It is that time of year again! Goal setting, resolutions and good intentions are everywhere.These are important rituals for us personally and professionally to take stock of where we are and where we aspire to be.The problem is that all too often we only set the goal and then we think that we are done. A few well intentioned weeks (or days!) later, we are back to our prior behaviors.
Here’s why this happens:
Goals are Necessary but Not Sufficient
Necessary but not sufficient is one of those odd phrases that stayed with me after mathematics classes. Translated into plain English? You must have them but they are not enough to get you where you want to go. If you only have goals, chances of successfully reaching them is quite small. This is especially true for any goals that are long term or hard to reach. And, to be frank, if it is easy and short term – just do it!
If you surround your goal with help, you dramatically improve your success rate.
Here’s what the help looks like:
1. The goal is written in a SMART format:specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.
How will I know if I am making progress or have achieved my goal? Is it something in the realm of possibility for me? Can I make it relevant to other parts of my life? When do I want to have this done by?
2. Have a plan to hold yourself accountable.
Often this involves another person or part of an organization. It can easily happen if the goal is a shared goal.
3. Break down big goals into smaller (also SMART) goals.
Organize your desk one day, one piece of paper, one email at a time.
4. Evaluate how you are doing frequently.
Don’t set a goal for Q1 and pressure yourself the last week of March accomplish it. Many goals don’t lend themselves to this timeline and other can’t be accomplished in such a short time frame. Check in weekly, monthly, … whatever is useful and appropriate for the goal.
5. Realize that most goals aren’t accomplished in a straight line.
Often there’s a half step back or sideways for every couple of steps forward. Learn from these mis-steps and get back on track. Or change your goal when you learn something from a mis-step that calls your original goal into question.
Here’s to a successful 2014!