Where do you want to be by the end of this year, both personally and professionally? What about in five or ten years? Or perhaps by the time of your next milestone birthday?
You not only have the ability to set goals, you have the ability to make them come true.
Whatever you want to achieve; your success is inherently based on actively working toward it in a structured and systematic way, with passion and drive and with the ultimate goal clearly in your mind.
But the sad reality is that while any one of us is born with the ability to achieve greatness, many people live with the aching feeling that they are underachieving in life and the knowledge that they really could be doing a lot better than they are.
American politician Benjamin Franklin once quipped that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” and whilst none of us has the ability to accurately predict the length of our lives, we do have the ability to influence the breadth and depth of it.
You and you alone control the substance and the quality of the thoughts and actions you pack into each and every day, week, month and year.
The tragic thing however is that although the subject of goal setting has been talked about for decades, the massive majority of people still don’t invest time in goal setting or they make goals which simply don’t stick.
So, to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success in 2018, avoid these 3 common pitfalls when setting goals;
Pitfall #1 Your WHY isn’t strong or compelling enough
Over time, the pressures of life, the challenges we face to fit in, and the way our immediate needs have a habit of consuming our most whimsical desires have all conspired to limit our own expectations, so we tend to think in terms of more tactical short-term goals.
But that type of thinking can prevent us from really thinking big, which goes against the whole point of setting aspirational goals.
In order to overcome this, you may have to dig deep into yourself to escape some of the shackles of modern adult thinking. You’re going to have to go back in time and reignite the childlike instinct; the sense of curiosity and of possibility that you had as a child when you believed you could achieve anything in your life.
Back then, when you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, you had endless possibilities and no sense of limitation.
The idea behind reconnecting with your childlike instincts is that it will enable you to get closer to your original WHY – the why you want to achieve something, the things that are going to drive you forward towards your goal.
I passionately believe that if the WHY is strong enough, then the What and the How will fall into place.
Pitfall #2 You’re thinking of your goals not FROM your goals
At 16 I dropped out of school and went into construction. I always remember the first project I worked on, which was a brand-new hospital in the Northwest city of Liverpool. On the day that we ‘cut the turf’ as the ceremony was known, I stood in a green field with the architect, the structural engineer and the client, and I held in my hand an artist’s impression of what the hospital was going to look like two and a half years into the future when it was finished.
All construction projects are created that way, with a diagram, a plan, a blue print and a drawing of the finished building and what happens every day after that is a step-by-step execution of a plan to create in exact detail the reality depicted in the picture. And that’s exactly what happened with that hospital.
We were not thinking of what it could look like when it is done; we were thinking of what it already looks like and then working backwards to ensure that the future became reality.
To achieve this don’t think of your goals; think FROM your goals.
This guiding principle works no matter how long or short or how technical or simple your goal, and no matter whether it is personal or professional.
Let’s make this real. Pick a goal, determine a realistic timeline for the achievement of that goal, whether it is six months, 12 months, 3 years, 5 years …10 years … and then build a clear picture in your mind of what the achievement of that goal will look like, feel like, sound like, taste like. Transport yourself to that end time and look back on what you have achieved.
The starting point is the future.
By imagining the end goal in crystal clear detail, you can work your way backward and set up the steps needed to create the future you want.
Now of course, you and I are realists. We know that life isn’t a straight line. There are going to be deviations and buffeting winds and so on because that’s just reality. But isn’t it great to realize that we can actually do some really practical things, aligned to positive realistic thinking, to make life more like a set of railway tracks?
I’m often quoted as saying ‘live your life as if all of your dreams have come true and challenge reality to catch up!’
Though there will still be deviations, by having a crystal-clear vision of our starting point in the future, we’re able to limit the wrong turns, misfires and do-overs that are inevitable otherwise.
Pitfall #3 Your goals are written in the wrong tense
Goals must be written in the present tense. It is so critical that you do this because of the enormous psychological power involved.
Let me give you some context. If you write your goals in the future tense, where do they stay? That’s right, they stay in the future. We don’t want them to be there however because that falls into the trap of pitfall #2.
If you’re thinking of your goals, then yes, you would write goals in the future tense. But when you’re thinking FROM your goals, you must write them in the present tense as if you’ve already obtained them.
The way you say them, think about them and yes, write them, is designed to get your subconscious mind used to the idea that they’re already in place so that it works with your conscious mind to drive actions that will ultimately make them a reality.
If you are an avid goal setter, and have already got them written down in black and white, please use this blog as a means of refreshing your thinking, perhaps through a few additional ideas presented in a different perspective, or by reinforcing the strength of the steps you’ve already taken.
If you haven’t set goals before, the ideas here are probably the most important ones of all. The overwhelming number of real success stories in life have been achieved by people who have been diligent and thoughtful about setting goals and following and measuring the steps they take toward their achievement.