I recently overheard someone reply, when asked about her holiday weekend, “It was successful. My New Year’s resolution was to overeat on every major holiday.
I figure I’m going to do it anyway; why not make it a goal I can actually keep?” I had to laugh. It made me think about the goals we create in our lives and in our businesses.
Many fall into one of two major categories: The first category is goals we set that we have a 95% chance of accomplishing – mostly because we’ve done it before, so the likelihood is high that we’ll succeed.
The other category is goals where there’s a 95% level of uncertainty that we’ll accomplish them, and we’ve never done it before, but we’d like to. There are benefits to both kinds of goals.
You might think the first kind of goal is for slackers, but there is some value in setting goals that you’re confident you’ll achieve.
Using that confidence as a springboard for trying new things can be a useful thing – kind of like doing the perfect swan dive as a warm-up for an Olympic-calibre diver. The problem is if you stop at those, you don’t get to really compete with the big dogs.
Goal-setting has been written about every which way. This article is a little bit about setting, but more about accomplishing the goal. The kind of goals you set is certainly important, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume you’re setting an uncertain goal that has some reasonable chance of success.
The human brain is set up to help you achieve goals that you sincerely believe are achievable. If you want to stretch yourself or your business to new heights, here are my thoughts on goal-setting and goal-getting.
1. Dream, but be motivated.
It’s okay to dream and have big goals. But if you’re actually going to accomplish them, you have to do something about them, and that takes motivation.
The very first thing you need to achieve a goal is a reason and deep desire to achieve it. The path to achieving goals is fraught with boredom, excuses and difficulty.
You’ll have many opportunities to talk yourself out of the goal, but going back to the reason for the goal will help you stay on track.
2. Break it down into 24-hour bites.
If your goal is to shed 10kgs, your brain doesn’t see you 10kgs lighter in 24 hours, but it can see you 500 grams lighter in that time. Set your goals so that your brain accepts them. Your mini goal must be reasonable and sustainable.
3. Do something daily.
Nothing replaces repetition and creating momentum like doing something to get you closer to your goal every day.
You’ll naturally take some time off, but if you don’t take seriously the first 30 days of work on the goal and use them to create momentum, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t get there. The first 30 days are critical to convincing your brain that you’re serious.
4. Adapt and adjust.
As you work on your daily mini goals and toward the bigger goal, be willing to adapt. Make the mini goals more difficult if they seem too easy. Make them easier if they become too taxing.
5. Feedback and reward.
The human brain responds to two things to learn and attain new behaviours and knowledge: Feedback and reward.
As you go about your goal-getting, be brave enough to request feedback from others, and then reward yourself each day for accomplishing your little goals.
Research has shown that even keeping a calendar where you put a little gold star on the days you are successful (à la kindergarten) can be effective positive reinforcement. The visual is enough reward for the brain to know it’s doing something right.
6. Schedule slop time.
Schedule time when you’re not focused on your goal, when you get to cheat on it or not do it at all. You’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well allow yourself the room to be human so you don’t feel dejected by temporarily ignoring your goal. Just don’t make it a habit.
7. Know you’re going to get bored.
Doing something in small pieces each day can lead to boredom. Do it anyway. Achieving goals isn’t always about a daily cork-popping ceremony to celebrate something sensational you did.
It’s usually about sticking to the daily, boring small stuff. Get that right, make it slightly more difficult each day, and do it again and again. People who achieve their goals usually do it because they kept going when it gets tough and boring.