Target one: My goal is specific.
This seems pretty simple, but it's worth a brief explanation. One might state a goal as "I want to be a writer" is not very specific. A writer of what? A writer in what industry? What role? What pay? What kind of work day? A writer writing the daily specials on the IHop chalkboard? Or a contract writer for a law firm? Ok then... A writer who writes books. Non-fiction? Fiction? Pamphlets? I can go on and on, and I could get pretty obnoxious. I will let your own brain hound you on those questions. The point here is to say "What do I really want?" The answer for this hypothetical person MIGHT be: "I want to be a columnist at the top newspaper in one of the 5 largest cities in the states, writing about politics."
The above goal is clearly defined and specific. Good. What's next?
Target two: My goal is measurable.
If a person wants to accomplish a task, and it is specific, it should also be quantifiable. (Did I say should?) If a person says "I want a job making a lot of money," how much is a lot? I say a lot is $50,000. That's nothing to some people I know quite well. A job making $50,000, to them, would be a tragedy. But there are other ways to quantify.
Say the person's goal is not only to make that amount of money, but to find a new job making that amount. The "finding the job" part should be quantified, too. In time. Number of days, weeks, etc. This part is SO important... many goals are not money-based. Time can often be the only way to quantify your goal. "I want a romantic relationship, with a man who is single, a man I am attracted to on the levels which matter to me, and with a man who has the emotional capability to be in an emotionally-intimate relationship." Now, how can a person measure that? With time. "...and I want to reach my goal before Thanksgiving."
Good goal. (You know, for someone who might have a goal like that.)
Target three: My goal is challenging, yet achievable
This is a fine line. At which point do we say that a goal is achievable? And if it is achievable, is it at all challenging? This one is tricky, but in an effort to steer clear of over-complicating it, I might instead simply say...
(Yeah, that sounds good.)
Ok... Specific. Measurable...
"I am going to quit my job. Today." Whoaaa!!!!!!!
Target three takes us to "I am going to quit my job after I have determined how I can support myself without this job." Notice I didn't say get another job... Because after all, there is more than one way to skin a cat. When we think of goals, it's important to consider not only what we want, but what do we REALLY want. Do I really want another job? or do I want to support myself? The solution might be another job, but the goal is to support myself.
Target four: It is my goal, not someone else's.
Let me tell you a story. It's about a boy who... Liked mowing the grass.
This boy, let's call him Sam, liked mowing the grass. He did it from time to time, his parents had a house, and he took pleasure in mowing the grass in the early hours. It was never a chore, but something he enjoyed. As he grew, the time came for Sam to decide what he was going to do with his life. He thought about a few things... He really liked woodworking and had made some beautiful furniture. One was a beautiful chair that he hand-upholstered and ended up in a fine home. As much as he enjoyed mowing the grass, he took great pride in building furniture. But he had been mowing the grass for so long that he wasn't really confident about anything else, even woodworking, so it seemed logical that he started mowing lawns for a living.
One thing lead to another, and Sam woke up one day as the owner of a lawn company. He did ok, had some business, and had built a pretty loyal client list. But mowing had become a chore. The things he liked about mowing, the solitude of a Sunday morning, the quiet of 6:am... All of those things went away when he transitioned from doing it for fun into doing it for work. He found himself thinking about woodworking a lot. Remembered that chair he built. At one point he wondered if he should scrap his mowing company.
He wasn't too sure of himself... Like I said, this was a guy who was lacking confidence, just a little. He was really great at what he did, but he still remembered all the times when he first started his work doing lawn work. There were times when he didn't edge the lawn properly or accidentally burned a customer's lawn with fertilizer... He let his past "failures" haunt him, and they closed his sight. He couldn't see how far he had come. He started asking friends, family, even clients, what they thought about him giving up the lawn business for his heart's desire: Working with his hands, creating furniture which was suitable for the finest homes. He wanted to be proud of himself. Mowing lawns was something he did to make money, but the things en enjoyed about it were long gone.
The responses Sam got were predictable: Friends said "No! Don't stop! I get a kickback every time I refer you! I love that I know a guy who knows how to landscape! That's great for me! Don't stop! I don't need any furniture!" This made Sam think that he would lose his friends if he stopped mowing.
Family said something similar: "If you stop lawn work, we will starve, you know. That is how you make money and if you don't do that any more, you will be letting us down. You will be hurting us on purpose and you could have prevented it. It's not what you enjoy? Well, it's what you've chosen to do, so you must continue." Sam got the feeling that his worth was wrapped up in providing. If he stopped mowing, what if he couldn't provide? He would be without worth and value. He didn't see that the love of his family is about who he is, not where he is or what he does for a living.
