The hit-me-over-the-head-with-a-frying-pan-obvious statement of the day is:
If you want to achieve your goals you’ve got to know what they are.
Every self-help guru will tell you that, but what they don’t tell you much about is how to set goals in the first place.
Sure, it’s easy to say “I want a million dollars,” but is that really a goal? It sounds pretty loose to me. It doesn’t define any variables, include any time or give even the slightest hint of how this goal is meant to happen.
There are actually much better ways to set goals than to just write down your hopes and dreams. While that does serve a purpose, what we’re going to focus on are ways to set specific goals that you can act on immediately. With these ideas you will not only clarify what the goal is but save lost time on useless actions.
5 Things that Help you Make Correct Goals
For starters, and you’ll see why this is the first point, goals should not be unrealistic. It’s all well to dream big, and you definitely should. But big dreams don’t come to fruition all at once. They are built a little bit at a time. Even small projects have numerous stepping stones along the way.
Such stepping stones are great. Each time you get to check one off the list you see you’re that much closer. It gives you a sense of satisfaction and forward progress, and that becomes a self-sustaining machine.
Inversely, if a goal is unrealistic you’ll lose momentum on it fast, if you even get started at all.
Again, I’m not trying to bash anyone’s dreams here. Of course you can make a million dollars and you should go for it. But start smaller. Break it down and start with a thousand, then add another two thousand. Each step of the way is then within grasp and before you know it you’ll have your millions.
“I want a new computer” isn’t really an active goal. There are countless computers out there and if you just randomly go buy one that isn’t what you wanted, then you haven’t really achieved your goal have you?
No, pick the one you want and work towards that one specifically.
“I want a Macintosh G5 with a dual processor and a 21-inch flat-screen monitor” is a proper goal, and a damn good one if you ask me 🙂
With a specific goal like that, you’ll know exactly how close you are at every step and you’ll know exactly when you accomplish that goal.
Give it a Deadline
A goal must have a specific time limit noted. A goal without time is not a goal. Without a deadline, it just ends up being pushed further and further away. Put a time limit on it and you’ll be accountable for starting it and keeping it going.
That leads us to the second hit-me-over-the-head-with-a-frying-pan-obvious statement of the day:
If you don’t start something, there’s no way in hell you’ll ever finish it either
Note Down an Actual Tangible Goal
What’s wrong with these all-too-common goals that festoon our national magazines?
- Lots of money
- Less busy
- More relaxed
The problem with all of them is (1) they’re completely arbitrary, and (2) as goals they never actually end.
“I want to be happy” is not an actionable goal. It’s a goal, yes, but there’s no action connected with it. Plus, someone who’s constantly depressed is going to have a much different idea of happiness than someone who glows with happiness each and every day.
“I want to be healthy” and “I want to be skinny” are likewise not actual tangible goals. Again, they’re arbitrary. You can always be healthier and you can always be skinnier. So when do you stop? When do you consider that goal achieved?
“More relaxed”, “less busy”, “lots of money”…again these are too nebulous. More relaxed than what? Less busy than who? Lots of money for what? A boat? A house?
Pick very definite goals and leave out the guesswork. Instead of “be healthy” say “drink six cups of water daily” or “have one serving of veggies per meal.”
Instead of “be skinny” go for losing thirty pounds.
Be specific with your goals. How do you know when it’s specific enough? If you can touch it, feel it, and track it in a log book you’re probably fine.
With specific goals you won’t keep yourself guessing and you’ll know exactly when you get to go out and celebrate with a chocolate cake.
What’s the Machine?
This is something that I’ve seen a lot of people have trouble with. Even if you’ve done everything we’ve talked about so far, you might still run into a wall if you don’t define this element.
For example, we’ve already decided that one thousand dollars is perhaps more attainable than one million dollars is. But, there’s one essential thing still missing and that’s the how. How are you going to make this money? What’s the machine?
I mean, do you just say to yourself, “I want one thousand dollars!” and then just sit there and stare at the wall? Nope, not gonna work. You’ve got to do something to achieve them.
So when you’re setting goals note down the machine as well.
“I want one thousand dollars from my graphic design business.” That’s a better goal. It gives another specific, which is always good, plus it tells you where to concentrate your forces.
This is a real time saver, believe me. It’ll keep you active where you need to be active and those lesser distractions will fall by the wayside.
So you still want that one millions dollar? Good, that was a test and I’m glad I didn’t sway you.
But following the principles above, our goal of “I want one million dollars” should now be a little closer to:
“I want my real estate business to earn me $1,000,000 dollars by the time I’m 35. My first $1,000 is due by March 1st 2008, increasing $1,000 every month thereafter.”
Yeah, so it’s wordy and it’s big and a little unwieldy, but that’s okay. We’re not writing poetry.
It’s a very doable, very specific goal and will keep you away from the wishy-washy and open-ended “I want to be happy” sort of goals.
What do you think? Got any goal-setting tips for the readers? Let us know!
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