Step 1 Create meaning
Creating a goal usually starts with deciding we want to achieve something. We want to “lose weight”, “become more present” or “quit smoking / drinking”. We can be quick to decide what the goal is but don’t take the time to deeply understand why we want those things in the first place.
Often the process of achieving a goal has pain associated with it, whether it’s an early start or missing out on something we desire. As humans we are naturally wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so if the why or meaning behind the goal isn’t strong enough then when Mr Pain knocks on the front door at 6am it’s going to be a lot harder for us to answer the door and a lot easier for us to stay in bed enjoying the short-term pleasures.
The punchline? Your reason for setting the goal in the first place has to be more compelling than the short-term pleasures you will have to sacrifice along the way.
Step 2 Design the plan
It’s not enough to say “I want …” or “I want to become …”; some planning needs to take place to make a goal a reality. There are already many well-established and effective methods out there, such as the SMART system, making your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timebound; or others prefer to use DUMB (which is smarter than it sounds) – Dream-driven, Uplifting, Method-friendly, Behaviour-driven. Whatever you choose, it’s important to find a system that works for you and review it on a regular basis to help you stay on track.
Your goal may be set in concrete but don’t be afraid to draw your plans in the sand. Some obstacles may pop up along the way and it’s your job to be flexible and respond positively to those challenges.
Step 3 Find your accountability partner
The greatest challenge with achieving goals is the great deal of self-discipline and willpower required to stay committed. Most people would do anything to keep commitments and promises to others but they suck at keeping their commitments to themselves. These people are essentially saying, “I don’t want to let others down, but I can let myself down”.
Can you relate to this? The types of excuses you can’t stand getting from others: “Sorry, I didn’t have time”, “I forgot” or “It’s not my fault” are the same ones you can quite comfortably tell yourself when you have failed to do something for you. Find an accountability partner, tell them what you are working on, and ask if they can check in with you from time to time to see how you’re going.
The three steps listed above aren’t rocket science and they’re not meant to be. Often it’s the simple things done well that can generate the greatest results.
As Jim Rohn said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”. Perhaps the first goal is to review how you set goals and recognise where you could improve your process. Start small, show some discipline and you will be amazed with what you can achieve.
Mindset and leadership coach Jason Whitelaw works with teams that are struggling with motivation. He helps them to break through their performance barriers and reach new levels of effectiveness.