The clients were a little upset, too. "You have been mowing my lawn for twenty years! Who else will do it? No one else can mow my lawn but you! You know the shape of my yard, you know the drainage system, you are available at a moment's notice... Even when I have called you at 2:am because I was going to have company at 5:am, you cane. No one else would do that but you. Are you going to let me down?" Sam didn't want to let anyone down. It's one reason he was so good at what he did. He reasoned that if he stops mowing, no one else can fill his shoes and he will let down people who keep his finances afloat. Sam had a dilemma.
What did Sam do? He kept mowing, and one day was thinking about woodworking. The heat was beating down on him, he was trying to remember all of the expectations which had been placed on him, he was mowing and mowing and he dropped dead. Just like that. At the ripe old age of... (How old are you?)
No, I'm kidding. What he did was he stopped talking about it and made a plan. (That happens to be target 6 by the way...) Sam kept mowing, secretly knowing he was going to close up shop. He didn't take on any new customers. He didn't accept new responsibilities with his currents customers. He was a hard worker, so he did enough to get the (current) job done. Because his mental resources were taken.
One day a week, on Saturday, he spend half the day on the Sam Plan. When he thought about it, he found that he had some extra time. Spending 2-3 hours alone once a week at the IHop, didn't have a negative impact on his company.. During those 2-3 hours he decided... If I were to do wood working, what would I do? I would make furniture. I would design and make furniture for the shop down the street that I love. I can go there next week and talk to them. I would like to be transitioned away from mowing and into the furniture business by the end of the year. Period.
The next week he talked to the owner of the furniture store, who said "if you want to work here, we need a work sample." So for the next 3 Saturdays Sam spent his time making something small, but impressive. He made a keepsake box. They liked the box, and said that they would need some time to make a decision. Sam already decided that he wanted to make furniture. Whether for this guy or another place, his plan was in motion. Over the next 3 Saturdays he came up more parts of his plan. He determined ways to schedule his time so that he could do both until he knew the woodworking could support him and his family. He thought about what his customers would say. He found other contacts, people he could put them in touch with that he knew would do a great job on their yard. He decided what to say to family. "If you love me, you will support me. This change will be for the better, and we will all benefit from it. As a happier person, I give more freely, I have more to give and I will be setting a good example."
He got the job, did what he planned to do. Everyone who was worried about the transition learned from Sam that it is each person's responsibility to be happy, and it was unfair to try to corner him into doing something that he doesn't want, for their own gain and to his detriment. When he took his goals into his own hands, he took the responsibility for everyone else's happiness out of his hands. In doing so, he empowered them to make themselves happy, which was a gift. Now doing what he wanted with his life, he was able to more positively influence those around him.
Make your goal for YOU. Don't let your goal be someone else's goal. Let other people have their own goals...
Target five: All of my goals reinforce each other.
In Sam's case, he had a number of goals. He wanted a career change. He wanted to appease his family. He wanted to be able to support himself and his family financially. He wanted to be happy. One person might look at these objectives and say "But I have to do different things to accomplish these things!" Appease his family by staying in the lawn business. Support himself by doing whatever to get money. Be happy? That meant wood. So on the surface these look like things which wouldn't work together. But when Sam decided that if he looked to the one thing which didn't have so much wiggle room... Trading grass for wood... The rest of the goals could be designed around the primary goal, all reinforcing each other. "If I need to make my family happy, is there a way other than by mowing grass?" What does mowing grass give them which makes his family happy? Money. Stability. Familiarity. Those things can be acquired through other resources which do not involve the one thing he is trying to get out of his life. A well-paying job brings money. Stability can come by means of money, or maybe even promises. "I promise that I will always make sure we have a roof over our heads. No matter what happens, I will make sure you are not left out in the rain" Familiarity? Familiarity can come with time and change. It's sort of like those puzzles where you start with one word (Like LOCK) and turn it into something else (like OPEN). You do this one letter at a time... lock look loot soot... and end up with over oven open...! Cool! One letter at a time, one word changes into something completely different. Lock to open. And each step of the way is reasonable and well within understanding.
Target six: My goal includes a plan.
