This is the time of year that many people set goals and resolutions, making promises to themselves and each other. Some people have great strategies for goal setting, but most people set goals in a way that ensures that they will not be achieved. Here are some things you can do that will guarantee failure.
1. Setting goals for everything you want to achieve. There is power in goals, and it is easy to think that stating things your desire as a goal for the future increases the chances of success. The truth is that setting goals is different from making a wish list. When you set goals, you are sending a message to your brain that “I am committed to this.” Setting to many “goals” dilutes the commitment.
Here are a few examples of goals poorly set:
- a. “I want to be happy.” This is neither specific nor time bound. The biggest problem is, who knows what it means? Is it a certain amount of money? The love of a special person? A job you enjoy and are good at? Without a clear definition of happiness and a defined path for getting there, it is unlikely that you will succeed.
- b. “I don’t want to be fat anymore.“ Most people’s brains operate in pictures and the brain cannot make a picture of a negative thought. If the brain hears, “I don’t want to be fat anymore.” It hears “I” and “fat” it pictures you fat. If I tell you, “Don’t think of a blue elephant.” Your brain creates a picture of a blue elephant. State your goals positively, so your brain can visualize what success will look like.
- c. “Lose weight, get in shape, swim more, and eat better.” This laundry list of wants, and wishes does not inspire commitment because it is not specific or measurable. A better goal would be, “I will improve my health through diet and exercise, achieving a goal weight of 180 lbs. by July of 2021.” This goal is specific, measurable and time bound. It encompasses more than just weight loss with a larger goal of improving health. Be sure to evaluate how you are doing along the way, adjusting your diet and your exercise to find a program that works for you and is sustainable.
2. Setting goals that you can easily achieve. One of the most valuable reasons for setting goals is to establish a target to work toward. If your goals don’t stretch you, they won’t excite you. If you only want what you know you can get, you really don’t need to set goals at all. If you find yourself setting your goals too low, try upping your goal by 50%. Still too easily achieved? Try doubling it. Your goal shouldn’t be impossible, but it also shouldn’t be easy. Be sure you have people in your amen corner offering you encouragement when you are struggling.
3. Setting goals that are not possible to achieve. Nearly as often as setting goals that are not specific, people err by setting goals that are not realistic. If your goal is to be a millionaire by the time you are 28, you better be doing more than buying lottery tickets. People achieve what others think is impossible every day, but it takes vision, belief, and hard work. Action is critical. If your goal is to win the lottery, be sure and buy a ticket!
4. Being vague out of fear you might limit yourself. ‘Get a job’ might be something to work toward but making your goal about a specific type of job at a specific company increases the chances that you will end up somewhere you want to work doing something you want to do. Your goal may require several steps. Think of your goal as a GPS and give yourself a clear destination to keep from getting lost along the way.
5. Setting a goal that someone else thinks you should. Even when someone wants what they think is best for you, only you know what you really care about and what holds the most meaning to you. A goal must be something YOU want because you are going to have to do the work.
Failing at goal setting is so easy, people do it regularly. Those who make the effort to set goals successfully, achieve much more than their colleagues. Effective goal setting will increase your success. It is important to set goals that are specific, measurable and time bound. Making sure the goals you set are achievable and realistic will also increase your chances of success. Most importantly, be sure your goal is exciting and rewarding to you. There is a magic in being excited about a goal that makes even a big stretch goal easier to achieve.
Cami Miller is a business coach and works with executives, entrepreneurs, and family businesses developing strategies for success. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org