“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
– Napoleon Hill
What do Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins and many other successful professionals have in common? They all take time to set personal and professional goals to achieve the results they want.
A great way to start a new year is by reflecting on the things that you successfully and purposefully set off to accomplish during the previous year and determine what actions, skills and/or individuals helped you get there. Looking back at your successes will help you identify ongoing aims, discover unnoticed interests or skills and visualise a new you for the year ahead.
If you have never made time to consider and carefully craft a plan to help you achieve the goals and dreams you would like to realise, fret not. This article will provide a step-by-step guide to helping you transform the invisible into the visible.
Writing down your goals on paper, in your phone or laptop will help you identify exactly what it is you want to achieve. It will make your goals concrete and allow you to read and review them at all times. To ensure you are on top of your goals game, it is important to read your goals once or twice a day. You have to be fully committed to them in order to ensure all action is for the purpose of manifesting the results you want.
Many people write vague goals on a piece of paper, put them away and never look back until the end of the year (if they can find the paper!). Then they realise they have not achieved any of their goals and blame the goal setting-tool itself for their lack of responsibility towards acting on their dreams. This attitude is wrong, but many of us do not know better so here is a lesson from the workplace we can apply to help us focus on the action.
At work we learn that goals should be SMART; that means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. An example of this type of goal would be:
S – I will generate $500,000 in sales
M – I will know I have done it when I have signed 10 contracts worth $50,000 each (this means an average of 2.5 signed deals per month over 4 months)
A – I will create a new database of larger companies and target larger scale projects for the purpose of generating more revenue from my sales.
I will spend 4 hrs each day making calls and developing friendly and trust-based relationships with key stakeholders at each company in order to ensure all deals are closed within the quarter.
R – Despite the first quarter of the calendar year being the last quarter of the financial year, many large companies still have enough budget to invest in our services. Whether they would like to make use of our services/products within the quarter or wait until the start of the new financial year, I will aim to have all contracts signed by the end of April.
T – By the end of the first quarter (April/May 2018)
This sample goal is quite ambitious and whether the timing is right or not, whether it is entirely realistic or not, what is sure is that reading this goal daily at work and sticking to the action plan is sure to yield positive results.
Personal goals, however, needn’t be so realistic. Sometimes the best motivation for drastic action and incredible results is being able to visualise something that a priori seems unrealistic. Richard Branson said that most of the business ideas he later developed into highly successful business seemed ridiculous at the time. Nevertheless, he wrote them down.
Take this goal, for instance: ‘I will lose 50kgs and enter a body building competition by November 2018’.
At first glance, this goal seems unrealistic because a person who needs to lose 50kgs is likely very overweight, not used to doing physical activity and probably follows an unhealthy diet. Weight loss goals are amongst the top goals to be dropped off people’s lists because they require too much discipline and dramatic changes in lifestyle to be able to achieve them. On top of that, this person hopes to compete as a body builder. It all seems highly unlikely to happen… right?
Wrong! Most times, the greater and harder the goal, the higher the motivation. What is important is knowing WHY this goal is important, why you want to achieve this in particular. Identifying the why will fuel your commitment and passion to see it through.
Next you need to break down a long term goal into shorter term, more achievable goals. Shorter term, even daily goals, can keep you on track, help you celebrate important milestones and eventually see you achieve what seemed impossible! Daily progress IS the key to making dreams come true!
So, you have a huge goal and no idea how to get there? Close your eyes and imagine yourself benefiting from the results of that goal. Whether it involves a change in lifestyle, a brand new car, winning a competition, learning a new skill…whatever your dream might be, what will take you there is backwards planning. Ask yourself, what would I need to do or have to maintain these changes? Let the answers become your short-term goals.
Let’s explore this seemingly ludicrous scenario: You want to make $1,000,000 additional income in the next six months. You have no investments and no other income than your salary. How can you get there? The truth is that nobody knows how you will get there, but what is sure is that where there is a will there is a way.
Imagine the changes: you buy a new car, a new house, you put your children into a better school, you can finally get your own business started, etc. How much money does each of these changes cost yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?
Breaking things down into smaller units of information can help you think of ways in which you can leverage your current skills and possessions to find new ways of creating additional income towards your original big dream. What’s more, the awareness you create about what you need will heighten your perception and enable you to see opportunities for growth, investment and partnerships that you might have otherwise overlooked.
Involving family, friends or colleagues in your goals can help you stay motivated and on track. You are also less likely to fall off the goals wagon as easily, since your loved ones will come to your rescue whenever you feel demotivated or need a little pep talk.
The more people who know what you are working towards, the better your chances of increasing your network, being exposed to new and different environments and of developing more meaningful and strategic relationships with others. People generally love to be part of other people’s success stories and are, more often than not, happy to use their contacts or their power to help others in their quests. Take advantage of this and let those around you support your dreams.
You are one month into the year, you have been taking conscious action towards your dreams and you have achieved some progress. Perhaps you have lost 5kgs and gone down one dress size; or you have just closed a $20,000 deal. Maybe you have completed your first four beginner-level German language classes or you have started baking cupcakes in your free time and have made enough money to pay a monthly membership to the gym. All action is progress and it is worth celebrating. It will make you feel good about yourself and reinforce the idea that it is the small steps that make the big changes.
After you celebrate, do come back to read your original goal, revise the action you have taken to achieve the progress you are celebrating and stay motivated to keep doing what you are doing until you get there!