for a balance that is inspiring and stretching but not overwhelming.
T ~ TIMED
Setting yourself a time-frame for achievement is vital to help you stay on track. It also gives you a useful way of measuring your smaller achievements along the way. Use your diary or planner to record your target dates, even for the small milestones you will pass along the way. That way you can be aware of your successes too and not just the distance you still have to travel.
ACTIVITY: YOUR MOST PASSIONATE GOAL
Taking all these factors into account, write down the goal you are most passionate about.
Don’t just read these words and think about it. That won’t do anything worthwhile for you at all. Go and get a pen and paper and actually write out your goal. Then write a date in your diary for completion and celebration. When you write down your goal in this way you are in effect establishing a contract with yourself to seriously do something about it. So please don’t skip this step. Go and do it now.
Ideally, you should review your most important goals at least daily. Write them out and put them somewhere where you will see them often, such as on the bathroom mirror or on a card in your wallet or purse.
So then, being clear about your values and establishing goals is important, but coaching is also about self-development. As you develop, so you will change, and as you change so will your goals, which is why I would also recommend that you re-evaluate and if necessary re-write your goals at least once a month to be sure that you still really want them.
Nothing in life ever stands still, there is always movement either towards or away from your heart’s desire. Every single thing you do in life either takes you towards your goals or further away from them, and that includes your thoughts, beliefs and actions. Once you realise this you can become much more aware of whether those actions and thoughts are magnetically pulling you towards your goals or simply getting in your way.
Enjoy your goal setting; it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of coaching yourself whatever area of your life you are focusing on. Keep your goals in the forefront of your mind and treat them like your constant companions, visit them daily and enjoy their guidance. That is what they are there for.
Let me tell how all this made a big difference to a lovely 62 year old lady called Martha who had recently been bereaved.
Following the death of her husband some 6 months earlier Martha had been finding it increasingly difficult to go out on her own or to spend time in the company of friends and family. Her sense of loss and loneliness were intense and she was slowly beginning to shut herself away from the world. She had developed the belief that she couldn’t make friends on her own and that it wasn’t safe to go out without her husband. All this was made much worse as the initial support she had received began to fade away until the day came when she realised she needed to take some active steps to get out and about and make new connections before her health really suffered.
For Martha, the coaching process involved a great deal of work on changing her negative self-talk, reshaping her beliefs and mentally rehearsing feelings of greater confidence. But alongside all this inner work she also needed to set some very practical goals.
When we first started to work together it was very hard for Martha to get beyond the words, “I can’t,” even though she really knew what she needed to do. What helped her most was breaking down her goals into tiny baby steps that were very easily achieved. For example, one of her goals was to meet a friend for a shopping trip in a town that she hadn’t been to for a long time. Focusing on this goal was so overwhelming it quickly became more harmful than helpful but by breaking it down into tiny steps it became much more manageable. Her first step was to simply chat to her friend on the phone and arrange a place to meet that felt really safe to her. That done she planned her route in great detail, decided what she was going to wear in advance and so on. These were all tiny steps that added up to having the confidence and energy to actually go out and achieve her goal.
That shopping trip marked a turning point for Martha and she was soon able to turn her baby steps into confident strides.
I wanted to share this story with you in particular because some people think that goal setting always has to be about achieving massive change. It doesn’t. Sometimes it’s the baby steps that move us forward the most.
“Setting goals for significant accomplishments you want to achieve in your life, both personal and professional accomplishments, costs you nothing.
Failure to set them can cost you plenty. You are smack in the middle of the only life you are going to have. You can choose to succeed, or choose to drift; having goals makes the difference.”
ALEC MACKENZIE, SPEAKER, AUTHOR AND CONSULTANT