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Personal Goals

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By Keith Barnwell


“Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” – Aristotle

I frequently hear from many of my clients that they feel their lives lack direction or purpose. For all their hard work and effort, nothing ever seems to change or improve. I believe that this situation is often the result of them not taking the time to consider what it is that they really want to achieve.

One of the best ways to ensure your success, be it in business, health & fitness – or in life in general, is to set goals. Well defined, realistic and achievable goals help you to maintain a sense of purpose and motivation.

Without clearly defined goals you may find yourself at the vagaries of wherever life takes you.  As Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.

Before you begin to set your personal goals, take a moment to consider what success looks like to you. Success means different things to each of us; make sure that what you are aiming for is what you really want to achieve.

Some of the things to think about when setting goals are:

Check your commitment ~ and your motivation.  Ask yourself how much you really want to reach this goal, and why.  Consider what you may have to give up in order to achieve your goal; are you prepared to make the sacrifice? Try using the 1-10 scale to identify just how important this goal is in comparison to other things in your life. You will need complete commitment and motivation in order to realise your goals.

Be a realistic optimist ~ when setting a goal. You want to set your goals high enough to inspire you, yet low enough to encourage you!  Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation, but an unrealistic goal can be demotivating. Most goals worth achieving will require adequate time, planning, effort and persistence. Unrealistic thinking will leave you ill-prepared for the journey ahead and significantly increases the odds of failure.

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Write them down ~ to crystallise your goal. Remember the saying, “Goals that are not written down are just wishes“. Writing your goal gives it a tangible presence that can be useful when your enthusiasm is flagging.  For those of you who use my LeaderFocus App for the iPad, use the Development Goals section to keep your goals constantly in front of you every day.

Set clear deadlines ~ that are achievable and commit to them.  Only by having defined targets will you be able to monitor your progress and keep yourself motivated and on track.

Use scaling ~ to fast track your success. I often ask my clients to identify on a scale of 1-10 where they believe they are at the start of a new goal setting exercise.  Rather than aim directly for 10, we discuss what is different about the next level up on the scale, and simply concentrate on bridging that gap.  By continually moving up the scale incrementally, they ultimately achieve their goal.  These small successes can be a powerful tool to help create and maintain enthusiasm as you work to reach your goal.

Monitor your progress ~ honest and regular monitoring of your progress is essential to achieving your goals.  Without an accurate account of your progress it is difficult to adjust your behaviour or strategy accordingly.  Check your progress as often as necessary to develop a clear picture of your progress.

Focus on what you will do ~ not what you won’t do.  Rather than focus on how you will eliminate your bad habits, instead plan how you will replace them with positive habits.  For example, swap “I will stop eating junk food at lunch” with “I will prepare a healthy lunch for myself each day next week”. Or use “I will listen and consider the opinions of my colleagues tomorrow” rather than “I will not lose my temper with my work colleagues”.  Research on thought suppression indicates that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. The same holds true when it comes to behaviour; by trying to avoid a bad habit, we often end up strengthening those same patterns. To achieve real success, replace negatives with positives.

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Achieving your goals is not easy, especially if it involves some form of behavioural change. – if it was we wouldn’t have all those failed New Years’ resolutions behind us! I tell my clients to imagine a field of tall grass with a number of paths where the grass has been trampled down. These paths represent your behaviours. Now imagine trying to forge a new path through the grass. It would take considerable effort and you would need to walk that same way at least 20 times before the grass would start to stay down and become a path.  Most of us give up long before we have created that new path, or behaviour, and revert to what feels easy and comes naturally to us.

Thank you for reading and please share this post with others who you think may find it helpful.

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This is an extract from the LeaderFocus App for the iPad available on iTunes.  To learn more and to download the LeaderFocus App click on the icon.  Keith Barnwell is a leadership development specialist and executive coach at It’s All About Leadership