In the past few weeks, I’ve been kicking off my 2017 planning first with a review of 2016 – looking at three elements, my theme, my priority areas (the Wheel of Life) and my goals – followed by a look at how to define a new theme for 2017. I’m not going to go through the Wheel of Life* piece as I’ve covered this in blog posts and my recent webinar. So, today I’m looking at the final piece of the puzzle: effective goal setting.
*If you’re not familiar with this and haven’t done the exercise yet, I recommend my little ebook, which will take you through the steps from identifying your priority areas to assessing where you are today and where you want to get to.
Now I’m a long-time fan of goals, having always been very future-focused – throughout school, I would constantly be looking to the next thing, the next challenge to take on… I’ve been achieving those goals with varying levels of success, however!
When I started my coaching training, goals were at the heart of what I was learning, and it was emphasised how important it was to set specific goals, whether for the whole coaching relationship or for the specific session. If you don’t know what you want to get out of it, how can you know if you actually get it?! In parallel, I got busy with my own goal setting, creating action plans in Excel and making sure that my goals were SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Where I often got stuck, however, was on accountability – not in the sense of someone else checking in on me and giving me a hard time but rather in terms of holding myself accountable. The truth is that no matter how many times I set the goal that I want to eat healthily or do more exercise, the universe won’t implode if I eat that cinnamon bun, and nobody will die if I skip a training session.
So how can you set goals that you’ll actually keep?
The right goals
This is all about identifying the goals that will really have a meaningful impact in your life, committing to those goals wholeheartedly, and then actually following through.
If I just keep setting a goal of losing weight without understanding why that’s so important to me, or what losing the weight would bring me, then it’ll always be very easy to stray. It’s not like we don’t have the knowledge we need to lose weight – most of us know the difference between healthy, nutritious food and pre-packaged sugary crap – so there’s clearly something else going on underneath it all when we nevertheless reach for that bag of crisps or packet of biscuits.
This vicious cycle of setting goals that we know we won’t achieve is a KILLER! It establishes the precedent that goals aren’t something that you stick to, and it gives you an excuse when you inevitably fail – better then to not set the goal at all, and enjoy those crisps and biscuits without the feelings of guilt that so often come with acting differently to what you had planned!
Big vs small
Now since then, I’ve been reading a lot more about goals, and when it comes to long- and short-term goals, I’ve come across two different schools of thought.
On the one hand, we have books like The 12-week Year and online courses like The 90-Day Year, which argue that there’s no point in setting long-term goals and we should focus on a three-month period at a time. I love this focused approach – but aren’t we missing an opportunity here to really see the big picture and plan towards our biggest, wildest dreams?
And that’s where we, on the other hand, have people like Tony Robbins and Bo Eason who encourage us to look at the long-term horizon. Bo Eason is a recent discovery for me, and he tells his personal story of how he has set himself the goal of being the best X – and each time he has given himself a 20-year horizon (“I work well on those time frames.”. And what can’t you achieve in 20 years?? This is hugely inspiring!
I think the most effective approach is a combination of the two, of course: big bad long-term dreams combined with shorter-term goals to keep you focused.
Process vs outcome
The other question is whether to go for process-based or outcome-based goals, and here I’ve read that men tend to be more outcome-based.
I actually think that although it’s good to first have the outcome in mind – losing x kg or y inches, becoming a confident speaker, earning £100k, or whatever the desired outcome – in order to make any kind of change you’re going to want to focus on the process i.e. the actions you’re taking.
So for that goal of losing weight, especially if you really care more about your health and wellbeing, I find it much more constructive and productive to focus on the new behaviours you’re going to implement. For example, going to the gym 3x a week for 45 minutes, eating five different greens each day, reducing portion size, etc.
How to come up with your goals for 2017
And so we come to the point of all this, which was to set specific goals for 2017.
In an old video I watched with Tony Robbins, he simply led a free-writing exercise, which was surprisingly quick and effective at finding meaningful goals! Here’s my version…
- Give yourself 5 minutes to write everything you want to achieve from a personal development standpoint. This can include writing a book, learning a language, travelling to some bucket list destination, and so on. The rule is you just have to keep writing, don’t let your pen stop. Big/small, process/outcome, doesn’t matter!
- Look through what you’ve just written and mark each one with a number to represent the timeline: do you want to achieve this in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years or 20 years? Don’t overthink this, you just want to get the general gist.
- Now out of the ideas you’ve marked with a 1-year time frame, choose the three that you are most excited about and most committed to achieving.
- Write down each of these goals in your journal, or on a notepad, or just on a clean sheet of paper. Underneath each one, write down why you are so excited and committed about making these happen this year. What will achieving this goal bring you? Why is it so important to you?
- Congratulations, these are your goals for 2017! Now guess what… you’re going to identify ONE STEP that will already get you closer to each of those three goals.
Now of course we’re talking about personal development goals here – they may be linked to your business or your career, but they’re really about things you want to achieve in your life, rather than specific business goals and objectives. So in my case, I am also working separately on business planning for 2017, with strategies, goals, and milestones, in addition to these three big personal goals.
Since we’re looking at 2017 planning, I won’t get into the longer-term goals for now but it’s definitely something I’ll be exploring further!!
As an example, here are my three goals with respective ‘whys’ and ‘one steps’…
Anna’s goals for 2017
- I want to become the person who sets and achieves her goals, who commits and holds herself accountable, and is a 100% authentic and inspirational role model for my clients and for people I meet every day.
WHY: I know that I’ve been the most unhappy in my life when I’ve wanted to do something but not done anything about it; and I know I’m happiest and freest when I’m 100% aligned with my intention and my actions. This is also important as I coach people to be authentic and committed in their own lives and I want to be a credible role model.
ONE STEP: I’ve done the exercise above and set these three goals for 2017 🙂
- I want to be the fittest I’ve ever been, to nourish and fuel my body and mind with nutritious food and become strong and full of energy.
WHY: My health and wellbeing is critical to everything else in my life, it sets the foundation and affects my confidence and my energy levels. And, again, having this as a goal but not consistently sticking to it really grinds me down and I want to address this once and for all.
ONE STEP: I messaged my inspirational friend Sophie who has done the most amazing fitness challenges over the years, for some tips on how to start upping my game.
- I want to become fluent in Spanish so that I’m no longer shy when I meet Spanish speakers, and I want to learn salsa dancing!
WHY: I’ve always loved Spanish and I want to be able to speak confidently with Spanish speakers I meet. It’s a sexy language, as salsa is a sexy and feminine dance and also one that I’ve always wanted to learn! Both things are on my bucket list so what better time to start than now!
ONE STEP: I emailed my Spanish teacher I worked with in Geneva in early 2013 ahead of my sabbatical trip to South America and we have our first call on Tuesday 20th December. For the salsa, I’ve got a group of friends who want to join and I’ve emailed a salsa school in London (they haven’t replied so I’m going to need to follow up – a key step that we often miss after the initial excitement of taking action!).
Are you ready to come up with your three goals? Grab a pen, set a timer, and… go! Go ahead and share one of your goals and the action you’re taking in the comments, or you can come on over and join our Facebook group and share it there.