In my last blog post, I outlined 5 Reasons People Fail to Achieve Their Goals. Once you have identified possible pitfalls on your road to success, it is essential to set attainable goals. That, however, is not enough. A goal must have a plan. I repeat: A goal MUST have a plan.
I propose and strongly believe that things go awry because of our failure to develop a plan when creating our goals. A goal without a plan is like a boat without a sail. To achieve our goals, we must have a plan. A well-developed, solid plan.
“It is necessary to prepare and plan so that we don’t fritter away our lives,” said LDS President Thomas S. Monson. “Without a goal, there can be no real success. One of the best definitions of success I have ever found goes something like this: Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. Someone has said the trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never crossing the goal line” (Teachings of Thomas S. Monson, p. 123).
To make sure your goals do not become brief glimpses at a weakly hoped-for result this year, consider following these 5 steps to effective goal-setting:
- Write goals down. Make them measurable and attainable. For example, I wouldn’t write down, “I will lose weight.” I would write down, “I will lose 10 pounds by March 1st. With that goal, I have something that is clearly defined and very attainable. Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, stated that one of the most important things we can do to reach success is to “Begin with the end in mind.” “It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.”
- Make a list of resources you need in order to achieve your goal. For example, if your goal is to publish your writing, you would make a list of things you need to know and have to achieve that goal, such as knowledge of how to become published, a list of publishers, and a network of other authors. Then, begin developing your relationships and understanding of these things.
- Create deadlines. By setting deadlines, you will stay accountable to yourself and stay on track for reaching your goals. Set both short-term and long-term deadlines. For instance, if your goal is to run a half-marathon this year, set some deadlines each month to make sure you stay on track to competitively run that longer distance within the year.
- Look at your goals every day. Create a chart and post it on your refrigerator. Write your goals on post-it notes and put them on your mirror. Schedule notifications on your phone to remind you of your goals. The more you see your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. A couple of years ago, our family was greatly determined to become debt-free. We created a chart showing our debts and hung it in a highly visible place –the refrigerator. Each month, as we put every spare penny we could find toward those debts, we showed the progress on that chart. Our kids gained a sense of ownership in the process and we all began celebrating as we saw progress on that debt snowball chart. By looking at our goals every day, we made decisions that aligned closely to them.
I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop this past summer given by a successful teacher-author. She suggested that along with looking at your goals every day, you take time to visualize yourself achieving the goal, write down every small accomplishment you make along the way, and spend more time positively focusing on the goals instead of negatively focusing on the obstacles.
- Focus. Author Sean Covey explains “Focus is a natural principle. The sun’s scattered rays are too weak to start a fire, but once you focus them with a magnifying glass, they will bring paper to flame in seconds. The same is true of human beings—once their collective energy is focused on a challenge, there is little they can’t accomplish.”
By following these 5 simple steps to setting goals, you will find yourself experiencing more success in whatever areas you are working on. Whether it is in our careers, families, or personal lives, it is highly satisfying to experience accomplishments as the result of consistent, smart goal-setting and hard work.