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Goal Setting Tips that Will Help You Keep Your Resolutions

Goal Setting Tips that Will Help You Keep Your Resolutions

It is the time of year when most of us start thinking about all the things we wish we could do differently. We might even have regrets about what we didn’t get done or have goals for what we want to achieve in the coming year. The problem is, most of what you’ve been taught about goals is wrong… Or, at least, incomplete. Most of the conversation about goals is focused on the setting of the goal. The truth is, most of us need help achieving the goals. Here are four simple steps that will help you get better at achieving your goals, not just setting them.

1. Set an Attainable Short-Term Goal

Start with a one-day goal: a goal you can achieve in one day, by the end of the day. If you find yourself with doubts about the attainability of your goals, uncertainty about how to achieve them, or are facing any sort of goal setting crisis, focus on something that you can be successful in achieving in the near future. Start with a simple question, like, “What is the most important thing I can do today?” The answer to this question can be the basis for a daily goal.

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2. Focus on Frequency: Flex Your Goal Muscles

Set another short term goal tomorrow. The ability to set and achieve goals is a skill not unlike hitting a golf ball or making a free throw in basketball. If you are going to become good at it, you have to practice and use the skill frequently. Muscle memory, also known as motor learning, is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as riding a bicycle or typing on a keyboard.

While goal setting is a mental exercise and does not involve a motor task, like riding a bicycle, it is a skill that can be honed in much the same way through repetition and practice. And it can deliver invaluable benefits by helping you travel from point A to point B, taking you from planning to achievement and success.

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3. Measure for Mastery

Measurement is critically important, and it matters especially if you take your effort seriously. If you want to get very good at something, you must do it repeatedly, but if you want to become the best at something, you must do it repeatedly and measure your results. In the case of goal planning, I suggest writing your goal down as a way of measuring it. Remember, your deadline for achieving this goal should be pretty short-term.

In most situations, success in even the most ambitious goals comes down to executing the simple things, or a mastery of the basics. Measuring those simple steps and keeping score is essential to tracking your progress toward mastery. It should simply be used as a way to measure whether the goal that was set was attainable and was accomplished. The results gathered in the measurement step should have a positive bias toward the affirmative. Stated another way, if you are successfully getting better at achieving goals, you should have a higher percentage of goals achieved vs. not achieved.

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4. Review Your Course: Evaluate New Possibilities

As you pursue your goals, it is critical to review your prior performance. When you review your previously achieved goals, as well as your missed targets, you can gain valuable insight to help you revise your goals or define your next objective. This step can help you become more self-aware of both your abilities and limitations. At this point, you should also look to previous successes for new opportunities that may have presented themselves and for insights on how to pursue them. Review any missed targets to learn why these goals were not attained and where you may have deviated from your intended course.

An important part of course correction is to see how you can benefit from the experience of prior goal setting and pursuit. As you review your prior performance, you may discover that your perspective has changed and that a new direction may be in order. If you find yourself getting closer to your stated goal but further away from what “feels” like the right objective or path, you should dig deeper into those feelings and look for potential insights and course changes. The purpose of goal setting should be to accelerate your achievement toward your strategic objectives. This step in the process is designed to make sure that is happening and you are not following your goals blindly in a course that will take you off-track.

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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