When I first started on a path of self-development, there was already an established body of knowledge on the topic. And this was the 1980s!
Back then, the only way you got a dose of inspiration or advice on goal setting and topics related to personal development was to:
1) Get caught up in an Amway group (great source of inspiration, by the way – just no income)
2) Buy tapes from Nightingale Conant (still around to this day – and the best source of self-help materials next to the Internet)
3) Buy old classics off the bookshelf and hope you could figure out a way to make it work for you…
4) Go to a giant Tony Robbins seminar… Apparently he’s still going strong after 30 years
We’ve come a long way since then.
Now we’ve got entire magazines and websites and seminar industries built around how to accomplish your goals.
The problem is that most of it is the same sad, tired advice that’s been passed around for the same 30 years.
So today, I’m going to put a few fresh ideas in your head on how to get what you want from your life.
But first – some myths about goals – BUSTED!
GOAL SETTING 1: You should set a goal in every area of your life
When I first started setting goals, I got caught up in the hype of goal setting. I sat down and broke my life up into the “important” areas like:
– Health (diet & fitness)
Then you’re told to make a goal for the next week, month, year, 5 years, 10 years, for each one!
Jeez, it’s no wonder no one ever sets goals if it has to be this complicated. And that’s the reality – if your goal setting is taking time away from pursuing your goals, you’re not going to achieve them!
And you’ll be de-motivated from accomplishing them.
I’ll give you an alternative in a minute, but just recognize that goal setting should NEVER be this labor intensive.
GOAL SETTING MYTH 2: Just Brainstorm a list of goals for yourself…
NO! This is probably the worst way to set goals for yourself.
You have to align your goals with what’s really important to you.
Most people don’t know what motivates them, or really know themselves well enough to pick a goal that makes sense, much less one they’ll stick to and pursue to the end.
You have to start from a place of knowing yourself before you can set those goals. I’ll give you a great tip for this further on.
GOAL SETTING MYTH 3: Stick to your goals and NEVER NEVER EVER QUIT…!
Again, very bad advice that sounds kinda real. Like Stephen Colbert says – it has Truthyness about it.
But here’s where you have to maintain some flexibility.
Lives change and people change, so if your 25 year goal that you set when you’re 20 doesn’t make sense anymore now that you’re 40, there’s a reason for that! It’s called “mature thinking.”
Look, our priorities change in life. And I GUARANTEE you that your feelings and priorities will change over time.
This standard advice about not quitting is given out because so many people make a goal and then give up on it.
Usually this happens in the first few weeks (or even days, if you’ve ever had a diet you couldn’t stick with.)
What this advice really means is that you shouldn’t be discouraged when you run into obstacles.
But if your life and your direction changes, you should allow yourself the flexibility to take a different route.
Hey, when you set that goal you might not have realized what you were in for, right?
Okay, so let me give you a few tips that will put you on track with effective and REAL goal setting. Starting with:
Accomplish Your Goals – Tip #1: Know yourself FIRST!
We often set goals that SOUND good to us, but they’re not really something we WANT to accomplish yet.
I mean, eventually you might want to go back to school for that MBA.
OR get that professional certification…
But right now? Your drive is to get out there and establish a career for yourself.
You’re tired of school and it was a drag, so now you just want to get to work!
OR – maybe you want to take a year and travel Europe. After all, your degree isn’t going to fade away immediately.
You know you’ll wish you had traveled if you were to just go and get a job right away…
But nooooooo…. all these other Knowitalls are telling you to just get back to school! Or get to work!
Look, life is full of choices, and none of them are wrong. (Unless you fail to learn from them.)
They do have opportunity costs, but they’re almost never WRONG. So don’t label anything a mistake or you’re just going to kill your self-confidence and self-esteem.
If you’re going to set a goal for yourself, at least take a personality test or even a career test that tells you what your talents are and where your head is at.
