Do you write your goals on paper? Many people set themselves no goals at all. Others have a few unarticulated goals in their minds. All the evidence shows that people who write down their objectives are more likely to achieve them than those who do not write anything down. Successful people set themselves clear written goals and then break them down into manageable intermediate targets so that they can measure progress along the way. It appears that the act of writing produces a greater sense of commitment. Once the goals are written and then broken down into mileposts they become more real and more important to you.
In how many different areas of your life do you set goals? For those that write down their goals many restrict themselves to just a couple of work related goals and maybe a personal goal e.g. to lose weight. It is recommended that you set goals in six different areas in your life.
Career. What do you want to achieve in your work? What are your ambitions for success in your work, for promotion, for recognition etc? Write out your plans and think about discussing some of them with your boss.
Relationships. At every stage in life we should think about our relationships and how we can improve them. Think about your relationship with your parents, your brothers or sisters, your children, your friends, your neighbours and so on. Are there aspects that need to be repaired or developed? For most people the most important relationship will be with their partner. If you would like to find a partner then set this as a written goal. If you need to sort out an existing relationship, think about how it could be improved and plan the actions you can take to make it better. Don’t just blame the other person for the problems. There is always something you can do to help.
Health. This might be the single most important area since everything else depends on your continued good health. Most people know the key issues that affect their health (if you do not then your first objective is to get a health check) but often they do little about them. Set yourself clear goals to change your lifestyle in the areas which are deleterious to your well-being.
Wealth. Set clear goals for improving your financial security. This should include savings, loan reduction, pension planning, your property, your investments and so on.
Personal Development. What are the skills and experiences you want to develop? Maybe you want to improve your public speaking, play the trumpet better, become a pastry chef or master sailing. It is important to keep learning new skills and the best way to make this happen is to plan for it in your goals.
Social Life. Many people find that they are so busy with work and domestic chores that they never have time to develop the social life, activities and relationships that they would like. If you want new friends, more visits to the theatre, interesting vacations and so on then you have to plan for it and set objectives. If you leave it to chance it may never happen.
How should you set your goals? Here is some general advice:
Set yourself SMART goals. Have targets that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Vague objectives are not helpful. You need to write down goals that are precise and detailed with dates and numbers. As a piece of counter-cultural thinking Dustin Wax advises that you should also set yourself some DUMB goals. These are aims that are Dangerously Unachievable and Monstrously Big. This may look facetious but there is an element of truth in the notion that we need some really ambitious goals as well as the attainable.
Break down the Goals. Whether you start with huge targets or reasonable ones the next stage is to break them down into small steps so that you can plan and measure progress against each one. So if your aim is to lose 12 lbs in weight then 1 lb per month for the next 12 months is one way to break that down into manageable chunks. Similarly if you want to write a book set yourself the goal of one chapter a week or 800 words per day say.
Don’t Get Disheartened. We all miss goals from time to time. The critical thing is not to give up. We simply reschedule. We take a look at what went wrong, think up some brilliant ideas to handle it and then set a revised target. Use the Pareto Principle to focus on your top goals; it says that 80% of the value you generate comes from 20% of your activities. Take some time to look at the all the items on your goals or your to-do list. Sort them into order with the most important first. What are the top three most important things you want to achieve? What are the things that will move you forward the most? These are the ones to focus on.
Paul Sloane is an author and inspirational speaker. His new book is How to be a Brilliant Thinker.