The Basics of Goal Setting- Why it not as easy as many make it out to be! – and 5 steps to make it easy!
Goal setting is a Science! However, one needs to be prepared to do many iterations before being able to achieve a model that works!
Reading books on setting goals is a great eye opener. It sets a sense of urgency on what one needs to do, to move forward in life. It opens one’s eyes to the things that one needs to do NOW, and prioritize the activities. Putting items in various quadrants, and other numerous models that can be used to get the life you wanted, becomes the norm!
And then, reality sets in.
You realize that, for some reason, you don’t know where to start.
Trying to work through the maze of things to do could be a different goal by itself!
When I started off, I found my focus to be something like this! A balancing act that was a miracle by itself- and I was doing things to keep the whole act balance by itself!
You quickly realize the following-
· You don’t know where to start.
· You realize you are leading a life that is tethering on the edge.
· You really don’t have a very clear or central goal (if you do, you should congratulate yourself for you have to be a minority in this area – most people don’t know what their core purpose in life is).
· You spend most of the time in life following the things that are of immediate importance- in most cases these are items that offer immediate gratification!
· Most importantly, your activities are upside down compared to what most experts advise!
· You are running around spending time on your career, and making more money (or at least trying to) so that your family can have the best life possible! Ironically, at the end of the day, the whole purpose is lost because there is no time to spend with the family!
Over the years, I have attended programs like the Steven Covey’s 7 Habits, read books by Brian Tracy (Goals etc.), and other numerous books on Managing time & setting Goals. Every book has been brilliant and has provided numerous tips on how best to do Goal-setting.
However, a few pointers that has stuck with me- and here are the top 5 things that have stuck with me!
1. Focus on the CENTRAL GOAL of your life. It will vary from person to person . For me it is FAMILY! Everything that I do, I work on, has the family as the central goal. This central goal becomes the governing principle of your life. It could be Religion (I have friends who do things that help them get closer to god). Brian Tracy in his books “Goals” calls this the “Reticular Cortex”, which is where the brain starts visualizing this end goal.
2. Don’t expect QUICK RESULTS – This is a slow process. After all you have spent a few decades of your life leading an existence without these guiding principles. How do you change it at short notice? It is a long road – and you need to be prepared to drive through this. A few trial and errors are required. I moved from using the trial version of Franklin Covey to software that helps sets goals (Goalpro). After much trials (and more errors and non-starters), I have come to using a good old Excel sheet to help me formulate the goals. It is still a long way from being good- but it works to an extent. I can at least articulate my key goals in their list of priorities. (Not here though 😉 ).
3. Do the FIRST DRAFT first – Complete one draft – however vague it is – as it sets the tone to start the next steps. Keep at it – so that you are able to address this effectively. Focus on creating the key goals you are going to focus on.
4. Avoid getting stuck into “Tasks” and focus on the big picture – This is one area I found myself repeatedly during this exercise. It is easy to get confused and focus on “tasks” – activities that you have to do and miss the bigger goals. Example, deliver that presentation to the customer by 12 noon tomorrow rather than delivering on the goal of possibly being – the person “who is always dependable and delivers on his commitments”.
5. Pen & Paper – Always works better than computer! Write down the activities & do the exercises on paper. This is one area that I did not focus on- and in hindsight, a key element of success in your goal setting journey.
This is an example of how the earlier balancing act could be realigned – with clear focus on the central purpose & allocating the time that is required to make it happen! Once the central purpose is taken care, the rest follows. Remember to focus on every single element of your goal statements – and keep moving accordingly. Every element is critical.
Here are some good reading material that could help you with this…
- Don’t lose focus on the priorities in life! – While it is easy to get carried away and just focus on the problem, you need to deliberately step out of the circle- and look at the problem from a third person’s perspective. By looking at the key priorities in life- which is family, work, finance, career, health etc > you will be able to find the energy and the drive, that will help you come out of the spin. Make the time- focus on the priorities in life- and keep plugging away on the all the aspects of your life instead of just the one problem. The problem will suddenly look small, insignificant and more importantly, manageable.
- Don’t lose your trust in the Superior Power – I am sure there are many who believe in the power of prayer. And there are those who do not. But for those who believe (and lucky you), I think this is super important. Every single problem will look insignificant in the future! In fact every issue you face, prayers (and introspection) will show you roads to areas you would have not have dared to venture into. Keep the trust! Keep praying! Miracles are just one prayer away.
- Believe in the Power of the Family – If not the extended family, your family can make a big difference. [of course, this may not apply if your wife or husband is the problem]. That said, a family can solve more problems by sharing & by being together. Work on the problems together. Be open with the issues, and many a times, your better half (and they are called the better half for a good reason), may come up with things that make be the exact solution you needed.
- You cant always solve it all alone. Build a team: In many cases, the old cowboy days are long gone. Having an ecosystem of well-wishers, friends and family, can go a long way in shielding you from problems, showing ways to solve your problems and in many cases giving you ideas that you would have never thought of. Open up- and share your problems with the people you trust. Caveat – Learn to choose the people you trust – very, very carefully. Learn to talk your challenges. Start early- don’t wait for the problem to become more acute.
- Pick the right battles, and once done, do your best : Pick the battles you want to fight carefully. Do the right thing, and I believe, the results usually work out well. Do the wrong thing, and in the long run, I am sure, it will come back to haunt you! But always assess the options available, decide if it is a battle worth fighting, and be prepared to walk away! However, if you do decide that is the right thing to do – then do all it takes to make it work. Use every contact, every option, every opportunity to take that step forward & be ready for the next moves.
The list can go on and on.
And, nothing lasts forever- and the good times do follow- Always.
Wait it out and ride out the problem by being a bit more proactive!
There are times in life, when the going gets a little tougher than usual. Things that used to work smoothly, suddenly become a hill! People you trusted suddenly decide to experiment with that trust and do things that makes you incredulous (and furious). Things that started out well, suddenly start following Murphy’s Law (anything that an go wrong, will go wrong).
Testing times really test the mettle of the person – and test the limits to which one can stretch. And it is easy to give way, and become negative, angry & shut down!
But, these are the times (and an opportunity) for you to change your thinking and the paradigm! These are the times you should look at the world and the situation in a different light- and possibly that will help your pain & set you on the right path.
Here are some learnings that I went through (in fact going through) as I go through a challenging time in my life… and without the blessing of having people I care about close to me, and friends who are willing to support you to the end, this would have been even more difficult!