Don’t waste your time on a goal you want INTELLECTUALLY, but your spirit couldn’t give a flying squat about.
Take a few minutes and go do either the “Kolbe” or the “Strengths Finder” tests to find out what your true calling is… before you start on a goal that your heart really isn’t interested in.
Or go do a solid personality test that will help you know where to focus.
And speaking of that…
Accomplish Your Goals – Tip #2: STAY FOCUSED!
Yeah, I used to set multiple goals in every area of my life. I’d write them down on these clever forms that I would photocopy at work on my lunch hour. (Shhhh!)
Then I’d do all this tiresome work to think the goal out for the next 25 years… even all the way out to my death.
And I couldn’t stay focused because I had too many dang goals! I mean, every Sunday I’d review them, and I’d get overwhelmed by how much I couldn’t get done because I’d SET TOO MANY GOALS.
If you look at the real movers and shakers out there, most don’t set goals like this at all.
In fact, I’m pretty darn sure that Tony Robbins doesn’t have the time to do this, either.
Stay focused and stop getting distracted by every shiny thing our culture puts in front of you.
Which leads me to:
Accomplish Your Goals – Tip #3: Set only one goal
That’s right. You heard me.
Just start out by setting ONE SIMPLE short-term (less than a few weeks) goal.
I’d even suggest that you set this goal to complete within ONE week.
Because the longer it takes you to feel the reward of your work, the less likely you are to complete it.
What you want is to set a goal, accomplish it fairly quickly and easily, and bask in the glow of it.
SOONER rather than later.
If you set a goal that won’t get completed for a month, that means you need to live a whole month as a failure.
Because you’re spending that time NOT reaching your goal!
This is a huge psychological de-motivator that the gurus never tell you about.
Accomplish Your Goals – Tip #4: Share your goals with everyone you know!
WARNING: The following is going to sound a bit dark and a bit – dare I say – negative…
There is something to be said for accountability, but the reality is that most people do NOT want you to accomplish your goals. I know this one bit of advice will come as a shock to some, but most people do not have the mindset for self-growth.
In fact, most people are barely keeping it together each day. They only want to work their 40 hours, collect their paycheck, and go home to their big screen TV for some entertainment.
It’s the unfortunate truth about humans.
Someday they might wake up out of their trance, but for now, they are not your allies.
So when you’re setting goals, they’re going to smile and say (as if to a child) “Oh, isn’t that swell! Jane is setting herself a goal. Let’s hope little Jane gets her goal without anything SCARY or BAD happening to her.”
Sure, some of your friends will be forward thinkers, and those are the people you can tell your goals to.
But for those of you who know that some of your family and friends are held back by their own mental “junk” – it’s better to just do this without them.
You see, there’s nothing more unsettling for a person than to see someone actually put in some effort and lift themselves out of their situation in life to get something better.
Those other folks are just looking for more excuses as to why the world put them in their lousy circumstances.
So … shhhh! Become a winner without them for now.
If they want to do it, they’ll come knocking on your mansion door later.
Accomplish Your Goals – Tip #5: Don’t set a goal that will take longer than 3-5 years to accomplish.
Again there are too many factors working against you accomplishing goals in the first place.
If you set a goal that’s too far in the distance, you’ve got no positive reinforcement coming for a LOOOOOOOOONG time. And that’s going to murder your motivation.
There is a place for long term goals, but it’s best done like this:
Write your specific desire down on a piece of paper or in your journal. Something like this would work:
Within 5 years, I’ll have learned Spanish fluently enough to carry a conversation with most people I encounter when I travel there.
Then think about what it will be like to accomplish that goal – and then put that piece of paper away for 5 years.
That thought will sit in the back of your head and your subconscious will go to work on it. And in 5 years, you’ll be surprised how many of those goals you actually accomplished.
WITHOUT making yourself feel like crap along the way for it.
Or doing all that unnecessary work.
Life’s An Adventure… Or nothing at all.
So go get busy!