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Most people get goal setting all wrong. Goal setting is not a complicated thing. In fact, once you know what you’re doing, it’s quite straightforward. However, somewhere along the line, people seemed to confuse goal setting with resolutions. They can also confuse goal setting with daydreaming or with wishful thinking. That’s not goal setting. Saying I want to:
- Lose weight – isn’t a goal
- Run a marathon someday – isn’t a goal
- Start a business eventually – isn’t a goal
These are aspirations and yes, they are fantastic. But they are not goals, or at least they aren’t goals that you are going to achieve. Why? Because they lack the correct structure.
Years ago, I made one of those classic goal setting mistakes that I just touched on. I set a goal to lose weight. In fact, I declared that I would lose something like 30 pounds in six months. A very noble endeavor.
Jump ahead to the end of the story and, wow, I ended up losing those 30 pounds! Congrats to me! Better yet, I’ve been able to keep that weight off all these years. But…I didn’t do it within six months. Instead, it took me roughly three years.
It’s great that I achieved my goal, eventually, but it would’ve saved me so much struggle and frustration if I had been aware of the right way to set things up from the beginning.
“Begin with the end in mind.” –Stephen covey
This year I set a goal to read two books a month. This is a huge goal for me because I am a notoriously slow reader so reading one book a month is tough. Getting two done is a real stretch, but nevertheless, that was the goal I set for myself.
Applying the lessons I’ve learned over many years of goal setting, I planned out my goal.
- I formulated my strategies for how I would read more (like speed reading and listening to audiobooks)
- Decided when I would read each day (mostly during lunchtime)
- And created better systems for myself (especially in regards to note-taking)
And… how am I doing? Well, as of May I’ve already completed 17 books. I’m reading way more than just two books a month and am doing it all while growing my business, being a devoted first-time parent to my teething six-month-old, and pursuing 10+ other goals. If I can do it, so can you.
That said, I’ve learned a great deal about goal setting over the years. And what I’ve found is that, among other things, there are three rules you need to follow to set goals that you actually achieve:
1. Set goals that you can control
The first rule of effective goal setting is to set ones you can control. Control is important because many people give up on their goals when things don’t work out for them. But more often than not, those things that don’t work for them are outside their realm of influence.
Sure, you can set a goal to make $1,000 more this month than last month, but you have no control over whether or not someone buys your product. What you can control though is how many sales calls you make. So instead of setting a goal to – make more money this month – you should set one to – make 50 sales calls a day.
You have no control over the former, but you have full control over the latter. And because you have control over it, whether or not you achieve it is on you. You either make the calls or you don’t. Success or failure is within your grasp and no one else’s – it’s a good thing.
2. Don’t overdo it
Rule number two is to only set one goal per each area of your life, max. Your time is finite so if you set numerous goals for your job, you are going to constantly feel pulled in every direction. This strain will eventually cause you to either burn out and quit or make mistakes.
Instead, set just one goal per area of your life. Have just one fitness goal, one education goal, one career goal. That way you increase your focus and decrease feelings of stress.
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” –Zig Ziglar
3. Make adjustments as needed
Rule three is to never get “locked-in” with your goals. Another common reason people give up on their goals is because they either set ones that are unsustainable or they miss a day and decide to quit.
For example, let’s say you set a goal to run 30 minutes a day, seven days a week. Great! Now, you may do that for a week or two, but by the end of the month you’re exhausted. You may have even missed a few runs here or there.
You’re ready to give up. You feel burnt out on running and want to quit because you didn’t do all the runs you set out to do. Resist that urge! Instead, celebrate the runs you did complete and recognize that you simply need to adjust your goal to make it more sustainable.
Seven days a week might be too much, but five is just enough to push you without burning out. Much better! With that in mind, don’t be afraid to adjust your goals when you find yourself getting exhausted or coming up short.
Follow my three rules when setting goals moving forward. Remember to set ones within your scope of control so that you can be in charge of the progress you make. To avoid spreading yourself too thin, only set one goal per each area of your life. And above all else, if you find yourself giving up or burning out, feel free to adjust your goals so that they are more sustainable.
You will achieve your goals. Just keep taking one positive step after another.
Do you have a process for setting goals in your life? If so, please share it with us below!
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