Original Dec 20, 2019, updated Sep 08, 2021
You want to reinvent your life -- either your personal life, your professional life, or both. To get there, you need a plan and to keep yourself on track and accountable, you need effective goal setting.
A goal without a plan is simply a dream -- a dream that may or may not come to fruition. If the dream does come to fruition, it's likely that the process was harder and longer than it needed to be.
The faster you achieve your goals, the quicker you will see the rewards that you imagined, and the faster you can start stacking the goals to achieve the vision of success that you are striving for.
If you haven't already read the post How to Achieve What You Want in Life, click here.
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- Reinvention requires changing many habits and beliefs that hinder your progress, and the adoption of better habits and beliefs which produce better outcomes
- To keep yourself on track and accountable, you need to give yourself a series of goals - some long-term, complex, and more challenging goals, and other short-term, easier goals that support the bigger ones.
- Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive)
- Goals can be huge so it's best to break them into smaller goals so that you stay committed to achieving them
- When you achieve your goals, regardless of whether they were challenging goals or simpler, manageable goals, celebrate! Reward the outcome and your commitment to your achievement of goals because it's easier to quit and revert to old habits than it is to keep going when things become challenging.
Personal Goal Setting
The world is full of people who are drifting through their lives, not really knowing where to go or how to get there. They're just going along with whatever comes up and hoping that things will turn out all right. But it rarely does. And so they drift on into old age without ever having had any real sense of direction, of purpose and fulfillment, and of creating a lasting legacy.
If you find yourself doing this, then stop for a moment and ask yourself: "What do I really want?" You might be surprised at the answer.
Whatever it is, write down what you'd like to have happened in the next month, quarter, by year's end, next year, three years from now, five years from now...and every day until you've achieved it. Then make sure that you work towards those things constantly throughout each week, month, quarter, and year.
It doesn't matter if everything goes wrong during the course of your journey -- as long as you learn from the experience and don't let it hold you back again. That way, when the good times roll around, you'll know exactly what to do to enjoy them fully.
Types of Goals
There are two main types of goals: short-term and long-term.
Short-term goals tend to focus on one area such as fitness, well-being, tackling a project, etc., whereas long-term goals are usually broader and cover multiple areas such as career advancement, financial independence, and family planning.
Goals also fall into 3 categories:
Process goals require a plan and the execution of the plan. They are the goals that will take you from where you are now "here" to where you want to go "there. Process goals track achievements and their purpose are to lead to new behaviours and habits which get you there.
Performance goals are short-term goals, with specific measurables that can be tracked to show progress. You often see performance goals attached to incentive and recognition programs. The challenge with performance goals is that while they are great at giving you the "goalposts" to aim for, the focus may become all about hitting the numbers, rather than learning the best techniques to sustain good habits for long-term success.
Outcome goals are based on the end result produced. The goal may be to win a medal in your sport, be recognized for your achievement (or legacy), win a client away from a competitor, to improve sustainability goals, and so on. While outcomes are extremely important, concentrating on outcomes solely can result in people taking shortcuts or making poor decisions simply to achieve the outcome. Instead, focus on achieving the outcome by changing the behaviours (process goals) and providing measures (performance goals). By doing so, you'll build on good behaviours in alignment with purpose, vision, and core values, which are more sustainable for the long term.
In general, most people set too few goals because they lack clarity about what they actually want. This is why setting goals becomes difficult. When faced with an overwhelming number of choices, we often end up choosing nothing.
So before you begin writing down your goals, figure out which ones you truly care about. Don’t worry about whether they seem important enough or realistic enough. Just pick four to six goals that you would love to accomplish over the coming months.
What is Goal Setting?
There are other ways to think about goals besides thinking about them as objectives. For example, some people believe that goals are simply dreams that come true. While this may sound appealing, it isn't necessarily helpful in terms of getting results.
If you dream about winning $10 million dollars or becoming a famous artist overnight, chances are you won't become either of these things. Instead, put your energy into making your dreams happen gradually over time. In fact, dreaming big is great - but only if you follow through with concrete plans, action steps, and deadlines.
Some people also confuse goals with resolutions. Resolutions typically involve changing behaviours rather than focusing on desired outcomes. If you decide to lose 10 pounds by January 1st, you can easily change your behaviour. However, unless you develop a plan that includes specific actions and timelines, you probably won't see much progress. On the contrary, many people fail to reach their goals due to unrealistic expectations.
