At the time of writing this it’s late January 2015.
That means around this time everyone is slowly but surely giving up on their New Years’ resolutions. Are you one of them?
It’s not just resolutions; people give up on their goals all the time. They might briefly have a surge of motivation to write down a plan and stick to it, but then ‘life gets in the way’ and the goals go the way of the dodo.
Today I want to help you to get a different result. I want to shed some light onto why goals haven’t worked for you in the past, and what you can do about it.
WHAT IS A GOAL?
A goal is a benchmark to aim towards, a target with a basic action-plan to get there.
Goals are different from values. A value is what you live by to achieve your goals. Achievement of goals is a by-product of living by your values.
Therefore an effective goal must be aligned with your authentic values, or else you will never gain any satisfaction from achieving it. For a goal to have any worth, it must be authentic; a goal must be about what YOU want.
Most people have goals based on what society or other people want from them. They write goals about making more money or climbing the career ladder. Is that what you really want? Or, is that what you think you should want?
WHY HAVE GOALS?
Without a plan for your action, you will be aimless. Aimlessness leads to powerlessness; the automatic processes in your brain have the right environment to take over. By automatic processes we actually mean FEAR.
Goals are your destination; values are your compass. They go hand in hand. Goals will give you a more structured and certain methodology for being authentic, and allow you to measure progress. Without something to measure progress against, you will lose faith or become misguided, making the same mistakes over and over.
Think of the person who gets a job just because they needed the money. They say to themselves “I’ll just work here for a couple of years and then re-assess my options”. Ten years later they’re still there, climbing the ladder and having to convince themselves every step along the way that it will change… one day.
Goals will prevent you feeling stuck and left behind. All highly successful people have goals and follow a plan. Seriously, find me an exception!
If you’re ready to achieve goals that push your life to the next level, grab a copy of Dan’s #1 bestselling book The Legendary Life – less than $10!
THE REASON MOST GOALS FAIL
- Too vague
If your goal is vaguely described, you will have to problem-solve consistently. This kills motivation. A vague goal is also impossible to measure, which means you’ll really struggle to make progress. This is another de-motivator.
Goals must be specific. Include dates of completion and other time-measure, like how long for and what time? Goals must have sufficient detail that a random stranger could read and follow it. Make it easy on yourself and do the research at the start. This way you can just follow your own instructions without having to think.
- Too easy / too hard
People set goals that are too easy or too hard for the same reason: it allows them to quit.
A goal that’s too easy is boring and provides no challenge. The person can try it for a while and then tell themselves “I can do this well already” and stop goal-setting altogether. Or they might procrastinate, thinking “It’s so easy… I can do it any time”.
A goal that’s too hard is a deliberate self-sabotage. We can tell ourselves “At least I tried” and then give up completely, comfortable in the knowledge that we ‘did our best’.
A goal must be a reasonable step outside of the comfort zone to be of any value, and to reduce the likelihood of quitting.
- Lacking clear connection to overall values and dreams
As mentioned above, goals must be aligned with your values. Otherwise you will end up regretting wasted effort, because you won’t get the results you hoped for.
A great example of this is people who chase money to fulfil the values of happiness, security or abundance. Yet when they get rich they’re still not happy. Or even more likely; they can’t get rich because they are not happy, secure or abundant.
Figure out your core values before you set goals.
- Insufficient resources
This is similar to making a goal too hard. If you have to wait on time, money or people to achieve your goal, it’s already doomed.
Goals need resources but should be written based on the resources you already have. If you don’t have the resources you need, then your goals should first be about acquiring them.
No measurements means no perceived progress. No progress means no motivation to continue.
This is a common problem. People set goals that cannot be accurately or objectively measured, often because they are too vague. Like ‘I will get rich’ as a financial goal. ‘Rich’ is not a unit of measure so you will never know when you achieve it.
There should be clear units of measure for your goal that anyone can use. This means they need to be objective as possible.
- Reliant on external support
I used to write goals that included other people, such as going to the gym with a buddy. I soon realised the hard way that this put the goal at risk of being sabotaged by the other person.
Goals should only need one person to complete them: you. If you write goals in a way that require you to wait on others, or rely on support from others, then you are risking uncontrollable failure.
Write goals that you alone can achieve.
- Results get connected to self-worth
Goals are simply a measure of how far you’ve come and a guide for where to go next. If you’re not regularly failing on your goals (but consistently trying) then they’re probably too easy. Connecting your self-worth to your goals creates either an addiction to achievements or depressing heartache.
I consistently set ‘out of my league’ goals, because they push me out of my comfort zone. They are not impossible but they are damn hard. I do not measure how good I am as a person on the success/failure of my goals.
If you are going to measure your self-worth (and I recommend you do), base it on how authentically you live by your values. This is directly under your control, whereas goals require a result; something you will never be fully able to control.
Goals are not a measure of how good you are as a person; they are simply a measure of your progress. If you fail in a goal then you have received valuable feedback, about a) the goal, b) the barriers you face, and c) your internal motivation.
Whenever a goal is achieved or not achieved, ask yourself “Why?”
- Was the goal realistic?
- What helped me achieve it? How could I use this again in the future?
- What did I learn from this experience?
- What got in the way? Will this barrier be an issue again? What can I do about it?
THE “DRM” MODEL OF GOAL SETTING
Detailed | Realistic | Measurable
If you want a goal to work, either follow the SMART goal setting framework, or use my new and improve version, the DRM model.
To read more about the DRM model, get yourself a free sample of my book The Legendary Life.
SOME FINAL TIPS ON GOAL SETTING
Have no more than ten goals at any given time. You’re better off achieving three big changes in your life than half-arsing twenty.
Aim for the smallest reasonable ‘next step’. Goals don’t require a leap into the stratosphere. They only require a single step beyond your comfort zone.
Tell others about it, to hold yourself to account, however always double-check to make sure you don’t need anyone or anything else.
Create a clear link between the goal and your ideal self – link goals to values. More than anything, you should know WHY you have the goal; what purpose will it serve your future.
Write them down, or otherwise have a hardcopy of them.