The best way to grow in any area of life is to set attainable goals. But how do you know if those goals are the “right” goals and how do we stick with them? Goals give direction but systems equal success. Fail-proof systems consist of 3 S’s: structure, strategy & scheduling. Let’s talk about goals first and then the system used to achieve them.
That is a loaded statement in my view. What is right? For whom, in what situation, and why? This is what stops us dead in our tracks, right? I call it analysis paralysis. It can also appear as resistance, fear or avoidance. Expect it to happen in the process of both setting and achieving your goal(s). Recognize it for what it is and consciously step around it letting it float away like a cloud.
The right goals are the ones that stir you in your deepest, true self. Maybe you are motivated by a new health diagnosis or crisis, perhaps you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, or it’s just time already to show up for yourself and lose the “weight” that is holding you back from living your best life now. Any goal that moves you from the inside-out from feeling stuck, disappointed and frustrated to feelings of confidence, joy, and thriving is a “right” goal!
The Get Things Done Process
A great place to start with goal setting is to take some time to look back at the past year, specifically observe what has your attention, any mistakes made, challenges faced and things you want to be different. What do you want to achieve? What have you been tolerating? Also, what is no longer serving you? Do not personalize this, rather think like an impartial scientist gathering data. If it’s on your mind it is because you would like things to be different.
Capture these ideas in a trusted system like a notepad, phone or planner that you use and touch regularly. Most of us sit to make a list trying to collect the “most important things” in a way that reflects some order of priorities and sequences without setting the many (or any) real actions to take. These are called open loops that will take up energy and prevent you from having a clear, totally effective focus on what’s important.
Collecting lots of things but not in an organized process that takes it out of our heads will only confuse. Clarify exactly what each item means and what to do about it. What small action(s) is first required to move this goal forward? And the next? And the next? Do you need to talk to someone to gain a better understanding or set an appointment? Some make good choices at the moment about stuff but lose the value of that thinking because they don’t efficiently organize the results.
The best systems cannot replace the necessity to reflect on the contents regularly to keep the system functional. All the plans, post-its and checklists (capturing, clarifying and organizing) cannot keep them current or accessible to your best advantage. Looking at your “trusted system” will keep you current about your actions, goals & feelings. (Yup, I said the F-word!) More on that later.
Warning: Do Not Do All Five Steps at One Time.
This is the number one reason people burnout and feels unsuccessful in getting themselves organized around doing all the things, all the goals, all the time. This sets an expectation for failure and we typically get what we expect.
Do This Instead: Stay Curious Longer & Reflect (Think) More
Anticipate there will be hiccups and understand there is a dynamic between good techniques/tools and their implementation. Like your goals, it will be helpful, if not imperative, to separate these tasks into stages as you move through your days and goal achievement.
Take a look at the list you captured and pick two things you wrote down and are going to accomplish or adopt by the end of the year. Ask yourself the following questions for each:
- Is this goal Big (ambitious) enough? It should create a little discomfort.
- Is it realistic and specific?
- Do I believe I can do it?
- Does it conflict with anything I want more?
Edit or alter your goals if necessary after asking yourself these questions. Next, write out your answers to the prompts below for each of your goals:
- Do my goals require the very best of myself, my supports & the environment?
- Goals are most likely to succeed because they reflect the tools and skills at our disposal. What structure(s) need to be in place for me to achieve this goal? (Waking up an hour earlier to reflect/organize myself or hiring a professional)
- What trade-offs are required to bring this to life?
- Am I willing to shift my priorities to dedicate the time and energy required?
- If your schedule doesn’t support that, the likeliness of reaching your goal is very low.
Lastly, keep the following tidbits of advice in mind throughout the process of achieving your goals:
- Keep them in front of you. Use post-its, pictures, and your “trusted source” to refer to, whatever you have to do to keep your goals in your working memory, to keep it a priority. You can use these tools as cues as well as for the actions you identify needing them to happen to achieve your goals.
- Reflect often about the result, the feeling you attach to accomplishing your goal.
- Review your Get Things Done system consistently to capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage in response to your environment.
- Don’t let life get in the way!
- Important over Urgent. Everything will be urgent, people will always need you or things from you, “right away”. Something will always “just take a minute.” But, each of these things adds up and takes time and energy away from your goals. Don’t let them.
- Trust the process you have in place. Know how you will respond to these requests/demands. Be prepared.
Engage with this process frequently to continue capturing, clarifying, organizing, and reflecting on what no longer serves you or create actions that turn into habits. These habits turn into the rituals reflecting what you value to achieve all your life goals. I believe in you and the new decades awaits your success!