Finally, sometimes people mistakenly equate goals with targets. Targets are measurable benchmarks against which you compare your performance; however, they aren't always meaningful.
For instance, if you decided to run 5 miles per day, you wouldn't say that you were meeting your goal merely because you ran 3 miles yesterday. Rather, you need to measure your success based on your actual distance covered.
Similarly, if your resolution was to eat healthy foods 6 days a week, you shouldn't consider yourself successful even though you ate salad twice last night. The key here is to identify what matters to you and then create clear measures to evaluate your progress.
Why Do People Set Goals?
People set goals for different reasons. Some people set goals to change themselves while others set goals to help someone else. Here are several examples of common motivations behind goal setting.
1. To Change Yourself
Some people set goals to improve certain aspects of their life. These goals include improving physical health, emotional wellbeing, social skills, and professional competence. Others choose to pursue education or training programs in order to gain new knowledge or skills. Still, others decide to take up hobbies or sports activities to satisfy personal interests. Regardless of why you set goals, remember that the key thing is to keep moving forward.
2. Help Someone Else
Another reason why people set goals is to benefit another person. Perhaps you want to pay off debt or save money for a special occasion. Or maybe you plan to donate money to charity.
Perhaps you want to be better at cooking dinner so your family will be healthier when you return home from work each evening.
3. Achieve Something Important
Other times, we set goals because they matter to us emotionally. Maybe you've dreamed of traveling abroad since childhood, or perhaps you'd really like to learn how to play guitar well. Whatever your reason, remember that there's no right or wrong way to set goals. You'll find that every person has his/her own unique motivation for choosing to start working towards something.
4. Make Decisions More Consistent
When you try to live according to one standard of conduct, you risk inconsistency. Conversely, when you attempt to act consistently across situations, you commit to doing something regardless of external circumstances. This type of consistency helps you avoid inconsistent decisions. As a result, you end up feeling less stressed and anxious.
5. Feel Better About Your Life
Another benefit of having consistent standards is that it makes you feel better about yourself. When you adhere to rules, you're able to focus more fully on other important things such as relationships and career development. In turn, this leads to greater self-esteem and happiness.
6. Gain Control Over Your Time
You may also set goals out of concern over time management. If you realize that you can only accomplish two tasks before bedtime, you might set an intention to complete those two projects first thing tomorrow morning. By planning ahead, you give yourself more control over your schedule.
7. Get Organized
If you struggle with organization, you may wish to establish some kind of system to ensure that all relevant information is accessible whenever needed. For example, you could use a notebook or calendar to record everything related to any given project.
8. Be Motivated by Rewards
Sometimes, we set goals simply because we enjoy them. We get excited thinking about winning a prize or receiving recognition for our accomplishments. However, these types of rewards tend to fade quickly after the initial thrill wears off. Thus, rather than relying solely upon extrinsic motivators, it's best to think about establishing intrinsic ones instead.
9. Develop Self Discipline
In addition to being motivated by rewards, you may aspire to develop discipline by following through on commitments made to yourself. After all, who wants to waste valuable energy pursuing unattainable dreams? Instead, set realistic expectations and make sure you stick to them.
10. Improve Relationships With Other People
Finally, goal setting allows you to connect with others in meaningful ways. It gives people around you a chance to see who you truly are - someone worth knowing. Plus, by sharing what matters most to you, you open doors to new opportunities and experiences.
11. Set Goals That Matter To You Personally
By focusing on personal needs, you can gain much satisfaction from accomplishing even small achievements. Remember: The key isn't necessarily reaching lofty heights; it's staying focused on smaller steps along the road to success.
12. Increase Productivity
Of course, many people set goals in order to increase productivity. Whether you need to write down ideas for future business ventures or improve your skills as a musician, writing down intentions lets you stay organized throughout the day.
13. Create New Possibilities
Often, we set goals in hopes of creating new possibilities for ourselves. Perhaps you would love to join a band but haven't had enough experience playing instruments yet. Or maybe you'd like to travel overseas someday, but aren't entirely certain where you'd like to go. Regardless of why you choose to pursue a particular dream, remember that you create your life based on the choices you make today. So, take charge!
14. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastinating doesn't mean putting off work forever. Rather, procrastinators often fail to meet deadlines due to a lack of preparation. Unfortunately, this tendency tends to snowball into bigger problems later on. Therefore, when faced with a task, be honest with yourself: Are you really going to finish it? And if so, how long will it actually take? Then, plan accordingly.
15. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize
As tempting as it may seem at times, keep your eyes firmly fixed on the prize. When you focus too intently on a single outcome, you risk losing sight of other important factors such as relationships and health. This type of tunnel vision can cause stress and anxiety, which ultimately leads to poor performance.
Why is Goal Setting Important?
You don't want to bob along in the ocean of life, going where the current and winds take you -- even if you are in a sailboat! Chances are you'll end up in rough waters or you'll run aground at some point.
Instead, use goals as your trim tab to easily go in the correct direction.
As a sidebar, Bucky Fuller invented the trim tab and then used a trim tab as an analogy which is representative of the types of reinventions I love helping clients with.
Check out this article in the Huffington Post about Bucky Fuller
Taken from the article: "Bucky’s invention was called a “Trimtab,” a small six-inch wide strip of metal attached by hinges to the trailing edge of a ship’s rudder. As an engine’s hydraulics force the Trimtab into the path of oncoming water, the pressure generated against it assists the rudder in making its turn.
Bucky Fuller "like this tiny sliver of metal [trimtab] can alter the course of a great ship of state, you and I as little individuals can change the course of humanity."
Now back to the question. Here are some reasons why goal setting is important
- Increases Motivation & Confidence
- Improves Performance
- Creates Vision Of Future Success
- Helps Manage Stress & Anxiety
- Makes Decisions More Efficient
- Allows Us To Control Our Own Destiny
- Enables Us To Make Better Choices
- Provides A Sense Of Direction In Life
- Enhances Social Skills
- Boosts Self-Esteem
- Gives Meaningful Purpose In Life
- Reduces Depression
- Promotes Positive Thinking
- Builds Resilience Against Adversity
- Strengthens Willpower
- Decreases Risk-Taking Behaviour
- Fosters Prosocial Behaviours
- Promotes Healthy Lifestyles
- Encourages Personal Growth
- Improves Emotional Intelligence
- Raises Awareness Levels
- Facilitates Creative Problem Solving
- Leads To Effective Decision Making
- Brings Focus On What Matters Most
- Produces Results
- Ensures Accountability
- Eliminates Unproductive Activities
- Saves Time
- Avoids Wastefulness
With so many reasons why goal setting is important, it's a wonder why so many people go through life without clear-cut goals.
How To Set Realistic & Specific Goals
"When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps." - Confucius 551-479 B.C.
First Step – Make A List Of Your Desired Outcomes
Make a list of the specific outcomes you desire. If you've already completed the Reinvention Challenge or even completed the activities found here you will know where you are heading.
This could include anything from getting fit, losing weight, improving relationships, saving money, starting an online business, quitting smoking, learning new skills, buying a house, finding love, becoming debt-free, setting up a charity fund, writing a book, travelling abroad, paying off student loans, investing in property, launching a startup company, making enough money to retire early, raising children, moving overseas, purchasing a sports car, opening my own restaurant, winning a Nobel Prize, being accepted onto Mensa, building a billion-dollar empire, landing a spot on Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays…the possibilities are endless.
It’s important to remember that we must set ourselves realistic but achievable goals. If you dream about something too big, chances are you won’t achieve it. So choose carefully and think realistically about what you would actually like to happen.
"Never compromise a dream. Always compromise on how it will come true." Mike Tut, the Universe
Second Step - Determine Next Steps
Setting goals isn’t easy, but it gets even tougher when we try to set multiple goals simultaneously — especially when one of those goals involves something big like getting healthy, losing weight, or saving money.
In fact, research shows that trying to accomplish too much at once makes us feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
Plus, we tend to focus most intently on the first thing we attempt to tackle. So instead of focusing on accomplishing several different goals at once, why not pick one big goal and create an action plan that helps you reach it?
Once you’ve made a list of your desired outcomes, determine the next steps needed to reach these goals.
These may involve small changes in behaviour over a period of days or weeks or longer periods of months or even years.
When we set goals, they should always be realistic. We need to make sure that we're being specific enough because vague goals won't get us anywhere.
There are two things that determine whether or not a goal is realistic:
1) How much time do you have available?
2) Is there anything stopping you right now from achieving this goal? If yes, what would happen if you didn't achieve it? Can you live without it? Would others notice if you failed?
Setting a goal also requires commitment. It means that you must decide that you will reach this goal before you start working towards it. Don't let anyone talk you out of doing something just because it seems difficult. You know better than most people what you can accomplish, so follow your heart and stay true to yourself.
