Are you one to sit down with a pen and paper, your favorite productivity app, or a bunch of Post-It notes and get your goals down in black and white? Do you expect a written goal to become something concrete that will keep you marching forward, eyes on the prize? When all of that ink stares back at you, is it motivating or mocking? Once you pour it all out, does it inspire you, or does it merely empty your brain of your great intentions?
Despite every time-management and self-help advice ever received, I have to admit I have never been a goal setter. (For those who know me well, that could really explain a lot! 😉 ) Whether I’m just disorganized or simply dislike setting myself up for perceived failure is a topic for another time, so we’ll just deal with the issue of setting goals in this post! I live my life by a “To Do” list. However, the urgent often replaces the important because frequently I am just doing the next thing that comes my way instead of working toward a specific end. I am really ready to accomplish the important! Consequently, I have done a great deal of thinking and reading about goals over the past several months and have been working on a system that will move me into the realm of tangible, achievable results.
Many people are familiar with SMART Goals, the model used for years by businesses and other organizations. Many people who use the SMART Goal model subtly change the business-oriented definitions to meet their specific needs. I have done the same thing and created Wendy’s SMART Goals. They may have largely the same meaning, but hey, I am trying to make this as relevant to how I operate as possible! 🙂 Before we go on, let’s make a distinction between a “resolution” and a “goal.” This time of year, people everywhere are throwing around resolutions — typically vague statements about some character trait or behavior they would like to change. “Spend more quality time with my spouse” is a predictable resolution. A goal, on the other hand, is specific and measurable: “Have at least two dates with my spouse each month; alternate who will do the planning.” Notice that it is also simple. The more specific and simple I can make a goal, the easier it is to define the actionable steps required to achieve it; furthermore, completing those steps are how I will measure my progress. This is also a very meaningful goal for me. I want this, it is important to me. If your goal has no personal meaning for you, chances are you will have difficulty achieving it.
Reading the resolution in the last paragraph, my mind literally starts darting around like the ball in a pinball machine: “Okay, now what? Play a game? Go out to dinner? See a movie?” Inevitably, because I have no clear direction, I put off making the decision. Suddenly another week has passed with no change — we still eat dinner together, talk about our day, settle down for the evening to watch TV, do a little internet surfing, or doze in front of the fire. There is nothing wrong with any of that, but if I want to do “more,” I must have a specific “more” in mind. If we each know that we are responsible to plan one date per month, we have something very specific, very measurable on which to act. If my husband asks what we are doing on our date night, and I give him a blank look, it’s going to be pretty obvious my actions aren’t measuring up!
There are other important aspects I need to achieve my goals: they must be realistic and they must have a timeline. Continuing our date night example, we can decide together when our dates will be (make sure they are promptly added to the calendar!). We both now know our timeline. Since we agree that each of us only has to plan one date per month, this seems like a realistic goal. But what if it is an unusually busy month, or we find that two nice dates a month is too much of strain on the budget? Then we reassess. These are goals, they are not The Ten Commandments, and I have written them in Evernote not stone, so that I can change them! Flexibility is my friend, and yours, too! Bottom line, we have to do what works for us, and you have to find what is realistic for you, then set your timelines accordingly!
Finally, I must have accountability. This is, for me, the hardest part. It means taking a risk. I must confide to someone my dreams and desires, my faults and insecurities, and I have to be willing to let that person see me fail at times, push me when I don’t want to be pushed, but trust he or she will keep loving me on to the finish. I have to make my goals public. And even if “public” just means posted on my refrigerator or bathroom mirror, it still means that someone besides me will see them! That sounds risky to me, and I am not a natural risk taker!
And yet… When was the last time I achieved something that excited me without some measurable bit of risk?
And so it was time. I asked my husband to take me out for coffee (no distracting TV!) and for the first time ever, told him about my personal goals. And guess what? He didn’t laugh at me! Okay, he may have almost smiled behind his hand at one or two, but he didn’t dismiss a single one. Actually, he agreed with them all! He even added a few of his own, along with several we will work on together.
Over the next few months, as I learn to be transparent in this little space without being overly personal, I’ll share some of my goals with you, along with my steps for achieving them and my progress. In the meantime, “Why Not?” spend some time thinking about what you would really like to achieve in the next few months and years, not just vague concepts of what you would like to change. Let the ink flow freely. Once you have some specific and meaningful goals, plan your simple and actionable steps for achieving them, making sure those steps are both measurable and realistic. Don’t be afraid to reassess your goals as needed. Make sure you set a timeline for each step, or you will likely forget to do it! Then take a deep breath, take someone into your confidence, and allow yourself to be held accountable. Embrace the vulnerability! 🙂
Are you a goal setter? What is your best tool for attaining the goals you set for yourself?