Before I start: I 'wrote' this article but almost all of the content has been borrowed from other sources, including: -
"The Greatness Guide" by Robin Sharma
"Tools of Titans" by Tim Ferriss
"Mindset" by Carol Dweck
"Fear Setting" Sam Thomas Davies
A quick caveat. I'm not very good at setting goals & will procrastinate for extended periods over things that I 'should' be doing but is uncomfortable for me in some way to do. So don't make this out to be some kind of lecture. Goal setting is an extremely valuable tool if utilised correctly. I'm slowly learning how powerful it can be, and I hope you learn something from this short article....
It's that time of the year where the focus shifts. We at once become both retrospective and forward-looking at the same time. We look back at the year that has just gone with a sense of how quickly time has passed. The New Year brings a host of hopes, expectations, goals, a sense of positive optimism. The thought that, yes, 2017 will be my year!
Any talk of the New Year cannot be complete without a focus on New Years Resolutions. That check-list of goals and dreams we set at the beginning of every year only to either fail miserably by February or forget all about them once the champagne has worn off.
So how should we set goals? What are the most effective strategies for getting the most out of our time?
Here is my guide to goal setting. Applying these principles will make the process easier and more successful. Here's to 2017!
So firstly, why set goals in the first place? Well, Robin Sharma lists 6 key reasons to set goals: -
1) Focus: 'Where your focus goes, your energy flows.' - "I am a big believer that if you have a very clear vision of where you want to go then the rest of it is much easier" (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
2) Growth: Goal setting promotes personal growth. The value of reaching a goal is not in achieving that result but in the journey you have been on.
3) Intentionality: By articulating your goals and reviewing them daily you exert an influence on your life, living in a proactive rather than reactive manner.
4) Measurement: What gets measured gets improved. You have a standard upon which to measure your progress.
5) Alignment: Ensure your daily actions are aligned with your deepest values.
6) Inspiration: The act of articulating your goals causes you to step into a whole new possibility for what your life can become.
So, what can we glean so far about effective goal setting?
- Goals should be set in alignment with your deepest values
- Goals should be physically written down - when you write a goal down, you crystallise it and give it tangible form.
- Goals should be reviewed on a regular basis
- Goals should be measurable in some way
- Goals should have a deadline. A goal without a deadline has no urgency.
Process vs Outcome Goals
Outcome goals = The destination
Process goals = The road map
In order to be successful at goal setting we need to set both outcome and process goals. Focusing purely on the outcome is likely to be unsuccessful. You have to focus on the steps you have to take to get to the outcome: -
"Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end'
This quote, borrowed from Christopher Sommer in the book 'Tools of Titans', is a fantastic illustration of why we need to fall in love with the process. The process of losing 20kgs of body weight is a long and arduous process. Therefore pick modalities that will be most enjoyable for you to sustain in the long-term. If you don't enjoy running then don't run!
An example of an outcome goal: -
- "I will lose 20kgs in body weight by the end of June"
An example of a process goal: -
- "I will walk 10,000 steps every day & will replace all soft drinks with water"
Both outcome and process goals are required for successful goal setting. The outcome goal can be viewed as the long-term destination. The process goals are short-term habits that will take you toward your desired outcome.
Fear Setting: The Alternative to Goal Setting.
"Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action" (Benjamin Disraeli)
Decide what the cost of inaction will be, as opposed to the cost of taking action. Will doing nothing be more expensive in the long-run? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do.
Fear Setting Exercise: -
1) Write a 'to-do' list and a 'not to-do' list. Ask yourself 'why haven't I done my most important 'to-do'?' Then ask yourself 'why haven't I stopped doing my most important not-to-do?'. Often the things we procrastinate on are the things we fear doing the most.
2) Define your fears clearly: On a piece of paper write 3 headings: -
- What is the worst case scenario if I did what I'm considering?
- What are all the things I could do to minimise that from happening?
- If the worse case scenario happened, what steps could I take to repair the damage? Each failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. It's often easier to get things back under control than we imagine.
'Crowd Sourcing' your Resolutions
Unsure about what to focus on for the year ahead? Why not get 1 or 2 of your closest friends and/or family members to set some goals for you. The idea sounds crazy at first, but often those closest to you will know what you may need to focus on most. It could be working on a weakness, or building on particular strengths you have. It may be the push you need to finally do the things you have been putting off for so long. You could always incentivise it by making small bets with friends (such as a diet pool where everyone would agree to wager a certain amount of money and the person to lose the most weight/fat wins the cash).
Some Final Points to Bear in Mind
- Goals don't always have to be set with the idea of improving upon weaknesses. Sometimes it is more productive to work on your strengths.
- Goals can be set from all facets of your life. I like to set training goals, lifestyle goals and career goals. Don't limit yourself by thinking you can only set goals related to work or training.
- Have a "moonshot" in mind. What is the one over-arching goal? What is the goal that excites you and keeps you up at night?
So use this time of year constructively. Make sure you set yourself both outcome and process goals. Physically write your goals down and review them regularly. Ensure there is a deadline to provide a sense of urgency and to avoid procrastination. If you are delaying starting, work out what it is you are fearing most from taking action. Decide whether the cost of inaction outweighs the cost of taking action. If stuck for ideas consult those around you. Good luck!
Happy New Year - may 2017 be your most successful year yet.