Here are some more tips on writing effective SMART goals
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed. These 4 characteristics ensure that your goal has meaning and purpose and provides you with motivation to continue down the road toward success.
Specific - Be very specific and answer the 5 W questions (who, what, why, where, when).
Avoid using generalities such as "I'm going to lose weight"
Instead, say something concrete like 'I am going to revise my diet by cutting out sugar and processed foods from my diet by this day next month so that clean eating becomes normal for me. I'm going to start with removing processed and packaged food. Then one week from today, I will also remove all obvious sources of sugar (e.g. in my coffee). During the 3rd week, I'll look for hidden sources of sugar and by the 4th week, I will focus on how my body is feeling."
Measurable - Have measurable milestones along the way. If losing weight is your goal, how much weight do you intend to lose? An example is "I'm going to lose Covid 19lbs before December 31, 2021." This is actually one of my goals and I'm slightly more than halfway there.
Attainable / Achievable - Is it possible to achieve this goal in general e.g. if you take YOU out of the picture, could someone else achieve this goal? What attributes would this person have to achieve the goal? Do you have these attributes yourself? If yes, great! If no, what else do you need to add to your goal list? What constraints will you face while pursuing this goal (e.g. time constraints due to work and family life, financial constraints etc.)
Relevant - Let's face it, if the goal isn't relevant to your ideal day, your core values, vision, purpose, personal or professional reinvention, it's not going to be sustainable. If it's a great goal but the timing is off due to external factors, then what needs to happen to make it relevant? If your goal is to help others, ask yourself "am I the best person to tackle this goal, or should I take a supporting role instead?"
Timely / Time-constraint - If there isn't a deadline, it may not get done. This deadline could be one that you have decided (e.g. I'm going to finish my degree in 2 years) or it could be driven by external factors (e.g. my goal is to take this specific course to help advance my career BUT it is only offered every 2 years, so I have to do this, that, the next thing to apply.)
Third Step - Create Goal Oriented Action Plans
Your career could be one of the most important parts of your reinvention project. It has been said that we live our careers much more often than we live our lives. We spend far too little time planning our future careers, developing ourselves professionally, and growing personally.
We tend to focus on the present rather than the future, and so we miss opportunities to advance our skills, build our networks, develop new ideas, and take advantage of emerging trends. In fact, we often fail to realize that these opportunities exist at all.
So why not put a lot of effort into finding ways to improve your job performance, expand your knowledge base, increase your earning potential, and improve your chances of getting promoted within your company?
And before you decide to leave your current employer, consider asking yourself: "Is my position secure within the organization? Would I feel comfortable leaving if something came up that made me unhappy?"
Professional Development Goals
In addition to working toward improving your career, you also need to set specific goals related to your education. This includes learning about different subjects, acquiring new skills, expanding your network, and building relationships with others who share similar interests or activities.
Many jobs of the future -- perhaps jobs in your profession -- are going to be reinvented while you are still employed. What skills do you need to pivot alongside the demands of your profession?
There are lots of resources available online and offline to help you reach these goals. The Internet offers free courses such as those found on Lynda.com and Coursera.org, while traditional books provide excellent information and advice.
And, check out the courses offered on CarolWain.com. You'll find courses and challenges on many aspects of reinvention, including personal reinvention, professional reinvention, and business reinvention.
Professional Goal Setting
One of the most important decisions we make about our career path is choosing between two very different paths. We choose one over another based upon its potential benefits versus its risks.
We also consider the impact these choices will have on us personally, financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
As a result, we select our careers based on factors such as income level, job security, advancement opportunities, flexibility, growth, challenge, the opportunity for learning new skills, location, etc.
Once we've made the decision to pursue a particular career, we must decide what kind of person we would like to become within that role. This means deciding what type of behaviours we wish to exhibit, how much responsibility we want to take on, and what types of relationships we wish to develop.
In addition to choosing a specific profession, we must decide what values we wish to live by and how we intend to behave toward others. After making these decisions, we must commit ourselves to actions that help us build the character traits necessary to reach our chosen destination.
Finally, we must set appropriate expectations regarding our future earnings and expenses, taking into account the fact that we will probably earn less money than anticipated.
This entire process takes considerable thought and planning, but once completed, it results in a clear understanding of what we expect from ourselves, what we hope to accomplish, and ultimately, what we believe we deserve.
