Are you really setting goals, or are they just vague ideas?

9th November, 2015

Goal-setting requires clarity. Decide on what it is that you want, and then on how you are going to achieve it.

Think of it a bit like going on a holiday. Where do you want to go? How do you want to get there? When do you want to get there?

Why can’t I achieve my goals?

There are many reasons why we don’t achieve our goals. Perhaps we didn’t have a ‘goal’ in the first place, but more of a loose idea.

Maybe we weren’t really committed to the goal. Did we even buy into it?

Are we convinced that we can achieve our goal? Is the voice in our subconscious telling us a different story to the goal we had in mind?

At the end of the day, maybe the goal just didn’t align with our values, ideals and vision, so it wasn’t really that important to achieve it anyway.

“I set goals, but I never reach them. I always self sabotage”. This comment came from a client when we got onto the topic of goal-setting. Delving a bit deeper, I asked what goal she had set.

“My goal was to reduce my spending.”

“How did it go,” I asked.

“Awful. I ended up spending even more than before, so I gave up.”

Saying you want to reduce spending isn’t actually a goal – it’s an idea. Our brain is a wonderful machine. It works on what we focus on, and in this instance the focus was on ‘spending’, so the brain said “YIPPEE, let’s go shopping!!” (By the way this isn’t just a girl thing; it happens to guys as well.)

My client hadn’t self-sabotaged her goal at all; she just hadn’t set her goal clearly enough. Many of us set goals, or at least we think we do, but how often do we actually achieve them?

Being clear about your goals, as well as the method of achieving them, is the key to success.

How can I make my goals clear?

1. Set SMART goals which are:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Set your goals over a 90-day period. If your goal is too far out, it’s easy to put off starting it. Think of your goal as being at the top of a staircase; to get there you need to take smaller steps.

2. For each 90-day goal, set the three most important initiatives that you can do in the next seven to 10 days. Then, for each initiative, determine what action you can take in the next 24 hours. Write your goals down, and read them twice a day, morning and night.

3. Think positively when setting your goals. State what you want, and what you will do, not what you don’t want.

4. Be as specific, simple and concrete as you can. Consider the ultimate goal in precise measurements; when and how you will make things happen. Remember motivation increases with clarity, so the clearer you are about your goal, the more motivated you will become to achieve it.

5. Work on what you can control. For example, we can’t control the economic situation in Europe, but we can control how much money we save and how much we spend. Put your focus where you can be effective.

6. Make your success finite, and know when you have achieved it. Your SMART goals will help you do this.

7. Small changes lead to big changes. As you achieve each step it creates a sense of achievement and effectiveness. Focus on and complete one thing at a time.

8. Be consistent in the pursuit of your goals. Studies have shown that it takes 28 to 30 days for our brain to form new neural connections. (In other words: break an old habit and start a new one.)

9. Do more of what is working and less of what isn’t. Sometimes the difference between progress and stagnation is stopping activity that doesn’t move your towards your goal.

10. Stick to the plan! It’s never too late to start. Don’t let limiting thoughts or conversations hold you back.

Reassess your goals

Maybe it’s time to have another look at your own goals. Are they written down? Are they SMART goals? Are you really committed to them? If you don’t have any goals at the moment, start thinking about it, and make a commitment to yourself to set some. After all, you’re never going to get that holiday until you work out where it is that you want to go.

READ: 3 ways to shift your mindset and achieve your goals