Goals

Mind – my goal setting superpower

“Mum, what’s your superpower?”

Like many children, my six-year-old daughter has an amazing imagination and likes to play the ‘superpower game’. If you’re not familiar with this, you have to imagine a superpower that you’d like to have and the reason why. I’m generally not very creative and come up with invisibility, x-ray vision, or flying!

But, I’ve been thinking a bit more about this lately and I do actually have a superpower! I am brilliant at setting goals for myself AND achieving them!

I have a proven track record for this. I can proudly say that I’m one of the few who sets New Year’s Resolutions – and actually sticks to them!

If you’re interested, I can share my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions (all 18 of them) with you! If you’re really interested, I can share those from previous years too!!

 

Need some a hand?

What’s more, like all good superheroes, I believe that I could help you too.

Easy does it

Looking closely about my superpower, it’s really quite straightforward. I can summarise this into a few simple steps:

  1. start with an idea of what I want to achieve
  2. articulate this into a compelling goal / create a compelling vision
  3. break this down into smaller, manageable steps
  4. set myself timeframes for achieving these steps
  5. monitor my progress against them
  6. check that the smaller steps are contributing to the end goal
  7. keep working through the steps until I achieve my goal
  8. celebrate when I reach my goal!

I’ll explain each step and demonstrate with a couple of examples.

 

  1. start with an idea of what I want to achieve

This can start pretty vague initially. The key thing here is that it has to be something I want, not what someone else wants (for them or from me).

Your goals could be something big or small, long-term or shorter-term.

They could be New Year’s Resolutions, like mine, but they could also include other goals including personal targets, work objectives, or financial, fitness, performance goals etc.

Example 1 – I want to retire in the sun

Example 2 – I’d like to try a vegetarian diet for a month

  1. articulate this into a clear compelling goal

I think this is an important step. I have to make the goal something that really motivates me. It helps if I make it SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. It’s also useful to extract it from my brain and put it down somewhere, either in my notebook or on my vision board. Telling someone about it is also a great idea to help keep me motivated, as it makes me more accountable.

Sometimes reaching the goal can be enough of an achievement itself to make it compelling. I actually think having something else to look forward to doubly cements it.

Example 1 – On retirement, I’d like to live in a warm country. I have a picture of this on my vision board.

Example 2 – I will follow a vegetarian diet for the whole of the month of January 2018. I share this goal with my friends and family, so they can support me and hold me accountable.

  1. break this down into smaller, manageable steps

 

Have you heard the one about how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Depending on the size of your goal, it’s really important to chunk the goal down into manageable bite-sized tasks and dependencies etc.

Example 1 – Research warm places, look at expat living conditions, connect with some people already living there, calculate how much money I’ll need, identify my desired retirement date etc.

Example 2 – Identify alternative meals, create a meal planner, buy the right ingredients etc.

  1. set myself timeframes for achieving these steps

The timeframe for your overall goal could be fixed e.g. passing an exam or completing a certain event.  However, it could be more fluid, with other dependencies. It’s the same with the steps. It’s sometimes easier to set a plan upfront and to follow this, rather than having to try and motivate yourself at various points along the way.

Example 1 – Research warm places – q1-18, look at expat living conditions – q2-18, calculate how much money I’ll need q3-18, identify my desired retirement date q4-18 etc.

Example 2 – Identify alternative meals – 15th Dec-17, create a meal planner – 22nd Dec-17, buy the right ingredients – 29th Dec-17, eat a varied vegetarian diet 1st-31st Jan-18

  1. monitor my progress against them

The point here is to have something that monitors your progress against your goals. This should serve to both motivate you and help to make you accountable.

This can be done in different ways – I actually use different methods for different goals. Sometimes it’s a paper checklist with ticks and stickers. Sometimes I track times on my running watch. A friend is training for a triathlon and is communicating her weekly progress on Facebook.