Setting business goals isn't easy but it needs to happen regularly to ensure that you are focused on the future instead of being distracted by daily problems. This means making sure that you set clear objectives and that these are updated frequently. There are two ways to approach this:
1. Make one big objective and divide it into sub-objectives
2. Set several small objectives and link them together using milestones
Whichever method you choose, make sure that you record your achievements against your objectives on a regular basis. It also helps to include a review section at the bottom of your monthly report that allows you to look back over the last few months and assess where you stand compared to your original plans.
Creating the Reinvention Plan with SMART Goals
1. Complete the Reinvention Challenge, or complete the exercises found here. Both of these learning activities will give you an insight into what makes you tick, where you are heading, and what skills and resources you'll need to get you there.
2. Use the T-Form to help you get from "here" to "there". What do you need to start, stop, increase, decrease and not touch?
3. Identify who you need to support you and ask them for their support.
4. Starting with the end in mind, work backward to figure out the big and little steps you'll need to take and attach SMART goals to them. Be sure to include accountability components and dates.
5. After you've created your plan, let it sit for a few days, letting the ideas percolate in your mind and throughout your body (intuition and heart in particular).
For body-specific goals, like fitness or weight loss, it's important to mentally prepare and get yourself into the correct mindset.
This is the time to take a brutally honest and hard look at what you are committing yourself to. Are you truly willing to go through the pain in order to achieve these goals?
Maybe, everything looks good in theory and on paper but there is something inside you that has hit the brakes. If so, explore what it is? At this point, you may need to worth through the challenges with a specialist coach or therapist to resolve some underlying issues that could derail you.
Failure is never fun, so ensuring you have a strong foundation is critical at this point.
Warning: you may find yourself battling the voices in your head that don't want you to reinvent. I call them the Quadruplets of Discontent and their job, as they see it, is to "stop the foolishness".
From experience, these Quads, as I call them, are experts in keeping you uncomfortably comfortable in the status quo.
They will tell you stories that are simply not true -- you've believed them for years, which is why the Quads will throw them at you. Your challenge is to see them for what they are and remove the power that the Quads have in your life.
6. Make adjustments to your plan, then do a Pre-Mortem.
In Step 5, you explored the internal factors which can derail you.
A Pre-Mortem is an activity where you assume that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and the "patient" aka your plan with the goals you've chosen, has died. What happened? Where did the fatal mistake happen? What caused it? What did you fail to account for?
Pre-Mortems should factor in the Quads and their effect on your plans as well as external factors. This is not a time to be wishy-washy. It's a time to step up and point out all the ways the plan could go off the rails. It's the time when the person who sees the negative for everything jumps for joy. Devil's advocate is a great role to take. Explore all the objections, come up with a contingency plan, dismiss any objections which are rooted in fear rather than facts, and ensure that the entire picture is crystal clear.
7. Implement the plan
It's time to take the leap of faith -- take a deep breath and commit to your goals.
It's not always going to be smooth sailing and there will be factors that come out of the blue. However, being resourceful and resilient, you'll deal with them as they arise.
Be sure to keep breaking the big goals into manageable chunks and then celebrate each time you hit a milestone.
8. Remain focused
Keep your eye on the goalposts and your mind on the reasons why you are embarking on this journey.
When situations arise, take a step back and determine if you need a tweak to get back on track, or if the event has been such that it derails you.
Your Quads will battle you and try to get you to believe things that aren't true. However, data is going to tell you trends and the truth.
If, for example, your cash flow takes a massive hit due to economic circumstances, what course of action do you need to take to stay focused on the long-term outcome while dealing with the short-term situation?
When you have achieved a difficult goal, celebrate! When you have successfully conquered behavioural goals, celebrate. When you have challenged yourself and passed your learning goals, celebrate. When you've achieved a milestone for lifetime goals, yes, celebrate!
When we constantly push ourselves to live our best life, we can feel alive, joyous, fulfilled, challenged and proud. These are all exceptional reasons to celebrate and rewards (provided they are in alignment with the vision, values, and plans) are a great way to keep you going.
Reinvention is a journey that can feel like the craziest movie ever produced. It usually has enough twists and turns to make your head spin.
But when you keep your dreams, your ideal day in your ideal life, your vision, your values and your desire to live the best life possible at the front of your mind, you may surprise yourself at what you accomplish.
To aid in the process, set goals and hold yourself and others accountable. When the goal is achieved celebrate and figure out what the next goal will be.
Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's Restaurants, has been quoted as saying "When you're green, your growing. When you're ripe, you rot."
Keep growing with a lifetime of achievable, sustainable, and positive goal pursuit.