We’re coming to the end of the year, and most would take this time to review and plan their year ahead with new year resolutions.
Do you set goals? Do you reset your new year resolutions year after year without really progressing or achieving them? Do your new goals get forgotten along the way? According to a University of Scranton study in 2014, only 8% of those who set out to achieve their New Year’s goals actually achieve them.
Let’s not just talk about new year resolutions but also the goals that we set. Why are we not achieving the goals we set? Don’t we want these goals? From both research and personal experiences, I can boldly highlight three reasons
1. We set too many goals all at once
When we set too many goals; e.g to travel more, to set up a business, to lose 10kg, to run a marathon, to be a great partner, parent or child, to get a promotion all at once, we are setting too many focus (and distractions) for ourselves and in turn, setting ourselves up for failure.
When that happens, we either tread water (no progress), take longer to reach where we want to go or we drop some of those goals that we could have achieved if we had spent more time and focus on that goal.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t have many goals. Over our lifetime, we’re bound to have goals and change goals at different stages of our lives. And the list may even grow longer over time, but what we need to focus now, is to pick one to three goals that really matter to us, that we really want to achieve and focus on right now.
2. We don’t really want the goals we set
Have you ever set goals that you think it’d be nice to have? I have.
For many years, I had ‘practice meditation’ on my list, but I barely did it. In fact, over the last five years on my goals list, I have sat down and practised for less than five times. Each time I tried to meditate at home, I either fell asleep or hated the feeling. It just didn’t work for me. Meanwhile, I relish Yoga sessions so much that I would travel to get to the Yoga centre for that one hour of practice. Doing meditation is a means to practice consciousness and mindfulness which I can practice through other means.
As I looked back at my goals, I realised I didn’t really want some of the goals that I set for myself. We may have spent a lot of time and energy on these goals, but when we realise that we don’t really want them, these goals easily become a struggle. For instance, do you know why you want to chase that career goal, to climb up the corporate ladder, to travel more or to set up profitable businesses?
3. We set goals that are too vague or too difficult to achieve within a very short time frame
If you set mediocre goals, you will get mediocre results. If you set vague goals, you will get vague results. Be clear on what you want to achieve, with specific actions, non-negotiable schedule and set a due date that you cannot postpone.
Also, when we set goals, we want to cover as much action steps and timeline as we can and follow through. It’s great if what we complete goes accordingly to what we have planned. However, when we set goals that are too rigid, e.g to lose x kg every month without fail or to plot a progress so linear that it does not allow us to relax, take breaks or even change, sooner or later it will be a stressful burden to us.
8 Steps to Set Smart Goals and Achieve Them
With the ever-increasing uncertainties today, we all crave for certainties to some extent. Whether you set a goal to be healthy so that you won’t have to deal with hefty medical costs in future, or to set up a business so that you can live with more freedom and independence, setting and achieving our goals not only build us as individuals as we progress and grow but we also gain confidence and empowerment when we achieve our goals. When we achieve what we set out to be, we are more motivated to do more and be more, because we know we can.
1. Write Your Goals Down
It seems simple and basic, but there are many who either sets no goals or those who set goals in their head. Over time, as we get busy and distracted, we tend to forget these goals that we set earlier on.
2. Pick 1 – 3 Goals that Really Matter to you
Pick goals that you really want to achieve, not what feels or looks nice to have, not what you should be achieving.
3. Know WHY you Want to Achieve these Goals
It should not be for anyone else but yourself. Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want that promotion? What is your motivation in wanting to start that business?
4. Break these Few Important Goals down into Smaller Actions with a Specific Timeline
Have an action list for each goal with a set due date. And, break these actions further into really small baby steps. In fact, some coaches suggest that you break your goals into steps so simple that you can do it immediately.
5. Post your Goals and Actions Steps somewhere Visible
Making your goals, the whys and the actions steps visible not only reminds you of what you want to achieve, it also allows you to review and track your progress.
6. Act on Them
No actions = no progress. All the planning and brainstorming may feel like a productive and fulfilling exercise, but you won’t reach your goal with just planning. You have to take action.
7. Track Your Progress
Make an appointment with yourself on a regular basis to review your progress. If you find weekly reviews too time-consuming, you can always do it monthly or quarterly.
Be conscious of how you set your due date. When we set goals for ourselves, we tend to be ambitious and want to achieve the most in the least amount of time. When we don’t see results, it is easy to give up. Set actions steps that are realistic, that you can do, pace yourself and do within your limits.
If you find yourself unable to progress because you lack some skills or experiences, go out there and get these knowledge, skills and experiences.
8. Get Feedback on Your Progress
Sometimes we may feel stuck even when we have taken a lot of actions. It helps to have support groups or people you trust who can provide you honest feedback, give you comments and motivate you to do better.
Be careful of who you share your motivation and feedback with, though. Stay way from naysayers or negative people who are always difficult. No amount of persuasion or justification will prove you right even if you are right.
The above steps are really what many would tell you to do on SMART goal setting. i,e, set Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based. But this also incorporates the SMARTER Goal Setting method to include Evaluation and Review as well.
While we may be anxious to achieve our goals, we have to learn to be patient and be willing to try. Also be willing to fail. When you fail, don’t be quick to give up and say you are not cut out for it or you won’t be successful.
The most successful people don’t only depend on skills or talents or experiences, they also persevere a lot. That’s what separates people who achieve their goals and people who don’t.
Meanwhile, enjoy the journey and don’t forget to celebrate your milestones.
Featured photo credit: Pablo via pablo.buffer.com