“Dreams don't come true, goals do.” - anonymous
Many of us want to make changes to ourselves and to our surroundings. The impetus for this change can stem from feelings of inadequacy or perhaps from a motivation to function at an optimal level. Whatever the reason, setting goals is a key component to making change. The problem is, a lot of people don't know how to properly set goals and create the accountability required to follow through on them. This post will outline an effective way to set goals and accomplish those goals.
What Are Goals?
Goals are specific statements that help to guide us from our current state to a more optimal or desirable future state. In order for us to accomplish any goal, the goal has to be specific. This is extremely important because it makes you think deeply about what you are trying to accomplish and define the terms that will be used to evaluate future success or failure.
For example, many of us set goals like, “I want to be successful” or “I'd like to make a million dollars this year.” Although this is a great start, “I want to be successful” is too vague of a goal to have any significance or actionability. The person who makes such a goal would benefit from thinking long and hard about what success means to them. For you, success might mean balancing the business, social and romantic dimensions of your life in a way that leaves you feeling satisfied on most days. For someone else, success might mean recording an album of music or producing a work of art by the end of the year. Others view success in purely financial terms, as in the more money you make, the more successful you are.
Setting Your Goals
Let's say your idea of success is financial. What does success look like for you in this dimension? Maybe you are currently in debt and have trouble paying your bills from month to month. If you set a goal of “making a million dollars this year” you might be overshooting a bit and not addressing your primary problems. Maybe your first goal should be to get out of debt and to make enough money to cover your current expenses as well as having a little extra money left over for savings/investments. The most effective way to set such a goal is to describe your current state in a detailed fashion and then to write a detailed goal that improves on the various elements of your current state. For example, you might write something like this:
“It is January 4th, 2015 and I am currently working as an administrative assistant making $26,400 per year after taxes. I have $57,380 dollars in combined student loan and credit card debt. I rent a room in an apartment that costs me $790 per month ($9,480 per year) and have other monthly expenses that average $1,500 per month ($18,000 per year). My total expense are $27,480 per year, which means my salary is $1,080 short of covering my current lifestyle. I currently have no savings and no investments.”
The above fictional description of your current financial state is succinct but also addresses the current deficiencies that you're looking to resolve. The next thing to do, is to write a realistic goal with specific metrics that are trackable and improve on the deficient areas of your current state. For example:
“By the end of 2015, I will improve my financial health by paying off at least $10,000 in student loan and credit card debt, reducing my monthly expenses by $300 per month and increasing my salary to $34,000 after taxes.”
This is a good goal because it addresses all the deficiencies of your current situation and doesn't create unrealistic expectations.
The next step is to come up with an action plan, or a list of subgoals, that will allow you to make progress towards achieving the various parts of your goal. For example:
Subgoal 1 – Steps to reduce expenses by $300 per month
a. downgrade my cable and internet service to basic for a savings of $45 per month
b. renegotiate my monthly cell phone bill for a savings of $15 per month
c. reduce eating out by once per week for a savings of $55 per month
d. take the smaller room in the apartment and reduce rent by $100 per month
e. reduce alcohol consumption for a savings of $80 per month
f. see one less movie per month at the movie theatre for a savings of $25 per month
Total monthly savings $320. Total yearly savings $3,840
Subgoal 2 – Increase salary to $34,000 after taxes
a. assess current state of job market
b. find salary comps of administrative assistants with my level of experience
c. research best methods/strategies for asking your boss for a raise
d. create backup plan to reach my salary goals in case I don't get the raise
Total increase in after tax income of $7,600
Subgoal 3 – Pay off $10,000 of debt
a. put extra yearly savings of $3,840 from subgoal 1 towards my debt
b. put extra after tax income of $7,600 from salary raise towards my debt
Now that your main goal and subgoals are written out in detail, the next step is to create accountability methods for actually doing the things you said you would do. The best way to do this is to schedule tasks that will bring you closer to accomplishing your main goal. For example, you might schedule a call with your cellphone carrier company for this upcoming Monday to negotiate a decrease in your monthly cellphone bill. You might call up your cable company on Tuesday to reduce your cable service. You also should schedule weekly or bi-weekly reviews of your progress towards achieving your goals. This is important because things don't always go as planned and you might need to adjust your methods/strategy or expectations.
Change is difficult because it requires us to learn and execute new behaviors. One practice that helps us to effectively change behavior is changing one thing at a time. If you want to get fit, find a new job and learn how to play the guitar, it would be better to tackle these goals in a sequential way. Doing too many things at once will overwhelm most people and nothig will end up getting accomplished.
For goals that require you to stop doing something that is addictive, you will need to assess the triggers for your behavior and eliminate them from your environment. Sometimes this means eliminating family and friends from your life becase they are a bad influence and trigger the negative behavior.
Some goals are better accomplished when you have a financial stake involved. If you bet your friend $250 that you will lose 10lbs of fat in the next 2 months, you will be much more driven to accomplish this goal since there's an actual consequence for you not doing so. Create real stakes for yourself when possible to keep yourself accountable.
Here is a summary for how to accomplish your goals:
1. Create detailed goal that has a real measurable outcome and that is rooted in reality
2. Create detailed subgoals that address specific elements in your main goal
3. Schedule completion of specific elements within your subgoals
4. Evaluate and reassess your progress on a weekly or bi-weekly basis
Hope you found this post useful and please feel free to comment below.