Chronicling 40: Days 99 & 100 of 365

Setting Goals

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of business women about setting effective goals.  Many of us have read the self help books, attended conferences, watched motivational speakers, and listened to podcasts that cheer us on to achieving our goals and wildest dreams.  Which of these people are taking the time to sit down with you and telling you how to get started?  Who is helping to develop your strategy from point A to point B?

Author Brian Tracy said:

“One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive 15 to 18 years of education in our schools and never receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.”

The fast facts…

You are 10 times more likely to be successful if you set goals. You are even 3 times more likely to be successful if you write your goals down.  You are 68% more likely to be successful if you break them down into small actionable steps.

So, why… if we know all of this… are people not more successful?

Because only 3% of Americans have written goals, and only 1% of those revisit their goals regularly.  That 3% is primarily made up people who have come from homes where goal setting is common and expected.  The majority of Americans are not writing goals, because they’ve never been encouraged or taught to do so.

When we haven’t never been taught to, we often set goals that are too big or vague.  We set goals that we can’t measure, unable to have any tangible signs of success.  We focus on the end game so much that we forget about all the steps that need to happen just to get off the starting line.  We become afraid, intimidated, by goal setting.  We don’t know where to begin.

So, while I could teach several workshop on this topic…I’m going to give you a start on goal setting with a simple example.  Imagine you were planning to run a 5K race.   You’ve never run a 5K before, but it seems like it isn’t that big of a deal.  You search online and find that there is a 5K tomorrow, register, and show up dressed to win.  The starters pistol is shot, you take off and not too far down the path you find yourself winded and unable to run any further.  Why?

You didn’t prepare your body for the race.

If you had called your friend who regularly runs marathons, she would have helped you come up with a plan to prepare for the race.  You would have started with a walking plan that included short distances of running, that gradually increased over time.  You would have started with a goal of just running 1K, then 2K, etc.  This gradual increase prepares your body so that you can eventually run the 5K without any effort.

In order to achieve your goals, you have to not only understand what your long term achievement is… but also all of the steps that it takes to get there.

Let’s say, for example, you want to start going to the gym 3 days a week.  In order to do so, you must wake up 1 hour earlier each day.  Since our bodies are accustomed to getting up at 6am, trying to wake up at 5am is going to be a chore.

Most people, would set the alarm for 5am.  Day 1, when the alarm goes off… they hit snooze and commit to try again the next day.  Day 2 comes along, snooze.  Day 3, snooze.  Why? They haven’t prepared their body.  They will never make it to the gym (goal) because they haven’t managed to get up on time (action step).  After a certain amount of time, they feel like their goal isn’t achievable and they give up.  We justify this by making excuses, convincing ourselves that it’s just not the right time and we should start this goal when our schedules clear up or our life isn’t as complicated.

Instead, if we know the goal is to get to the gym and focus only on that… it is easy to be discouraged.  Instead, we should focus on the action step… getting up earlier.  If my body is accustomed to getting up at 6am, asking it to wake up at 5am is a stretch.  So, I break down the action step into small increments.  Instead of waking up at 5am, I set the alarm for 5:55am.  Asking my body to wake up just 5 minutes earlier is reasonable.  Once my body acclimates to 5:55am, I can move the alarm back to 5:50am, 5:45am, 5:40am, etc.  As I move towards 5:00am, I can begin to implement some physical activity.   I may not have time to get to the gym yet, when I wake up just 10 minutes earlier.  However, I can do 10 minutes of yoga in the living room.  When I’m getting up 30 minutes earlier, I can go for a walk around my street.

Using the above example:

Goal:  Gym 3 times per week.

Action Step:  Waking up 1 hour earlier.

To-Do List:

  • Wake up at 5:55am
  • Wake up at 5:50am, 10 minutes of yoga.
  • Wake up at 5:45am, 15 minutes of yoga.
  • Wake up at 5:40am, 20 minutes walking in neighborhood.
  • etc…

We have made a big goal (yeah, we are in the 3%), and we are writing them down (13% more likely to succeed).  We broke it down into small, incremental, pieces that fall on our daily to do list (now we are 68% more likely to succeed).

Not only are we writing down these small steps, but we have also given ourselves something measurable.  A goal that is too big and vague, is hard to measure.  Small pieces on our to do list are tangible steps that we can cross out.  We can track our accomplishments as we move toward our goal.  We can celebrate the small victories on our way to our larger dreams.

Set a Goal.  Establish your Action Steps.  Break Down into your To-Do List.

There is a lot more I could say about this, and I could probably teach a full day of workshops on this topic.  But this, this is a good start.

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