Like Sam, we can't simply dive off into the abyss of bliss. Life is a practical matter. With a little planning, what seems at first to be slightly far fetched can be very well within reason. Planning does a lot of wonderful things. It give you the opportunity to try out scenarios to see what will work, it helps alleviate anxiety not only in you, but in those your life has an impact on... A plan isn't permanent. A plan is just that: A plan. The best plans have flexibility to allow for changes. The end result is the same, the goal... The plan is how you get to the goal. A plan helps a person see something in real terms. The goal is possible. It makes a dream, something which seems elusive, into something concrete. Something possible. Possibilities lead to realities. When a plan is made, it that is when dreams become realities.
Target seven: I will write down my goal.
There is something magical about putting a goal and its plan on paper. I know it can be scary... We feel as if when we write something down, it is officially unchangeable. It's "in black and white." But being in black and white doesn't mean it's not malleable! it means it's clearly defined and difficult to misinterpret as a result of ambiguity. Paper is paper. Tear it, shred it, burn it or scribble all over it. Write a plan you don't like? Delete it. Start again. The great thing about putting it on paper is once you have a plan that sounds great, you don't have to ask yourself "now how was I going to do that again? I forgot!"
When you write down your goal, keep it in front of you, you can reference it. Look at it and remember best way to accomplish your task, reach your goals. Writing your goal and plan down is critical to its success.
Writing your goal and plan down is critical to its success.
And when life changes, you change your plan. You have a new set of plans to work from. That's the way life goes... (and goes, and goes and goes...)
So... When making goals, ask yourself: "What do I want to be doing ten years from now?" Then narrow that down. What do I want to be doing five years from now? One year...? I have a trick that is a pretty good motivator for me...
I look at the past year. For me, 12 months is a great time frame. It's long enough to be a significant amount of time, but short enough to create a sense of hope when looking ahead. I look at where I was, and what I was doing, one year ago, and ask myself if I'm glad about what I am a year later. Then I consider my goal. You know... THE goal. I ask myself, if I don't do this, what is my life going to be like a year from now?
You see, your life is where it is because of where you have driven it. That can be a hard pill to swallow, especially if you feel like your life is pretty messed up. Knowing that YOU were the one, the only, who got you where you are. Usually I'm a pretty nice person. One person I love very deeply once told me "You know, I have read so much online that you have written... and there's nothing negative." Well, I think that's probably debatable... But even so, hold on to your hat.
If you hate your job, don't bitch about the guy who got promoted or your boss. Don't complain about not having adequate education. You are in your job because of decisions you have made. You partied in college and dropped out. You didn't take the shit project a year ago, and the guy who did got promoted instead. You didn't follow up when someone said "Hey, I'd like to hire you!" and you were the person who applied for the job in the first place.
If you hate your house, don't complain that the walls need paint or that the grass needs to be mowed. if you have arms and legs, fix what's wrong. Not able to? Learn how. Not strong enough, tall enough, small enough? Ask someone. Pay someone. Or just forget about the problems if they aren't critical. But you are where you are because you bought the damned thing. You are where you are because you put yourself there.
Don't like your relationships? Fix them. Don't like your friends? Tell them. Find new ones. Draw boundaries. Don't like your spouse? Make the relationship better or get the hell out. You are where you are because YOU put yourself there. Someone bullied you into something you didin't want to do? Bullshit. Ok, you were manipulated, but you allowed it to happen. You told someone that you are manipulateable. With your words, your actions, the way you respond when the heat is on.
Don''t like your activities? Your life station? Your church, your dinner, your school, your wardrobe? Don't like your dirty dishes? What about your car? ...Am I making you mad yet? I hope so.
When you accept that you are where you are because of the decisions you have made, you have the strength, the power the control to change your future. If you were helpless to get you to where you are now, then of COURSE you are going to think you have no control over your future! When you realize that you had control to this point, you are free to say, If I have the control to get me here, I have the control to get me somewhere else.
Knowledge is power. Know what you did, your mistakes. Own up to them. Mistakes aren't tragedies... Mistakes are opportunities to fail.
Each and every time you don't reach your goal, that's a way to cross off the list. Some things change, so try your plan again, but with a twist. If I paying my way through college but had to drop out because of finances, it doesn't mean the ploan was flawed. If today, I have the financial resources, the plan is fine. It's not the plan, it's how the plan works with what you have going on, what you have to offer and what you have to draw from.
Learn from your mistakes, figure out where you screwed up. Decide where you want to be and by gosh, get going. If you don't you will find yourself in the same spot you were a year ago, the same spot you are in today. And a year, five years, ten, twenty years from now you can have the same life of a different one. THAT is in your control, and yours alone.