Example 1 – create a checklist on a spreadsheet with various items, dependencies and dates (mini-project plan)

Example 2 – Prepare a meal planner for the month of January with days ticked off as completed

  1. check that the smaller steps are contributing to the end goal

This is important. If my goal is to complete a triathlon, then my weekly swimming sessions are contributing to it. However, if my goal is a half-marathon, then this is less helpful (although cross-training is also great)!  However sometimes what we’re doing is a little off track. And although we think we’re doing something positive, it may not be positively contributing. It could also be preventing us from actually achieving our goal in the longer term.

Procrastination could also be an issue here.

Example 1 – spending time researching holiday destinations is fun, but these may not be suitable places to live

Example 2 – Browsing in cookery books might be enjoyable, but may not be useful if the recipes contain meat

  1. keep working through the steps until I achieve my goal

For some this is great – they love the methodical nature and just keep going once they can see the progress is getting them closer to their goal. For others, this can be incredibly hard. Here are some pointers.

  • Remind yourself of your end goal. And remind yourself of how far you’ve come!
  • Tell people how you’re doing – recognition and encouragement can be really motivational!
  • The power of habits can also be a great help here, as this can enable consistent progress towards goals. While this doesn’t eliminate the effort required, it can really help in terms of motivation.

Example 1 – keep working through the checklist items in a logical manner. Other ideas may come to you along the way, so add those to the task list if these will be beneficial

Example 2 – Continue along your meal planner day by day. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan or swap days and meals if this helps you to maintain motivation.

 

  1. celebrate when I reach my goal!

It’s great to mark the achievement of a goal with a celebration. This could be a treat that you’ve promised yourself, or it could just be a well-deserved weekend off or a glass of wine.

Example 1 – bask in the sunshine at your new retirement dwelling, with a cocktail

Example 2 – treat yourself to a meal out or a new cook book

 

Tips for successful goal setting

Make sure the goals are yours! This might seem odd, but sometimes we are working towards things that others want for us. We need to want to achieve the goals we are working towards!

Believe in yourself – roll forward to the time when you’ve just completed your goal. How do you feel? What can you hear and see around you? How will you celebrate?

Have a range of goals – life & work, short & longer term, physical & mental!  At any one time I have a range of goals that I am working on. Tick off some easier ones to give you a boost and have some bigger ones to aim for something more challenging.

Define your criteria for success. You may want to learn a new skill, but does that mean mastery? You may want to run a marathon, but will you be the next Paula Radcliffe?

Don’t be afraid to adjust the goal. Maybe the original goal that you set for yourself isn’t quite right. Ask yourself what you are really after, reassess and carry on.

Don’t give up – you may go slightly off track, but it doesn’t mean you need to give up. Pick yourself up – maybe remind yourself why this goal is important to you – and start again.

Use others to help you – share your goal with others (friends, family, colleagues etc) and they may help to keep you motivated and accountable. You could also find someone else working to the same or a similar goal, as an added bonus.

Working with a coach could also help to empower and enable you to achieve your goals.

 

My 2018 goals

I bet you’re itching to know how I’m getting on with my 2018 objectives!

Well the good news is that today, 31st January, already marks the achievement of 3 of my 18 goals:

  • Dry January
  • No meat for a month
  • No tea or coffee for a month

This already gives me a fantastic boost and sets me up well for the rest of the year.

The others, mostly longer term and ongoing ones, are going well too.

I’ll admit that I’ve adjusted one – complete a daily Sudoku. I’m new to this and confess I find it tricky. I started out in January doing one a day. I’ve definitely improved, but the puzzles have got harder and this is taking valuable time away from other things that are much higher priority. So, I adjusted my goal to doing one every other day. I may adjust this further still, as long as I am still regularly completing one and building skills in this area.

 

Wrap-up

People may have goals for many different reasons. Goals can help us to learn, grow, adapt and enjoy a more fulfilling life. Many people start off with great intentions, but ultimately struggle to achieve their goals. I hope that the steps and tips that I’ve outlined above will be useful in helping you to attain yours. I’d love to hear how you get on!

 

Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.