A 'how to' guide for goal setting

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score” – Bill Copeland.

Many people don’t know what their goals are.  They are allowing life to pass by, knowing that they feel unhappy or unfulfilled, but not knowing how to find a way out. Other people may have goals or dreams for their life but do not know how to go about making them happen and so give up before they have really started. They then assume their goals were childish or unrealistic because they did not have the tools to make them possible.

If you don’t know what you want to do but you know that you are dissatisfied, take the time to think about key areas of your life: your work, wealth, relationships and health. Look at each of these key areas in turn and decide if you are where you want to be. Alternatively write under each heading your dream situation for each of these key areas. If your dream is not matching up to your reality then you have mismatch and it is that mismatch which you may want to address. Your dream situation is your goal or purpose and you then need to consider what steps to take to turn that dream into your reality. 

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great’ and it is that first step which is critical. So how do you work out that first step – you start with the last! It might seem contradictory but you need to know where you are going before you can work out how to get there.  

So let’s take an example goal of writing a book – you want to be a published author. Most people would plan to write the book but forget that the book needs to be published so your dream is to be published NOT to write a book. Writing a book is a step on the way and the first step is to start writing.  

Many people talk about SMART goals - there are variations but generally each goal or step needs to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. So rather than set your goal as ‘start writing’ which does not satisfy the SMART criteria you would set your first goal as ‘write 100/500/1000 words by the end of the week’. This ensures that at the end of the week you can check if you have achieved your goal as it is specific and measurable.  You also make sure that your goal is attainable by being realistic about the time you have to spend on achieving your goal and setting your word target accordingly. Your next goal may be another set amount of words by the end of the following week...and so on. Set intermediate goals along with your small step goals so perhaps you would have a one-month goal of completing the first chapter. A three-month goal of completing one-third of the book and a twelve-month goal of finishing. The goals have to work for you so set a realistic timetable for your steps as this makes them more likely to be completed. Remember you also want to get published so if you have written a significant proportion of your book at six months then you could consider contacting some agents or submitting the first few chapters to a publishing house. But don’t be vague – remember each step or goal needs to be specific. Rather than set a goal of ‘find a publisher or agent’, instead make one of your goals in the first month or two to identify three agents to approach and three publishing houses. Once you had completed your early chapters you could then set a goal of contacting the three agents and three publishers, but you are more likely to contact them if you have a list of whom you want to contact because it is a SMART goal. If a goal is not achieved or is unsuccessful, don’t despair, you simply set another one. So if those publishers or agents turn you down you identify three more of each and contact them.

Developments to SMART mean that it may be more productive to set SMARTER goals. The E stands for Evaluation and the R stands for Review. So check your goals and steps and if you decide that they can be improved or are not working then review what is working well and where you are stuck and evaluate ways you can improve your chances of success. So back to publishing your book - you may decide along the way that elements of your writing need improvement and so you sign up to a Writers group for feedback and support.   These additional elements of feedback and review make your chances of success even greater.

Perhaps at the end of the year you have not achieved your goal. That is ok too.   You will be far closer to reaching it than you were at the start and you will have tooled yourself along the way to understanding what you need to do to ultimately achieve your dream. Find yourself a journal such as MasterPlanner and write your SMART goals down around your day-to-day life. With its weekly checklists and monthly reviews, you are only a few SMART steps away from living a life you love.

If you need more guidance on breaking down your goals then send us an email - we are here to help.


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