Thursday 9th Jan 2020
Where do you want to be by the end of 2020? What about in five or ten years, or perhaps by the time of your next milestone birthday? Few success practices are as important as articulating your most closely held goals and then reviewing them daily, and yet most people don’t spend more than an hour a year doing this. It’s true. People spend more time planning their summer holidays than designing their lives.
I don’t believe anyone sets out planning to fail. Still, sometimes priorities (too many) or time (not enough) or self-discipline (lack of) results in our failing to plan which can make all the difference between a remarkable victory and a tragic loss.
In this complete guide to goal setting, I have covered everything you need to map out a successful year for 2020. Smash your goals in 2020 and sprint out the blocks full of energy, focus and with an attitude of action.
Having direction gives you something to aim at; a purpose and meaning to your actions and a means of measuring whether you’re on track and how much progress you’re making. Without one, you can walk in any random direction along any pathway.
Goals create focus and direction
Where focus goes, energy flows. We have an abundance of latent potential just waiting to be unlocked, and focused goals are the magic key to unlocking the door to your source of power. Goals breed focus and infuse your life with purpose and meaning, giving you the knowledge that you’re on the right path to the attainment of your most significant ideals.
Goals challenge you to grow
Goals are the enabler for personal growth. They take you outside your comfort zone. Your goals should make you feel ‘comfortably uncomfortable, stretching the boundaries of your possibilities and allowing you to become the best you can be.
Goals drive you to take action
It’s easy to drift in life and sleepwalk through your days. If you don’t act on life, life has a habit of acting on you. With goals fixed, you dictate the pace, the cadence and the rhythm. Whether it’s billionaires, entrepreneurs, captains of industry, elite athletes or anyone else at the top of their game, one of their primary traits is that they are action-oriented. They make stuff happen. Their days are consumed with thinking about their biggest, boldest goals, and a relentless drive to take daily actions that turn them into reality.
Goals offer inspiration
Goals breathe life into your days. We all have days when we wake up a little tired, where everything feels like the movie Groundhog Day, and when our enthusiasm and motivation just haven’t kicked in yet. But the moment you switch your attention to your goals, you press an ignition switch that sparks you into action.
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.
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 don’t stick.
To set yourself up for success in 2020, avoid these three 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 expectations. As a result, 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.
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 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. 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 blueprint 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 precisely 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 a 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 straightforward 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, three years, five 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 precise detail, you can work your way backwards and set up the steps needed to create the future you want.
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 remain 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 use 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.
Before you start writing down the goals you want to achieve and chasing your dreams, review my six golden rules when setting your 2020 goals.
Set yourself up for success, not failure
Success is not a place but a way of thinking, feeling and subsequently acting as you embark on this exciting journey with the deliberate, conscious intent of turning a successful future into your reality. Get into a positive mindset when setting your 2020 goals. You’re setting your goals because you want to, not because you have to. You have to have real skin in the game; otherwise, they will be just words on paper or ideas in your head. Write them down as if you’ve already achieved them and then let reality catch up.
Future proof your goals
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. Future proof your goals. When it’s apparent that a goal cannot be reached, don’t automatically adjust the goal; first, change the plan and action steps required to achieve it. Work through ‘what if’ scenarios and create plans B, C, and D if plan A gets blown off course. (remember the saying there are 25 other letters in the alphabet if plan A fails).
Create a clear roadmap to achieve your goals
Detailing how you’re going to make your goals a reality will force accountability and responsibility. But remember, life sometimes leads to a change in route. This is OK. If you’re faced with challenges, find a way to get around them. If there are hurdles, jump over them. If people are repeatedly saying no to your request, view a ‘no’ as a delayed ‘yes’. Work out how you can influence them to change their point of view to embrace what you’re trying to achieve.
Take considered risks
Risks can be turned into opportunities, but you need to have identified them as risks first, otherwise, they’ll come at you as a crisis, and then you’re on the back foot. Nobody grows within their comfort zone; that’s why it’s comfortable. Too grow and to achieve your goals, you will need to step out of your comfort zone and take some considered risks.
Have an attitude of action
Having an attitude of action comes from having a clear goal of what you want to achieve. You’ve placed a ‘stake in the ground’ in determining timescales, and, yes, you have a plan of how you’re going to get there. But it doesn’t have to be the perfect plan, and most of the time it’s not. Don’t waste time reviewing, tweaking and perfecting your plan or analysing it from all angles. Don’t suffer from paralysis by analysis. Instead have an attitude of action with a mindset of ‘Ready – Fire – Aim’.
Even with all your positive intentions, there is one major pitfall of human behaviour, procrastination. We all procrastinate from time to time. Sometimes it’s the mundane things, but often it’s the bigger things that we know logically will have a significant effect on our lives. Somehow we still manage to sabotage our success by failing to take action.
Of course, people come up with all sorts of creative reasons why ‘now isn’t the right time’. We are too busy, too broke, too stressed; it’s too risky, too uncertain; we are too inexperienced, too old, too young, too disruptive. Occasionally, those reasons are valid. But, more often, they are simply excuses to avoid doing the real work and experiencing the emotional discomfort that comes from making meaningful change in your life.
When you think about potentially delaying, making an excuse or putting off action until ‘the perfect conditions present themselves’, remember one thing: Procrastination is the saboteur of ambition and prevents the realisation of your biggest goals.
With your goals written down and in the present tense, let’s look at the ‘how’, the specific action of turning those goals into what I call C-SM²ART goals.
If you’ve had any experience of writing goals, you’ve probably come across the concept of SMART goals, which are:
Achievable or Actionable
I believe there is an additional component that adds some extra firepower to your goals and makes them transformational. Goals also have to be: Challenging.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Add challenging to the front of your goal-setting model, and you get C-SMART goals. This is a powerful, disruptive addition that instantly challenges you to stretch beyond your comfort zone and explore the sense of possibilities. How high is high?
So now our goal-setting model is C-SMART:
Achievable or Actionable
But there is one other change. Where C-SMART goals are always measurable by definition, I firmly believe they have to be measurable not just at the end but along the way. In other words, they’ve got to be measurable twice, hence the M².
Goal setting isn’t just about the destination; it’s also about the journey and the key milestones along the way that reconfirms you’re on the right path, moving at the right pace, heading in the right direction. So I believe goals should always be C-SM²ART:
Achievable or Actionable
One of the questions I’m frequently asked is over what periods should goals be set? I would recommend breaking your goals into three timeframes:
Short-term goals are anything you are going to achieve in the next 12 months.
Medium-term goals are for one to three years.
Long-term goals are for more than three years.
Now you’re off on the road with a vision of your future, an action plan for getting there and a timeline with milestone measures for when you’ll arrive. You are in the driver’s seat like never before, creating certainty and personal growth.
If you haven’t set goals before, download my goal setting tracker here. 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.
If you are an avid goal setter and have already got your goals written down in black and white, please use this goal-setting tracker 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.
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.
You and you alone control the substance and the quality of the thoughts and actions you pack into every day, week, month and year. As a result, you not only have the ability to set goals; you can make them come true.
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