Here we are already! If you are like me, I am feeling completely blindsided… where did 2021 go?? (I have to share my typo… when writing this I wrote “where did 2020 go?” whoa friends really?!?!) OK back to the point at hand… here we are back in goal-setting season! Have you started thinking about the year ahead or the years ahead? This is often the time of year that we reflect on past goals and look to set new ones. Realistically, goal setting is important any time and all the time! I want you to all be successful with your goals in the coming year and not let another month go by where your priorities are set aside. My goal is to share with you how I approach goals in hopes that I will help you to achieve yours.
You may have heard of the SMART criteria credited to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept, from his book The Practice of Management published in 1954. Since then, there have been countless versions of these criteria aimed at helping people set goals in their personal and professional lives. For me, this is an ongoing and evolving “practice”. What I mean by this is, I try something on for a while then tweak it as I see fit. What I wanted to share with you today is where I have currently landed for setting my goals personally and professionally. My hope is that it might help you to set, and more importantly, achieve your goals in 2022. Please take it and tweak it to fit you; make it your own!
START is the acronym I use for goal setting:
Let’s look at each of these.
Often our goals are very general. For example, to “reduce stress” or “get fit” or “eat better”. These examples are well-intentioned, yes, but need to be more specific so that you can really drill down to what it is that you are trying to achieve. So, if we take the “reduce stress” example it is important to clarify what this means to you specifically, is it that you want to feel less stress in your body; think about and specifically list the feelings (physical or mental) that you are wanting to reduce or avoid. Maybe “reduce stress” to you means more time for things that you enjoy. It could also mean that you show up differently in your relationships. It could also be linked to your performance at work or passion projects. In other words, you want to define what “reduce stress” means to you. There are no rules with this it is YOUR goal! The key here is to be SPECIFIC with what YOU are looking to achieve.
An important part of goal setting is defining how you will know you have achieved your goal. What does the end goal look like? From here you can set specific metrics to help keep you on track so that you know that you are on track to achieving your goal. An example here might be to spend 6 hrs/ week in your garden from spring to late fall. The obvious metric here would be to measure your garden time. You might also consider evaluating the things that keep you out of the garden! Could you make a checklist of items that are getting in the way of this goal? Each item on this list might also be trackable. For example, you might have listed distractions like social media. You could track the time you find yourself lost in the web of your favorite platform and put a plan in place to reduce it. Could you free up more time by outsourcing tasks like cleaning your home? Maybe you could recruit other family members to put their share of the family duties or hire out if it is in your budget. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Now if we take it back to the original list, this too can form one more thing that is trackable. Each item on your list of distractions keeping you out of the garden in our example can be crossed off the list once it is managed. We all know that it is OH SO SATISFYING to cross things off a list!! Then to see your list go from 0% complete to 10 % complete to 50% complete… !! You get the picture. There are no rules with this, decide what you want to measure and track so that you can stay on track with your progress. I like to think of this as the checks and balances to make sure you are on track. The key is mapping this out from the beginning so that you know where you are going, how far you have come, AND when you might need to adjust.
In my opinion, one of the most critical steps in any goal-setting process is breaking the goal down into steps. When you look at any goal it can be overwhelming and it can seem impossible to reach, but if you break it down into smaller steps it becomes more manageable as it naturally breaks down the goal into steps that you can employ each day. For example, if you had a specific goal to eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day you would want to list out the steps you would need to take to achieve this goal. This might include actionable steps like identifying which fruits and vegetables everyone in the family likes, identifying how many fruits and vegetables you eat daily on average currently so that you know how much you need to add, finding new recipes that incorporate more of these items that you and your family enjoy, adding in an additional grocery shopping day to ensure that you always have fresh produce, meal planning to ensure that you are planning to achieve this goal, etc. Do you see how this takes this really big goal and breaks it down into steps that you are able to follow, that are less overwhelming and that naturally fall into a sequence? I’m going to say it again… there are no rules, the key here is breaking your goal down into the steps that YOU need to follow to manage your goal. Another way you might look at this is by making a success plan 😉
By connecting your goal to a reason that is truly meaningful to you is critical. This reason should be in line with your values and hold deeply personal meaning for you. Connecting your goal in this way helps to keep you on track when sticking to your goal gets hard. This is the motivation we all need when negative thoughts, self-doubt, fear, complications, hardships, etc. set in. Often, we confuse our goal with the reason, these are NOT the same thing. If we use a professional example this time, you might have a goal of getting a promotion in mind. Why does this promotion matter to you? A promotion often comes with a raise, but I am sure that just watching number in your bank account is not what nourishes you, I encourage you to think deeper. What would this raise do for you? Would it mean that you could contribute more to your children’s education fund to help build a brighter future for them? Would it mean that you could take more time off to be with your family and build memories that you will treasure? Maybe, it would allow you to contribute more to charities that are near and dear to you. Maybe it has nothing to do with the raise and everything to do with the new challenge that the promotion would entail. Would the promotion be an acknowledgment of a job well done and fuel additional creative juices to inspire you to do more and contribute in a more meaningful way? Maybe, the promotion has to do with building a legacy. Are you getting this? The promotion in this example is not the “reason”, the direct results of the promotion are not the “reason” either; the reason is connected to what is nearest and dearest to you. Once again there are no rules, there is no right or wrong, the key is connecting your goal to something that is truly meaningful to you.
In order to keep your goal on track, it is important to set a specific time frame for WHEN you will achieve this goal. We have all been in situations where we tell ourselves that we want to do “x”, but it keeps getting pushed off and pushed off… and pushed off. If you truly want to achieve the goal that you are setting you need to commit and part of this is setting a timeline for yourself. This timeline may be a specific date for example June 1st. It might be progressive. If we take the “get fit” example if you had set a specific goal to run 10 km 3x/ week; you might start by running 1km 3x/ week and increasing your run by 500m each month until you met your goal. You might consider giving each “Actionable Step” its own timeline and/ or completion date. Finally, your time frame could be seasonal or quarterly meaning that you would set a time frame for a goal to be completed by the end of spring or 2nd quarter. Again, for a final time, there are no rules! The key is picking and committing to a deadline.
A couple of last little points, be realistic, CHOOSE to set yourself up for success. Choosing unattainable goals is only going to end in frustration and heartache. Also, don’t try to bite off too much all at once. Remember, you are human and one human at that, you will not change the world with a single goal, but you could with several strategic goals over time 😊
So, let's get started! Let’s plan for successes and achievements!
Happy goal setting!