Goal setting is a popular topic these days, and a very broad one. We could be talking about the goal of a business, and communicating that to employees. We could be talking about personal life goals. We could be talking about the goal in a particular discussion.
The following strategies should be helpful no matter what the application is (though you might change the language slightly in a different setting, but the principle still applies):
- To keep from being overwhelmed, focus on only one area of your life to start: work life, financial goals, social life, family life, health, spiritual life, whatever.
- Sit down with pen and paper in a quiet place and ask yourself, “What do I want to see changed?”
- Next question: If you got up tomorrow and that goal had been realized, how would you know? What would be different? What would you see? What would be the evidence of change?
- What results do you imagine will flow from those observable changes? Are you sure, or could you be engaging in wishful thinking? If you’re unsure, talk to someone you trust – a friend, coach, counselor, spiritual leader, mentor – whatever is appropriate for your particular area of concern.
- Thinking over your answers to #2 and #3, which specific changes are under your control, and which are under another person’s control? For example, going to exercise three times per week is probably under your control. Having your spouse treat you with more respect is out of your control to a greater degree (but we can always work to affect that situation). Likewise, developing your company’s mission statement may be completely under your control. But making sure your employees live out that mission statement – well, again, you have influence, but you don’t have absolute control.
- Become very clear, with precise lists if necessary, about what you can control and focus on that. This focusing is hard work. It’s very tempting to focus on the events or behaviors that you cannot control. Learning assertiveness, learning to use “I-statements,” and learning to let go of certain outcomes are all part of figuring out what you can control.
- Ask yourself what strengths you bring to this challenge. How can you employ them?
- Ask yourself what you have typically done in the past. Consider whether or not that’s working, and whether it makes sense to give up an unproductive habit.
- Ask yourself what has worked well in the past. How can you do more of that?
- Ask yourself what information you are lacking. Where can you find those answers?
- What steps or action items can you write down as a result of all of these answers? Is there a logical or chronological order to these steps?
- Does any step have a prerequisite step that you’ve left out?
- How would you rate each step in terms of difficulty?
- What barriers or pitfalls can you anticipate with each step? What proactive problem-prevention can you implement?
- Can you do something to make a particular step easier? Call for help? Consult an expert? Do your own research? Delegate some tasks to another person? Practice?
- Install some form of accountability to motivate you to keep climbing out of your old rut. Change is hard. We must work hard to combat the forces of inertia.
- Praise yourself as you learn to take better care of the things you CAN control. Try to build your expectations and satisfaction more on that. Increasingly, define “a good day” as a day in which you took care of your business, your behavior, your attitudes, your thoughts, your feelings. Look less and less for other people and outside circumstances to create your “good day.”
- Develop an attitude of gratitude for everything that goes right during this process.
- Catch others being good. Never miss an opportunity to express praise and appreciation.
- Always notice and celebrate the progress, the small successes, both within yourself and in others’ behavior.
It’s hard to imagine a situation that can’t improve if you work these steps. Give them a try and see what develops!
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