A goal without a plan is just a wish

It seems that each year comes and goes with increasing speed. It’s the end of May already and I find myself again thinking through all the areas of my life that I would really to see progress in: career, finances, fitness, health, relationships, service to the community… the list goes on!

I inevitably realise that setting specific goals is a key to achieving a shift in any one of these areas – a ‘general wish’ will not result in meaningful progress. There needs to be clear focus, commitment and resources to make it happen.

I think back to 2010 when I had this burning desire to walk the Rotorua Marathon (I knew that running it would just be a bridge to far for me). Now I’m no fitness freak or even particularly consistent in my fitness regime but I believed deep down that I really could put in the work and the discipline in order to achieve this goal.  I trawled through the internet to find a training program

for walkers, what to wear, what to eat and how long and how often I needed to train. For eight months I diligently put in the hours of pounding the footpath – rain, hail or sunshine in order to be ready for the big day.  That day came in May 2011 where with thousands of others I crossed the finish line after six and half hours of walking.  I did it!  I achieved what I set out to do.

I look back with great satisfaction knowing I will ultimately achieve whatever goal I set for myself. What I learned is that there are the cornerstones to effective goal setting – motivation, mindset and discipline. Without these, it is likely you will fall short of achieving what you set out to do – no matter how many times you have written it down or visualised it. Equally, smart goals will fit in there – but you need to be motivated to execute them.

I like Pat Brans’ recent article that simply outlines three easy tips for goal setting:

Tip #1: Freely choose your goals. Be honest with yourself about what you want and why you want it. If you are doing something out of pride, guilt, or jealousy, you’ll probably give it up eventually. The same is true for things you do purely for monetary reward. You’ll probably lose interest over time. On the other hand, if you are doing something because it’s what you want all the way down to the core of your being, you’ll stick with it.

Tip #2: Set unselfish goals.
Aim for things that are beneficial to those around you, and not just yourself. None of us exists in a vacuum, and we are at our best when we work for the good of the community. If your goals are consistent with your fundamental need to belong and to identify with a group, you’ll remain motivated until you finish what you start.

Tip #3: Set goals that are challenging, yet achievable.Going for things that are too easy won’t keep you motivated; and shooting for things beyond your reach will only result in frustration. Either of these two approaches will eat away at your feeling of competence, a feeling most psychologists agree is a basic ingredient for happiness. The best way to grow a sense of competence is to set progressively more challenging goals, building on your know-how as you achieve each one in succession.

Although not included by Pat Brans – I think prioritisation is another key element. Everyone has a limit to their resources – so savvy application to the right areas is essential to ensure to see the progress you most desire.

Remember: A goal without a plan is just a wish!