“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” ~ Zig Ziglar
I can’t think of a better quote to get us all thinking about how well we decide and set goals for ourselves. In short, there is an art to goal setting. This is your quick guide to recheck your goals to make sure they stay motivating and true to you.
Check 1: Is your goal concretely outlined?
Be specific about what you want. A lot of coaching conversations can focus on unpacking broad goal hopes such ‘I just want to feel more fulfilled which could mean so many things. Starting to think in broad terms about your goal is good but it doesn’t help you set a focused course for action. Narrowing down to ‘I want to feel fulfilled in my work’ instead now starts to sketch your goal more crisply.
Check 2: Have you framed your goal positively?
Avoid negative language in describing your goal such as ‘I want to stop / quit / reduce / lose…’ etc. Negative words only amplify our human negativity bias. Negativity naturally grabs more attention. Negative goal descriptions will not sustain your motivation in the long run especially in times of challenge. Writing your goal in aspirational language does. Compare the two goal statements below as an example.
‘I should work less to stop missing out on time with my family.’
‘I will have a healthy work balance to enjoy spending more time with my family.’
On a bad day, I know which of those would work better for my goal ‘stickability’.
Check 3: Is your goal ‘worthy but dull’?
Some of the goals you have in mind may feel virtuous in your quest for a better you. Here’s a crunch question which will ultimately determine if you will stick with your goal. Does it actually excite you? Is it really in tune with your personal values and what makes you tick? If it doesn’t, ditch it. Set a goal which does. Dutiful can be admirable but it is never compelling.
Check 4: Does your goal engage your senses?
Following on from exciting, writing your down your goal should also trigger your imagination and wider senses. If you achieved your goal, how would it actually feel? What would you see? If for example your goal is to move to live beside the sea, think about waking up there and describe it. What do you see, hear, smell, feel and touch? By painting a vivid picture about reaching your goal you can feel more emotionally connected and invested in it.
Check 5: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?
What will tell you that you’ve reached your goal? Vague goals such as ‘being happier’ will not ultimately work if you don’t actually outline a definite measure or marker to show an increase in your happiness. This is where the SMART criteria come into play (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timebound). Have an end point which will without doubt show that you have triumphed.
Check 6: What does your goal need?
Aspirations are great. Not thinking through what you practically need to make that goal realistically achievable is already undermining your ability to reach it. You’re not to climb Everest with the idea but none of the gear. Think of what you might need to have in place to support your goal aspirations (whether time, money, skills or other people / resources) and factor it into your goal plan.
Check 7: Does the goal belong to you?
This may seem like an odd question but it’s a forgotten factor. Many of us have been in a situation where we find ourselves doing something not because it was our idea. We have entered into something to please someone, felt obliged or been nagged into it. I’ve done it, set a ‘shared’ a goal which never felt like mine and I struggled to feel a deep connection with it. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
Whatever you are working towards, make sure it’s yours and that it ticks all of the above boxes for you and you alone.
Good luck with your goal!
Author: Maire McGrath, Director, FutureSpark Coaching