s this New Year and new decade is upon us, I thought it fitting to introduce the next building block of peak performance- Goal Setting. Now before you get all- goal setting is so cliché, here me out. There is NOT a more widely researched mental skill that has shown to be effective than goal setting. The reason that it seems pretty cliché is because everyone talks about it, but very few know the steps to carry it out effectively. And no, I’m not just talking about SMART goals.
A new year is always a great time to reflect on what has gone well that you will carry with you into the next year, and what areas may not have gone as well that you would like to leave behind. Please don’t feel like you need to wait until a new year though to take time to reflect on these questions. This exercise, on a smaller level, can actually be done daily. Take 5-10 minutes to reflect at the end of the day- What went well today? What were my wins? And then- what areas can I improve on tomorrow? This level of focus on the small wins and small improvements can yield significant results compounded over time. But I digress. Onto our topic.
As you plan for the new year, new you, or are simply setting a new goal- the first step is to decide where you want to go and to be crystal clear on what the destination looks like. Most of us are so focused on what we don’t want or where we don’t want to go, that we often don’t take the time to think of where we do want to go or exactly what we want to accomplish. The problem with this is that our brain processes in images and doesn’t recognize negatives. So, when I say- Don’t think of a red balloon, what immediately comes to your mind? A red balloon, right? And what we focus on, we tend to see more of.
Have you ever bought a new car and as soon as you decided on the car you wanted, even if you hadn’t bought it yet, you started to see the car everywhere? Or you’re standing in a crowd of people talking and you don’t hear any one specific conversation, but as soon as someone says your name, you hear it? This is a great example of the power of our brains. There is a system in our brain called the Reticular Activating System that helps us filter the billions of bits of data that bombards us in any given moment. It takes what you are focusing on and creates a filter for it. It is through this filter that you will hear and see more of what you are focusing on. This is why it is so important to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.
Now that you know why it’s important to state what you want, what exactly is it that you want? Clarity is key because you, or anyone else that you’ve told your goal to, needs to be able to know beyond a doubt if you have hit your goal. So having a goal of- I want to be a better spouse, or to make more money. I want to be more fit, or a better communicator, or a better golfer, are very subjective goals. What does it mean to be better and how do you measure that? So be clear on exactly what you want. If your goal doesn’t have a natural numerical value that you can measure such as income amount or scorecard, batting average, etc., what are the specific behaviors that you can measure that exemplify your goal? For example, if a goal is to have a deeper relationship with your spouse, what are the behaviors that signify a deeper relationship that you can measure? It will take some additional thought, but it can be done.
Once you identify your goal, it’s important to identify why that goal is important to you. How will your life be different by accomplishing this? How will it impact your family? If you don’t achieve this goal and continue on the path that you’re on, how will your life be affected?
The size of your goal and the size of your why or your purpose also needs to be in alignment to increase the likelihood of achievement. If you have a large goal, for example, of doubling your current six-figure income, but your financial needs are already met and the sole reason for the additional income is superficial, the chances are less that you will take the additional consistent action needed to achieve this goal. On the other hand, if the reason for the additional income is so you can buy a second home for you and your family and this is important to you because you had one growing up and want your children to make the same type of memories that you did as a child- well, that’s a different story. Your why or your purpose for achieving this goal has some emotional teeth tied to it and you will be more likely to take those consistent actions needed.
The final component of this first step in goal setting is to identify what skills or capabilities you need to achieve your goal that you don’t currently have. This is pretty self-explanatory, but important to point out.
So- here are the steps to part one of goal setting:
1- Identify exactly what it is that you want.
2- Make sure that it is measurable so you will know if / when you accomplish it.
3- Identify why that goal is important to you.
4- Make sure the size of your goal and the size of your why are in alignment, and
5- Identify what skills or capabilities you need to achieve your goal
That’s it for part one. Seem like a lot? It can be. This is why it’s important to have no more than three goals, at most. This is already a long article, so I will talk more about the importance of having a narrow goals focus in the next post.
I would love for you to share just the answer to the first question in the comments below.
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