From the Desk of Shifu Mark Pruitt
Have you ever found yourself setting a goal, only to realize a few weeks later it had already been put on the back burner? Why does this happen so often? Is there something wrong with us?
The truth is probably a little easier to swallow. When we set goals, we usually think about what we need to do to start the process and what it will look like when we are finished, but we neglect to take into consideration what happens in between. Simply put, this is why so many of us fail in following through on our goals. The good news is, we can change that by following these 8 steps to effective goal setting.
Step 1: Brainstorm time. Take a few minutes to sit in a quiet room with a pen and paper. Ask yourself, ‘What is something I would l like to do in the next 365 days?’ Write down anything that comes to mind, regardless of how silly or impossible it might sound. You’ll likely find a long list of things you know you should already be doing. There’s also a good chance you’ll find things you want and hadn’t even realized before.
Step 2: Narrow it down. You’ll have a long list now of things that are important to you, so this step can be very difficult. The urge to say you’ll just do it all will be great. Saying no to something important is counterintuitive, but focus is key here. It’s better to accomplish a few goals, than to give up on a dozen and accomplish nothing. If you could do everything, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Narrow it down to three to five things and rank them in order of importance to you.
Step 3: Count the costs. This is a very important step and often something we neglect to do when setting goals. What will you need to give up if you are to complete this goal? Would completing this goal go against any of your personal values? For example, if your goal is to lose twenty pounds, the cost may be giving up that daily doughnut or waking up an hour early to hit the gym. If your goal is to get a promotion, the cost may be more time at work and less time with your friends and family. Put a lot of thought into all of the things you will need to give up or do in order to accomplish the goal.
Step 4: Sum up the benefits. This is much easier than counting the costs and more fun. What will accomplishing this goal do for you? For example, if your goal is to lose twenty pounds, a benefit may be a decreased risk of heart attack, more energy, or a more positive body image.
Step 5: Evaluate the NET. Subtract the costs from the benefits to discover the net return for each goal. Are you willing to make the sacrifice to reap the benefits? Are you ready to say ‘I will’, instead of ‘I’ll try’? This is the moment where you either make a full commitment to the goal or you don’t. If you aren’t sure that you’re willing to make the sacrifice to reap the benefits, then you are doomed from the beginning. Go back to step one.
Step 6: Make it S.M.A.R.T. It’s now time to write out the goal in a way that will clarify the desired result. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound.
· You need to write out the goal so that it’s specific or absolutely clear what needs to be accomplished.
· It must be measurable. You need to know how close you are to achieving it and most importantly when it’s completed.
· It must be achievable. There is nothing more demotivating than working hard at a goal that is impossible.
· It must be relevant and something that would actually make sense for you to achieve.
· Perhaps the most important aspect is that it must be time bound. This means there is a clear date the goal must be achieved. This creates a sense of urgency and will keep you focused on the goal. Example: instead of stating ‘My goal is to lose weight’, you would instead write ‘My goal is to lose twenty pounds by December 31st, 2018.’
Step 7: Create your Action Steps. This is coming up with a plan on how you’re going to achieve the goal. What are the steps you need to take to complete your goal on time? These steps should be actions and not results, such as ’run for 30 minutes’, instead of ’lose one pound’. You’ll also want to set a due date for each step in order to manage the tasks more efficiently.
Step 8: Put First Things First. Now you have a clearly defined goal and a plan to achieve it. It’s time to make your dream into reality. That means you must put the action steps ahead of other distractions. If you’re supposed to go on a run and it’s raining, you still go on a run. If your house is messy and you’re supposed to go to the gym, the gym comes first. You’ve already accepted the costs so there is nothing left to stop you!
Mastering these 8 steps to goal planning will help keep you motivated (knowing your goal is attainable, realistic and you’ve weighed the pros/cons) as well as keep you on track for the deadline (since you have action steps and a clearly defined time limit). Then any goal can be achievable, be it in the dojo, at work, with your hobbies or your personal life.