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Goal setting is simply writing down a dream. Goal achieving is simply taking that written goal and taking action to complete it. Sounds easy doesn’t it. Imagine writing down your dream of making a million dollars. You can see the thousand dollar bills sitting in a large safe. Feel the texture, smell the aroma of freshly printed ink. Now all you have to do is write down an action plan, and do it step by step.
Some success gurus in the expert space will tell you it’s that simple. Just pay them a few thousand dollars and they will give you all the tools you need to find success. You determine what you want, and then go get it.
Unfortunately they don’t tell you the painful, messy and often expensive road to success. The 100 hour weeks, the mortgaging of your house, and the back stabbing people you have to deal with along the way. They certainly don’t tell you about the people that fail along the way, spending money they don’t have on products that they don’t need or the bad days when your spouse leaves you because she hasn’t seen you in a month.
Goal setting has been so over glamorized that you would think the rewards are easy. But in truth, the real question is; are you willing to do what it takes to be successful? Ask yourself:
Are you willing to put in the time, effort and money to move forward?
If so, let’s really simplify the whole process.
Let’s start at the beginning.
To help guide you along with the rest of this article I’ve taken a simple goal that you have probably faced in your life a few times. It’s one that I faced for way too long. It’s simply this; you have a collection of items that you need to put away. Maybe it’s a sink full of dishes, a pile of junk mail on your kitchen counter, or maybe, like me, a collection of tools sitting on your workbench.
You simply need to clean them up and put them away.
Simple enough . . . or is it?
Goal Setting Example
To start my goal setting example, I’ll share with you a task that should have taken me ten minutes at the most, yet I put it off for months. I had accumulated a pile of tools on my workbench that needed to be cleaned up and put back in my toolbox. I simply didn’t put them away after I worked around the house a few times. Simple enough. But I agonized and procrastinated about that task for months.
Maybe you can relate?
Maybe your garage is a mess. Maybe you have a junk room that needs sorting. Maybe your sink is piled up with dishes since last week . . . or longer.
Most people I know have some area that needs attention.
Just driving down my street on a Saturday morning and glancing behind the open garage doors lets me know I’m not alone with this goal.
In this example my goal is simply this. I want to put my tools back in the toolbox.
The first stop on your goal setting journey is to walk out into your garage. You see the pile of tools on the workbench and sitting on top is a newspaper, which catches your eye. On the back page is a picture of a garage organizing system. Instantly you daydream about the perfect garage. The gleaming white cabinets offset your painted floor. Your household tools are all organized and put away. Your larger tools are hanging neatly on the wall. Clean, shiny and beautiful.
Your dream is perfection.
You know what you want.
Unfortunately, you put the paper down and walk back in the house. Your tools still on the workbench.
Reality is that dreams alone do not make a goal.
You had a vision of success, but nothing else.
Definition of a Dream: a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind
Simply Said: The act of visualizing your goal or idea. You need to be able to see it.
You walk back in the house, somewhat depressed. You visualize that beautiful and organized garage in your mind but then think back to the ugly pile of tools you have sitting on the counter. You say to yourself; “I’m going to clean those tools up and put them away.”
Now you have a resolution. A resolve to do something about your present condition.
Definition of a Resolution: a resolve; a decision or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
Simply Said: The act of speaking your goal. You need to be able to describe the goal audibly.
Step 2: Vocalize Your Resolution. Completed
You remember hearing the old adage that you should write your goals down, so you walk over to your desk, grab a piece of paper and write down your goal. You simply write; I’m going to put my tools away.
You take the piece of paper and tape it to your computer monitor.
Now, every time you sit at your computer, you’ll be reminded that you need to put your tools away.
You have a written goal.
Definition of a Goal:
Simply Said: The act of writing your goal. You need to be able to describe the goal on paper.
Step 3: Write your goals down. Completed.
Staring at the goal on the monitor in front of you, you remember an acronym they used at work for goal setting. You recollect your manager saying you should set SMART Goals. Picking up your work folder off of your desk, you search until you find the SMART Goals handout. On it is listed five criteria.
A goal must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
So you take five minutes and list out some specifics
- Specific; I will take all the tools off of the workbench, clean them, and put them back in the proper drawers of my toolbox.
- Measurable: When all of the tools on the desk are in the box, the goal will be completed.
- Attainable: Putting all the tools away is certainly well within my ability.
- Relevant: Putting my tools away is relevant to a clean and well organized garage.
- Time Bound: I will put my tools away by the end of the day tomorrow.
Definition of a SMART Goal: It needs to conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
Simply Said: The act of writing out SMART specifics. You need to be able to complete all five criteria on paper.
Step 4: SMART Goal Criteria Written Down. Completed.
Now you have a deadline and specifics, but still no action plan. You’ve moved closer to completing your goal, but in my research about 50% of SMART Goals fail. Unfortunately, many goal setting plans stop here.
Why Goals Fail
Goals fail because there is something missing in the execution.
In the case here, you have a goal, but at a time that is distant. You know what needs to be done, but you have no action plan. You have visualized success, but not how to achieve it.
Definition of Failure: nonperformance of something due, required, or expected:
As humans, we are generally lazy. Our lizard brain asks: Why would we want to go out into the hot garage and get all dirty cleaning up tools? After all, no one will see the mess. We start making excuses. We start thinking about anything but the task at hand. Going back in the living room and having a cool one watching TV, sounds a lot better than your dirty stinky garage.
I’ll put the tools away LATER . . .
Definition of Procrastination: Putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention
Unfortunately, LATER for many people never comes. Often we procrastinate with a lesser job or task, or just go veg out in front of the television.
What we really need is a . . .
So far, we have set ourself a goal of putting our tools away. Following all of the guidelines for goal setting, we now have a SMARTER goal. We have a far off deadline, and our mind is trying to distract us with more pleasurable activities like watching TV. Unfortunately, when you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying to yourself, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”
Imagine how you will feel when you miss the deadline tomorrow.
the self talk will rage . . .
- I can’t even put my tools away
- I’m so stupid, what a dunce
- I don’t have any willpower
Then of course, you’ll grab a pint of ice cream and go watch another TV show.
But think back to the goal. Every time you look at that pile of tools you stress out. You feel stupid for letting your tools get like that, and even worse for procrastinating who knows how many times that you have walked into the garage.
Setting the goal adds stress.
However, instead of a goal, how about developing a system to clean and sort your tools. Then just set a timer and execute the system. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you will enjoy life much more.
Definition of System: Any formulated, regular, or special method or plan of procedure:
So here is how a tool/object cleaning system would work: You pick up one tool, wipe it off with a rag and cleaner, walk over to your toolbox and put it in the proper drawer. You audibly say to yourself, I’m going to pickup this hammer, clean it off and put it in drawer number two. Then walk back to workbench and repeat.
Set a timer for ten minutes and execute the system.
No goal or performance mental stress hit.
The easiest way to take action on a system or goal is to use what is know as a “timebox.” Just turn off all distractions, set a timer for a desired time (50 minutes is a popular time for longer projects) and then do one and only one task until the timer goes off. Take a ten minute break and then repeat as necessary.
Definition of Action: An act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity:
Definition of a SMARTER Goal: It needs to conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely and be designed around an Existing Habit, where the Routine is changed.
Goal in the Box
Some Assembly Required
The Impossible Gift
Can I give this goal to someone and be guaranteed that they accomplish it?