If there’s one skill you need to master to make you more successful, effective and even happy in life, it’s goal-setting. And yes, setting the right goal IS a skill.
Get your goal-setting right and you’ll forge a rewarding and enviable path through life, growing as a person and achieving significant personal and professional success – whatever ‘success’ means to you.
However, all too often we don’t know how to set and work towards our goals. And rather than work effectively and surely towards our aim, we flounder, fail and give up. Robbing ourselves of learning, growth and the rewards we desire.
To help you learn how to get your goal-setting right, counsellor and hypnotherapist Susan Leigh shares six strategies to make sure your goals work.
Six strategies to make sure your goals work
Over the years, I’ve helped many clients identify and work towards important personal and professional goals. Here are six strategies that I have observed are important in achieving them.
1) Choose the right goal
When setting yourself a goal, you need to ensure that it feels right, has meaning for you, and generates enthusiasm. Losing weight, learning a new skill or starting a new business venture is less likely to happen if your motivation comes from pleasing or impressing others.
So avoid being side-tracked or distracted by other people’s agendas. Focus less on what you think others want from you (or believe you’re capable of) and more on what you want and believe you can achieve.
Get your goal right, and you’ll be able to maintain your focus through any tough times. Yes, you my need to adjust your plans a little if rejection, setbacks or distractions occur. But if you have chosen the right goal, you’ll carry on working towards where you want to go, and be able to see beyond any knocks or negativity. (Read how to set yourself a SMART goal.)
2) Let others help
Don’t be afraid of approaching others for help when working towards your goal. For example, if you make connections through networking or other business avenues, use them! Allow people with the relevant skills, whom you’ve got to know, like and trust, to contribute to your master plan. They may introduce great ideas, faster, more effective ways of doing things and help turn your dream into something far more credible.
And seek out professional help if you need it too. A business coach may help support your motivation as you formulate strategies, determine the best actions and become more accountable for each stage of your plan. Personal goals, meanwhile, may benefit from introducing a fitness coach, trainer, counsellor, or even from committing to undertake your goals as part of a group or club.
Sometimes working together can support motivation and help deliver better results for each member of the team – if one person wavers the others can rally round.
3) Look beyond personal or business goals
Goals don’t need to always bring personal acclaim or financial results. Sometimes you can get just as much reward from helping others in need.
Volunteering to help a local project, animal shelter or youth club, cooking meals for those less fortunate, teaching adults to read, or supporting a local drama group can bring satisfaction, fulfillment and a sense of achievement into your life – all qualities that enrich your sense of self and give you valuable personal and practical skills you can apply to your life and career.
You can read more about the benefits of volunteering, and how it can even be a career boost (especially for mums) in this article.
4) Don’t take failure personally
Sometimes plans don’t work out quite as you’d expected (or hoped) them to. But that’s okay. Failure can be valuable, provide an opportunity to practice and learn better, more effective ways of doing things.
Moving towards your goals may bring setbacks that deliver interesting detours and people along the way. And failure sometimes forces previously unconsidered ideas and opportunities to be entertained and explored.
Many people who are considered great successes in life and business have had their fair share of failures in the past. And in fact, many of them build their later success off the back of an earlier failure, incorporating the learnings and new discoveries they acquired along the way.
Big goals will inevitably have a greater risk of failure attached by virtue of the fact that they’re big – they will stretch you and take you places you’ve never been before. And when things work, the rewards will be great. But so too will the learnings that you gain if they don’t work.
So don’t limit your goals for fear of failure. Allow yourself to dream big and explore new challenges in your life and career. (And if you’re still not convinced, read five reasons why you should learn to love failure.)
5) Get everyone involved
Often, for ambitious goals to succeed, they need the backing of a whole cast of people in your life – your partner, family, friends and even colleagues and employer. So make sure you involve anyone who may be impacted, or be able to help, in your thinking right from the start.
Family and friends may be required to make sacrifices as the various implications are assessed. They may need to compromise their own hopes and dreams, accept that you’re less available for a while, appreciate that there’s less money in the communal pot, and help bridge the gap while you’re otherwise engaged.
And colleagues (and your employer) may need to be understanding if your mind isn’t 100% on your job for a short period of time, or if you need time off or to work more flexibly around training if, for example, you’re preparing for a big physical goal.
You’ll find people much more supportive and obliging if they’re included in your goal and buy into your reasons for doing it. So include them in your thinking as soon as possible, and allow everyone involved to benefit from a team approach, rather than simply being informed of what you’ve decided after the fact.
6) Give yourself credit
Whatever your goal, it’s important that you take the opportunity to appreciate the importance of each significant milestone that you achieve. Pause, take a break and praise yourself for what you’ve undertaken so far – this enables you to value each step along the way, and is an important element in successfully setting goals to motivate you.
When you look back and can see how far you have progressed, it makes it easier to keep going too; it gives you the confidence that you CAN get to where you want to go, because look at what incredible things you’ve achieved already!
It also allows you to grow with your goal as you work towards it, incorporating your learning and achievements into your psyche and becoming the person you want to be slowly but surely.
There’s one other important reason to celebrate your achievements as you go along. It’s often the actual process of getting from A to B that’s the most satisfying aspect of a goal, sometimes even more than the eventual result.
The journey itself brings challenges, a sense of purpose, a reason to get up each day. Sometimes, when people finally achieve their goal, they can feel a little deflated and wonder what’s next. So be sure to enjoy each step of the process and appreciate having a purpose which motivates you to succeed.
And always bear in mind that, even if your goal doesn’t deliver what you’d initially anticipated, it’s still a valuable experience, introducing challenges, helping you to develop and grow as a person.
Susan Leigh practises lifestyle therapy, counselling and hypnotherapy in Altrincham and Cheshire. Find out more on her website.Susan Leigh