Perhaps the single biggest mistake that people make when trying to set goals is not being realistic, and just as important, not taking the time to decide what goals they truly want to reach, and understanding the daily discipline it takes to achieve them.

Many people will take 30 to 60 min. and set literally hundreds of goals knowing they cannot possibly reach all of them. By setting goals that are either too numerous or not realistic you are setting the stage for failure and disappointment.

If you do not have goals now, or this is your first time even attempting to set goals here are a few suggestions:

1. Find some quiet time, preferably a weekend, take a pad and paper and really think about what is important to you. Your idea of success is simply that, your idea. What you consider to be success may not be what I or anyone else would consider it to be. It is truly a personal destination. Out of all the steps in the goal-setting process this is the most important and I cannot stress enough that you must take the time and put in the thought of what you want to accomplish. Setting goals in a short period of time, i.e. anything less than 48 hours,( I generally suggest a week, done in stages), will probably lead to disappointment. If you have a spouse or significant other it is imperative that you include them in this process. They may want to set their own goals, or joint goals with you. They can also be the greatest help when you stumble along the way, (and you will), lose motivation, or have to review or rework your goals. Not including them can cause significant problems later.

2. Pick out no more than 5 goals in the following categories to start with. Career, Family, Health,  Faith, Finance. Five goals in each of these categories is 25 goals. Simply keeping track of more goals than this is a daunting task within itself when you are starting out, you can add more goals in different categories later. You must choose the most important goals in each category based on two things, is it one of  the most important things I want to accomplish? Is it part of my dreams and vision for the future success in my life as a whole, not just my career,but my family life also, and most importantly, is it realistic? Can I really achieve it in a realistic time frame?

There are three types of goals, short-term, mid-term, and long-term. Short-term goals are those you wish to accomplish daily, weekly, monthly. Mid-term goals are those you wish to accomplish in three months, six months, yearly. The last, long-term goals, are those you wish to accomplish in five years, 10 years, 15 years. To be most effective, short-term goals should be reviewed and revised daily, if you have the discipline to do this, with practice, it should only take you a few minutes daily. Mid-term goals should be reviewed bi-weekly or monthly. Long-term goals should be reviewed every six months. The object to reviewing goals is to revise them when needed, but just as importantly, to see if your daily and weekly goals are advancing you, even in small steps, toward your mid-term and long-term goals.

There is an axiom concerning goals they should be SMART goals. S equals Specific. Simply saying I want to be wealthy is not specific. How much wealth do you want to acquire? What is a realistic amount that you can acquire in the next year, five years, 10 years, toward that goal? Another example might be, I want a new car. What model do you want? What accessories do you want on the car? What is a realistic amount that I can pay for the car? Is the car realistic for my lifestyle? These are the things that make goals specific. M equals measured. Again, here are some examples. I want to be wealthy, what amount of money do you consider that would make you wealthy? What can I realistically expect to be able to earn or save toward this goal? When can I realistically expect to achieve this? A equals attitude, do I have the right attitude and discipline to achieve this goal? Am I daydreaming with this goal or do I really want it as part of my life? Will my family and friends support me in achieving this goal? Do I really, really, consider this goal as a necessity for success in life? Is my current attitude and outlook on life going to enable me to achieve this? R equals realistic. Is this goal something that I have the discipline, skills, education, and talent to achieve this at this stage of my life? If not, am I willing to acquire the skills, education, etc. at this stage of my life to achieve it? T equals timely or time-frame, when can I reasonably and realistically expect to achieve this goal? In what length of time? (Do Not short yourself on your time-frame) Am I willing to put in the extra hours and or work to attain it in a shorter time frame? Am I being realistic about the time frame given my current obligations; career, family, hobbies, outside activities?

As I speak to people and do seminars across the country many people often ask me if goal-setting is important to success. Everyone has goals, they simply change them at will if they become too hard; or often people simply forget them or give up. Those who have goals and discipline are successful, and for the most part those who don’t are not. Consider this, when you take a vacation do you plan for it? Do you decide what destination you wish to go to, or do you just simply pile in the car one day and say we are on vacation, where do you want to go? Do you use a road map or GPS for your trips? If you have children, have you planned for their college education? Do you have a will? Are you planning and saving for retirement? Do you have house and car insurance? Do you make a shopping list before going to the grocery? Do you use a day planner or calendar to plan your daily activities? If you have planned for these contingencies in life, then why in the world have you not planned the rest of your life?

When you set your goals, hopefully, thoughtfully and realistically, tell all your friends and your family about your goals. Why? Because then you are making a commitment, not only to yourself but to them also. Set your goals on paper and carry them with you everywhere you go. Why? Because, again, this is a commitment on paper that shows you have made a promise to others and yourself.

Lastly, in the words of my friend Zig Ziglar, you cannot hit a target you cannot see, therefore you cannot achieve a goal you do not have. Studies have shown that a habit is formed by someone repeating it for 30 to 60 days, if you will set your goals and try this system for that time period your odds for success are increased by 80%.

This is the first in a series of how to set goals and achieve them, I hope this gets you started on a great 2013. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

3 Responses

  1. Bob, some great thoughts. SMART is a great method for helping people learn to trust themselves when setting goals. Too many people aren’t truly committed to their goals, and therefore don’t follow through. I suppose that is because they aren’t in the action habit and do not know what they can expect from themselves.

    I liked your step 1, but was wondering why you didn’t explicitly link it to a vision of how they want their life to be? Understanding what we really want, even if it is “unrealistic” based on the facts of the current situation, is critical to getting unreasonable things done. Being clear and specific on the big picture can help us understand what goals to set in the 5 core categories you recommend.

    I am looking forward to Part 2 (and beyond). Creating an action habit and following through on the realistic is critical to being able to make the incredible (or impossible) come to pass!

  2. For me I am always looking forward to read something like this, very informative, helpful, inspiring and motivating post, I thank you so much for sharing this, and I am definitely looking forward the follow up series… Merry Christmas … 🙂

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