The world evolves in many different ways, and with that, we are required to similarly evolve with it. New Year’s Day and the days proceeding it are usually excellent times to strive to be a better person and hopefully, a better leader.
“Setting goals is the first step to turning the invisible into the visible.” ― Tony Robbins.
Goals in organisations are usually a lot more tangible than our own personal goals. Making budget, gaining 23 percent of the market share, having revenues exceed that of the same time last year (e.g. January 2016 v. January 2015). Organisations also tend to communicate their goals to their employees, this makes those goals ‘shared goals’.
Personal goals are sometimes a little harder to work on, as we often try to go it alone and when we lose our motivation there is no one to push us forward. We sometimes feel that our goals might be considered silly to others, but in my experience the only silly action to take is to keep your goals a secret. Unless you are trying to achieve something politically sensitive, such as become the next Prime Minister or Senior Vice-President of your firm, there is little benefit to hiding what you want to be.
The benefits of sharing are obvious though, or at least to me. When you share a goal – such as giving up smoking, cutting back on coffee, or reading more – friends and family are probably going to bring it up in conversation at some point.
Here’s an example from my life, when I set out to achieve First Class Honours in my year.
Whilst at the dinner table sipping away at wine after the meal, a friend asks, “How’s your thesis going?”
“It’s getting pretty tough mate, I’ve been churning away at these edits for a few days and I just feel like I should just start the whole thing again.”
From then on, I cannot remember the conversation that ensued, but at a low point in my journey to achieve my goal – my friend gave me enough venting room and enough support to gain the motivation to continue.
In business, we discuss organisational goal attainment in meetings and make modifications as we see necessary. So why don’t we do this in our personal life? Probably because of a fear of being judged by our failures or goals we feel others will laugh at, like overcoming a fear or going back to college/university.
“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable” ― Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton.
We talk about goals in many different ways, but here’s a way to test whether your goal is indeed a good goal for you:
Specific – Goals should be direct and obvious as to what they are: “I want to get fit” is ambiguous, so how will you know you have achieved it? Try: “I want to bench press 80 kg ,” or “I want to lose 2 kg weight from my current size of X”.
Measurable – The goal needs to have some kind of way to work out if you have achieved it. I’ll know I have achieved my bench press goal when I can lift 80kg.
Attainable – If the goal is unreachable, then it will be demotivating when we never get closer to it. If you currently do not read, but want to start reading more, then setting a goal of fifty novels in one year might be quite unreachable. Whilst I would admire the ambition, starting with something that will challenge slightly, but is something that can be reached is important: such as “Reading six books in one year”. It also allows the setting of smaller goals like “One book per two months”.
Relevant – The next part is ensuring it is a useful goal for you. I work in education, and trying to be a better educator is a relevant goal for my life. Trying to be a better nurse or doctor on the other hand is probably not as useful. Smaller ambitions may be improving my academic writing, or gaining a few publications of my research (relevance: career progression). These are career-driven, but other personal goals may be to get up an hour earlier and commit those to jogging (relevance to you: to keep fit) or spend time with children (relevance: family).
Time-Bound – Finally, ensuring the goal has a time frame is also important to make sure we cannot just procrastinate by saying ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’. Quite often, New Year’s Resolutions span for the space of one year, and have one or two goals. This is usually a great way to set it, setting another at the end of the year to continue development.
With all that in mind, we have a SMART goal and one that we can communicate to our friends and family.
Once we’ve set goals, such as New Year’s Resolutions, sharing those goals makes us accountable to our friends and families and most of all to ourselves. When we are only accountable to ourselves, it allows us to fold when we cannot be bothered continuing.
“Accountability breeds responsibility.” ― Stephen Covey.
Goals aren’t always easy, in soccer the goal keeper has the advantage of using his hands, but those who persevere are able to (with a few failures first) make goals for their team. So, set goals and resolutions, but also communicate them and hopefully the higher stakes will enable you to push through the lows and achieve more often.
* Image by Al King.