It's hard to believe we've reached the end of the first quarter already! But it's true and the obvious question is, Are you 25% of the way to achieving your goals for the year? If you are, congratulations! If not, of course the next question is, Why not?
I've often written that I am ambivalent about "goal setting." Of course it's absolutely essential that we have clear, measurable goals. I'm not sure humans can really function any other way. Whether we like it or not, we all have big and small goals and we achieve many of them every day.
The problem is with the "big" goals. We have big goals like career, family, retirement, health and wealth. We tend to make a "big deal" of them. We write them down. We take workshops or read books about how to design and achieve them. But much of the time we fail to achieve these big goals despite all the fuss we put into them.
On the other hand, we routinely set (and achieve!) dozens of much smaller goals. We want dinner reservations for Friday night, or we want tickets to the big game or to take a vacation next year. These little goals are typically achieved without much thought, effort, or turmoil. What's the difference?
Why can't achieving our "big" goals be as clear and routine as achieving the small things--the "ordinary" goals--in life? That seems to be a great mystery.
1. Clearly and precisely define your big goals. Perhaps big goals frighten us, or they seem too far away or too complex, but for whatever reason many people never distinguish between dreams and goals. We all have big dreams. That's where the yachts and mansions and private jets come in. They're important, but they are not goals. Goals must be specific, measurable, have a plan for achieving them, and a deadline.
When it comes to little, safe goals we can be very specific, clear and strategic. I want a new television, so I save a few hundred dollars, shop the stores, and, presto! I've got a new television. But when it comes to big goals, like starting a business or owning a home in France, we hold back. We get vague or refuse to set a deadline. And we wonder why we never achieved our goal. Define (and write down!) your big goals!
2. Your goals must match your values. This is a huge problem! Our "little" goals nearly always match our true values. We want a new television, we have the money, and we deserve it. So we make the decision, and achieve the goal. Big goals, however, often sound "nice" but fail the values test. Starting a business may conflict with your desire to be home each evening. Or, working less and living simply may conflict with the belief that we "ought" to maximize our income. Goals must reflect your true values!
In the contest between nice-sounding goals and your true values, values win every time. In setting goals, start by reviewing your personal values, then choose goals that reflect who you "truly" are. I think you'll like the results.
3. Slow and easy beats drama every time. We are an impatient people! We want our goals now! At the very least, we want impressive giant steps toward our goals. We want to impress our friends and hit the jackpot this year. But life doesn't work that way. Big goals are...well, BIG! They take time. They may require dozens or hundreds of baby steps along the way. They may require hours of "grunt work" or multiple false starts, mistakes and frustrations along the way.
Here are two familiar strategies that can help. The first is the old saying, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Take the first step, and then the next, and one more after that. Build momentum and keep walking! The second strategy is the concept of "baby steps." Small, safe, easy, and familiar beats big, risky and "tomorrow" every time. Take baby steps if you must, but start walking in the direction you want to go!
You can reach your big goals! Millions of others have done it, and so can you. In fact, you've already achieved dozens of big goals in your own life. You learned to walk and talk. You learned to drive. You learned to date, perhaps got married, finished school, bought a house, and achieved any number of other goals. Whatever your next big goal, define it, align it with your values, and take steady, persistent steps to achieve it. You can do this, and we'll see you at the top!