Does it feel like you seldom make real progress on your goals? Are you good at making time to set goals but not so good at actually achieving them? Have you ever wondered why your new year’s resolutions consistently fail? If you would like to routinely achieve the goals you set, there are two key components you need to understand.
The first is that you have the greatest probability of achieving goals that are consistent with your highest true values. What does this mean? I use the term “true values” because I’m not talking about those principles commonly espoused in books and training programs – principles such as loyalty, integrity, and honesty. Rather, your true values are the things that are a demonstrated priority in your life. Values such as travel, raising children, building a business, and eating organic might all fit the bill. When you set goals that are in alignment with these values, you are more likely to achieve them because you are already committed to the underlying behaviours necessary to make them happen and you don’t have competing objectives.
For example, if you set a goal of losing 20 pounds but you don’t actually value fitness or health above the other values you commit your time to, you’re unlikely to maintain the long term behaviour changes necessary for achieving the goal. You will naturally revert to the behaviours that support your highest true values. The solution? You can either accept your true values as they are and set goals that are consistent with them; or you can do some work to change your highest true values so that they are values that support the goals you set. (The latter is very doable and is a process I teach in coaching and several of my workshops.)
The second key component to achieving the goals you set is being able to clearly articulate them in specific detail. I was a major violator of this fundamental rule in the early days of my goal setting. I would set goals like wanting to “be happy” and “have a career I loved” but without defining what that meant, I struggled to make plans or know if I was making progress. Let’s take for example, the relatively simple goal of taking a vacation “somewhere nice”. Depending on your criteria for “nice”, you’ve still got the whole world open to you. Are you going to a beach or the mountains? A city or the country? Somewhere foreign or domestic? Will you be spending time in museums, at the theatre, or an amusement park? Until you specify what you want in a vacation, it’s nearly impossible to start taking the steps to make it happen.
The same holds true with any other goal you set. I consistently work with people who initially have vague goals for their personal and professional life. They want to be healthy but haven’t defined what that means for them – is it more energy, better memory, or perhaps less arthritis? They want to improve relationships but haven’t considered whether that means spending more time (or less) with a loved one, or how much and what kind of time. They want to grow their business but can’t tell you by what percentage or how much revenue, and can’t give you a time frame for doing it. These clients are frustrated at what they perceive is a failure to achieve goals but with very little digging, they realize they don’t actually know what their goals are.
While other things will also be necessary to achieving your goals – developing a workable plan, spending time regularly focusing on your goal, perhaps seeking the assistance of other experts – the most critical step is laying the foundation for success by setting effective and realistic goals. Make your goals consistent with your highest true values, and be specific and clear about what those goals are and you’ll be well on your way from goal setting to goal achieving.