Thinking in terms of goals has been, for me, a really useful way of focussing my mind and energy. Working with goals protects me from simply reacting to circumstances or people around me, from firefighting and dealing with the urgent rather than the important, and from giving myself a hard time over what I have and have not achieved.
Goals are a brilliant way of checking whether we really are doing what we want to be doing and can be a great touchstone for decision-making: shall I do A or B? Well, which better contributes to my primary goal at the moment? They can relate to big life issues (one of my goals is to be living by the sea before I’m 55), or they can be about the smaller things (today, I want to write an action list to prepare for the party we’re having tomorrow night). The principles below are relevant to any goal, big or small.
So, as a very quick intro to the idea of using goals, here are 5 top tips:
1) your goals must must must be concrete: what will be different when you’ve achieved your goal? For example, this is a useful goal: “I will swim three times a week”; this isn’t: “I will do more exercise”; or this is a useful goal: “my partner and I will set aside an evening once a fortnight to go out together”; this isn’t: “I will spend more quality time with my partner”. In each case, the general desire is a useful starting point from which to develop a concrete goal but it is not itself the goal;
2) be realistic about what you can achieve. Some people are energised by thinking about the big picture, some are overwhelmed. Which are you? If you need to start de-cluttering your house by thinking just about that one drawer, then that is a good and valuable start. If you need the momentum of thinking about a whole room, then give yourself enough time and whatever you practically need to achieve that;
3) be a little bit canny about how much you share with other people about your current goals: the accountability that comes from telling someone else what you intend to achieve can be really important (see my earlier post on making public commitments) but it is also important to develop accountability to yourself and an inner satisfaction in achieving your goals. Choose carefully who you share your goals with;
4) review how you’re doing. If you’ve achieved your goals within your specified timeframe, that’s brilliant; if not, go easy on yourself and ask yourself why not. The answer you come up with will be really useful information as you begin to think about other goals – ones you can achieve.
5) If you want help in establishing what your goals are and then achieving them, find a coach you can connect with. A coach can be a very powerful ally in helping you to set and review goals and is also a trusted person who can provide accountability whilst respecting, and supporting you to develop, your inner resources and in-built satisfaction.