The new year is fast approaching. A time of reflection. A time to make resolutions and set goals. We all know the statistics associated with New Year’s Resolutions are pretty dismal. If you are reading this post, you have probably heard that people who explicitly set goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t [explicitly set goals].
In my experience, the two biggest factors in making positive life changes or making a dream a reality are 1) setting the goal correctly and 2) staying motivated. In Part I of this series I am going to walk you through the goal setting process and in Part II, I will give you some tools for staying motivated so that this time next year you can look back on a successful journey.
So let’s start with a simple question, “What do you want?” Sometimes, deciding what we want is actually the bigger issue. You have bigger work to do if you spend your down time thinking:
- “There has to be something else.”
- “I need a change.”
- “I don’t even know what my dreams are anymore.”
Having dreams and working toward them is a huge part of feeling happy and satisfied with our lives.
Interestingly, happy people define happiness as a feeling that they are working towards the actualization of their goals. These people see the journey, not the destination, as the root of their happiness. As long as they are making progress toward their goal they are able to maintain a sense of happiness and contentment. –Anthony Vultaggio
If you are stuck grasping for a meaningful goal, check out some of these resources.
- What do you REALLY want? – not a practical, helpful article, but it does describe the syndrome of not know what you want and how having no clear goal or setting the wrong goal leads to disappointment.
- What Do You Really Want to Do With Your Life? – a summary of articles on Oprah.com. Publishing Executive to Sailor and Author is a good one.
A few coaching sessions can also be a great way to tap into your creative side and draw out your true desires. A good coach will ask the right questions to help you uncover the answers you already have within you.
So you think you know what you want? Let’s take that goal through a checklist that will improve the possibility of success, by improving the goal.
Is your goal stated in the positive? Goals should always be stated in terms of what you want, not what you don’t want. Many of my clients have trouble with this. They know what they don’t want, (I don’t want to chip-in to the first fence on course anymore.”), the habit they want to break (“I want to quit looking at the ground.”), or the feelings they want to avoid (“I want to stop being nervous before cross country.”) The problem with “not” goals is that the brain can’t process them correctly. Take a moment and create a vision of “Quit eating chocolate cake for dessert every night.” What is the picture? Either your brain created an image of eating chocolate cake, or you drew a blank. Now create a picture of “Eat a piece of fruit every night for dessert.”
In order to create and maintain motivation, you need a vision and your mind cannot create a vision of “not” or “quit” or “don’t”. It can create a vision of “I want to jump the first fence from the perfect distance.” “I want to look forward with my chin up.” Or “I would like to be relaxed and focused before cross country.” Here are some questions you can ask yourself to turn a negative goal into a positive.
- If you didn’t have this problem, what would you be doing instead?
- What would you actually love to have happen (around this situation)?
- If you were to make a change so you could have it any way you’d like, what would you be doing (having) (being)?
Is your goal within your control? As riders and horsemen, we have to be careful with this one. In many respects, our horses are out of our control. (Like I needed to tell you that.) In addition, Second Level, the Ammy-Owners and Preliminary are not within the scope of every horse. In my coaching practice you are allowed to pretend you have some control over your horse for the purposes of goal setting. Seek some trusted advice if your goal involves moving up the levels or changing divisions with your equine partner.
Of course, this is also true if your goal involves your spouse, child, boss or trainer. You can only change your own actions and responses. If you want your spouse to lower his blood pressure, you can cook him healthy meals, but you can’t make him eat them. (Ask me how I know.) The goal that is within your control could be “cook health meals for my family”. Reframe any goal that is outside of your control to something that involves your actions or responses.
Is your goal S.M.A.R.R.T.? There is a problem with the goals “cook healthy meals for my family” or “ride at Second Level”. They are not S.M.A.R.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Realistic, Timed. “Cook a healthy meal for my family three times each week in 2013.” and “Score 60% at Second Level by the third show of the season.” are both S.M.A.R.R.T. goals. I hope you are being relevant and realistic, most people miss the specific, measurable or timed aspect of S.M.A.R.R.T. goals. Add the missing elements to your goal.
Is your goal ecological? That’s coach-speak for how does this goal fit with your values and beliefs as well as your lifestyle and the constraints you may have on your time, abilities or finances?
Here’s an example of an issue with the ecology of a goal. A client has a young child and a green horse. She prefers to do all her own riding and training. She believes a young horse needs a six day a week program. She has trained green horses in the past and has the skill set. When we discussed her goal of training her young horse, it became clear that riding the horse herself six days a week was not possible because she is not willing to give up special time with her child. The goal is not ecological and the client needs to either adjust other aspects of her life to make it so, or adjust her goal. She is currently pondering the question of which she values more, the six day program or doing her own riding and training. She is also examining other constraints in her life to see if adjustments can be made.
Ecology is an often over-looked stumbling block to achieving goals. Sometimes we fail to acknowledge the constraints, and thus we fail to create a plan that resolves them. Sometimes we fail to pay tribute to our values and put them in priority. If you value a six day program and you value doing your own training, but you value family time more, you have to recognize that in your plan/action steps or you are doomed to let yourself down week after week.
What is really important to recognize in this scenario is the frustration you set yourself up for. If family is the top value, you will chose family over some of those rides and you will not reach your goal. When you choose riding over family, you will fail to honor an important value and you disappoint yourself. Lose-Lose. The goal has to be set into the correct context if you want to be successful and happy.
Here it is in summary.
- Is your goal stated in the positive?
- Is your goal within your control?
- Is your goal S.M.A.R.R.T.?
- Is your goal ecological?
In the next segment I will give you some tools to help you get and stay motivated. If you are on a roll, creating well formulated goals, you can get a jump on motivation by thinking about the following questions:
- Why is this goal important, what makes it worth doing?
- How will I know when you’ve got/achieved it (your goal)?
Get to work.
“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb