“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” This bit of wisdom from Yogi Berra seems obvious, but it contains a great truth. Unless we have purpose and direction – unless we have goals – our days get consumed by trivialities.
Many use the New Year as a prompt to set resolutions. Others pooh-pooh this tradition. Regardless of when we do it, setting goals is vital to creating lives consistent with our values. Goals motivate us to turn our vision of the future into reality.
As a coach, I want to give you some guidance on how to formulate goals. Start by thinking about how you want your life to be better – not your spouse or your boss or your mother. How do you want your life to be better? What is really important for you to move the dial on? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
The answers to these questions will provide the foundation for setting your goals. Choose one or two over-arching goals for 2015. If you have too many, your focus may get scattered.
The mnemonic SMART spells out the key steps to goal setting. A goal should be:
“Relevant” deserves a bit of explanation. Ask yourself if your proposed goal seems worthwhile. Does it match your present needs? Will you be able to muster energy to focus on it?
Phrase your goal as a positive statement and write it down. Be precise. Add a sentence or two about why your goal is valuable. Those sentences will help keep your motivation alive when you struggle – as we all do – to reach your goals.
Here’s an example. One client came in stating her goal as “Stop stuffing myself and getting fat.” Her SMART goal stated positively was “Learn about healthy eating and lose 20 pounds in six months.” She described her reason as “If I can do this, I won’t be ‘pre-diabetic.’ ”
It takes courage to identify goals but without them you will muddle through each day’s routine again and again until a year has passed. You’ll be a year older but chances are, you won’t be any closer to becoming a better you.
Set aside some time and identify your goals for the coming year. After you’ve decided, grab a sheet a paper and play with the wording. Remember to be SMART and positive. Most of all, be kind to yourself. Goal setting isn’t an invitation for your inner critic to appear with scathing observations.
The New Year gives each of us a fresh start. May we all use it well!