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Posted by Sarah Brown on 31 Dec '17
If you want 2018 to be a successful year read this
Setting and attaining goals is an important step in achieving success but despite many New Year’s Resolutions and goal setting sessions many people fail to achieve what they want.
In this blog I will provide a four step method which is based on the best and most recent research.
1 Set meaningful goals
2 Record your goals in a powerful way
3 Create a plan for success
4 Provide the environment to achieve your goals
The new research provides evidence that having goals that move you, writing them down, committing to action steps and developing a support network will dramatically increase your success in achieving what you want.
Step 1 Set meaningful goals
Review where you are on the wheel of life so that you can identify what you want to achieve in the following year.
Also think about the bigger picture so that you can set meaningful goals to help you get there
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
Some bigger questions you can ask to help create inspirational goals include:
- In seven years how do I want my life to be?
- What would I like people to say about me and what I had achieved at my funeral?
- If we were meeting together in three years’ time what has to have happened for you to feel happy with your success?
Now you should have a list of goals, however before you get to the next stage check that your goals are both a challenge but also achievable as the science shows that our subconscious turns off if the goals seem impossible.
A good test is that if you can’t visualise your goal it means that subconsciously you believe it is out of reach. We get clients to draw their goals ( see my blog The Science to help you achieve your goals - section 3 for more details); this always leads to more detail and clarity as you can’t draw getting fit, for example, so you have to draw running a marathon or climbing a mountain or a scales with a weight or whatever. If you can’t draw your goal again it indicates that your brain can’t understand what it will be like to achieve it.
It can help to have a third party like a coach when setting goals. We certainly challenge our clients to think bigger and we help them by identifying the evidence for a goal being achievable rather than feeling impossible.
Step 2 Record your goals in a powerful way
We need to own our goals and hand writing them and then signing that you have committed to them is the way we show ownership and commitment in our society.
The goals you record can’t be vague intentions they need to be SMART
In your goal you also need to include the strategy for achieving your goal. So when you write your goal it needs the final outcome and the how, each as SMART as possible for example a business goal might be:
Increase turnover by 20% in total for 2018 by increasing the number of leads from social media.
Step 3 Create a plan for success
"Deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success."
Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson
So now you’ve got a well written goal but the failure to plan is the reason so many New Year’s Resolutions and goals generally are not achieved.
Not only is a map of practical help in getting you to your destination it also increases your motivation to do it.
You need to create a plan in as much detail as possible with activities and support using calendar alerts, phone alerts, your diary, whatever it takes. You will need milestones and ways to measure your progress.
You will need to identify the resources you will need and who can help (see step 4 for more detail).
You will also need to identify what habits you will need to establish and how you might find prompts for the behaviour you need e.g. whenever I book a networking breakfast I book a gym session. Rather than having to find the motivation to book a gym session you have a trigger for the action when you link it to something you already have in your life.
Just like a map gives you the confidence that you can get to your destination and allows you to imagine how the journey will be, a plan makes your goal feel achievable, it gives it a reality it become more than a dream or wish. Research showed that almost everyone (91%) of people who had a plan to exercise and committed to it did exercise whereas of those who just had a goal and motivation only a third exercised.
It’s a plan that works, motivation on its own is not enough. This has been tested in over a 100 studies and every time they show that people who plan what they are going to do and then explicitly state when and where they will do some activity to achieve their goals are much more likely to achieve their goals in the long term.
Mini goals and rewards
Obviously a plan gives you the detail of how to get to your goal, but actually there is more to the psychology than that. If you have a plan which has a set of intermediate goals with rewards on the way to your large goal each time you achieve them you will get a surge of dopamine which will make you feel good and keep you going; it’s the mini rewards on the way that will keep you going to the big goal.
Having a plan B
“You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals.”
Booker T. Washington
The social psychologist, Emily Balcetis, from New York University, has identified how critical it is to plan for the unexpected or when you don’t behave exactly as you want.
The difference between winning and losing is being prepared for the unplanned. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Michael Phelps looked odds on for winning his eighth gold medal in his strongest event and having already won seven. Then the unexpected happened, when he dove into the pool his goggles filled up with water so he couldn’t see which would impact his ability to turn effectively. But he had a plan B he just started counting his strokes as he know how many it took for each length. So practically blind he won his eighth gold. No panic, staying focused.
To achieve this he had to think about what might stop him achieving his goals. You need to consider what might stop you. Here are some questions which can help identify potential obstacles:
What might you do yourself that might make it hard to achieve your goals?
Who else might make it difficult for you to achieve your goals?
What might happen, your equivalent of water in goggles, that you need to plan for?
4 Provide the environment to achieve your goals
Keep goals at the front of your mind
When did you last look at your current goals? Can you even remember? Goals and the plan to achieve them don’t work if they are hidden in a drawer. It’s also good to keep your goals and plans from previous periods as reviewing what you have achieved can be highly motivational to show you how much you can accomplish.
What ways can you keep your goals top of mind, can you put post it notes in your car, maybe on your vanity mirror? Can you use some of them as your passwords “£100kturnover”?
As well as keeping your goals and plan visible and live, you also need to remove anything which might be holding you back. Are there parts of your past that are around and you don’t want to be part of your future? They can be a symbol and subconscious message that you don’t really believe in your goal. The classic is the personal goal for losing weight where you keep the clothes for your larger size, just in case.
It is important to keep focused and to minimize distractions. If you are easily distracted use a timer and set it for 20 minutes of focused time on achieving a step towards a goal.
Making yourself accountable
Creating a plan and sharing what you plan to do with others who hold you accountable will help you to achieve your goals. This is not the grand plan but what you intend to do today, this week, this month. This will boost your systolic blood pressure as you talk about getting closer to achieving your goal.
So you need to make yourself accountable and find people who can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. This might be a virtual group, more ideally a real group or a coach or colleague or friend to help you keep on track, depending on the goal.
Our Solopreneurs Growth Club is an easy way to stay accountable.
The scientific basis for the impact of accountability was established in research by Dr. Gail Mathews, at Dominica University, her studies show that if you write your goals down, you increase your probability of achieving them by 44%. But more impressive if you share them and are held accountable, you increase your chances of success by 78%.
To get more detail about the science behind these steps and more help in achieving your goals read our free ebook
Take our survey on goals so that we can get up to date information - we will send you the results if you want