I wrote a blog post recently on how to plan and analyze the current way you spend your time. Once you know exactly what work and ongoing tasks you’re doing that generate the greatest return on investment (the 20% of work generating 80% of your results), it’s time to figure out how to do more of the stuff that’s making a difference through goal setting.
Goal setting is a hotly and widely talked about topic. It sounds pretty straightforward: Figure out what you want to accomplish, choose a specific goal and then create some benchmarks so you can assess how you’re performing. Right?
Except that plan doesn’t work. How many times have you set a goal, and it just didn’t materialize? So, you’re sitting there wondering, “Is it me? Am I not smart enough? Motivated enough? Skilled enough? Do I need a bigger network? Do I need more money?” When you don’t hit your goals, you start to feel like it’s you that’s lacking something.
And that’s because you are.
Be authentically connected to your goals
But it’s not smarts, skills or motivation you’re lacking. You’re lacking a roadmap. You’re lacking a list of extremely simple habits you can adopt every single day, one or two at a time, that will actually allow you to turn a dream into something real.
But more than any of that, you’re lacking authentic connection to what it is you really want to accomplish.
I can’t stand all the crappy advice out there. It’s like listening to a broken record on repeat. The same advice gets doled out over and over again:
- Create a “big picture” of what you want to accomplish in life
- Create a personal mission statement
- Break down your big goals with smaller goals on a to-do list
- Make sure your goal is specific
- Make sure your goal is attainable
- Give yourself a deadline
- Make your goal public
- Ask someone to help keep you accountable
Maybe those are all useful components of goal setting, but having tried all of them myself, I can tell you that no matter how smart, skilled and motivated you are to achieve, this is not a comprehensive checklist—or even the right checklist—of what you need to do to achieve goals.
During the rest of this week, I’ll write in greater detail about how you can build a very simple goal setting plan. But, let’s start in this post with the hardest part of goal setting:
You need to have goals you’re truly connected to.
Not things you kinda sorta want to do. Not things your parents or friends or bosses think you should do. Your goals need to be so close to your heart and spirit. People forget that “motivation” is not why people succeed. It’s not that successful people have more motivation than others. We all have incredibly lazy days. We’re human beings, not robots.
The #1 reason people don’t accomplish their goals is because the goals are not tied closely enough to their sense of self—they don’t make someone think, “I was put on this planet to accomplish this goal.” If you don’t feel that connected to what you’re doing, you’re simply not going to thrive. Period. End of story.
This applies to every single area of your life: relationships, work, hobbies, skills you want to acquire, health, etc. If you’re not super connected in the right ways to your goals, you may get by. You may even “do well.” But you’re not going to thrive. Thriving happens when you’re super aligned with your personal purpose. You could make a mediocre relationship work. You could lose some weight. You could check off a bunch of to-dos at a job you don’t really enjoy.
But, what’s the point in that?
I can attribute every single goal I’ve accomplished or area I’ve thrived in to one simple reality: those things were all absolutely at the core of who I was and who I wanted to be.
Stop making excuses
Some of you may be reading this now thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s really easy for you to say that, Melissa. You’re single, and you don’t have kids, a car payment, or a mortgage to worry about. You can take risks that I can’t take.”
Let me tell it to you straight: you’re most likely lying to yourself.
We all have our fair share of challenges to work through. Maybe everyone else’s set of challenges don’t look exactly like yours, but that doesn’t make what others are going through any less challenging. And honestly, what’s the point in being stuck there? Nothing good comes from telling yourself repeatedly about all of the things you can’t do. That’s a made up idea in your head. Plenty of people have found a way to thrive in various different areas of their lives even with kids, a spouse, a car payment, a mortgage, a lack of education and a low-paying job. Trust me, you can find numerous people out there who worked through a more dire set of circumstances to accomplish huge, huge things. If they can do it, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it.
We’ll do whatever we can to find an excuse, because that’s the easier thing to do. It takes a ton of hard work and reflection to decide what your goals are in the first place. We all want quick fixes.
But here’s what happens: we rush to set a goal that doesn’t really matter to us, then scramble to try somehow to make it happen, and then we end up upset and demoralized when it doesn’t work out.
If you’re really connected, you’ll find a way.
You’ve literally got everything you need in that head and heart of yours to make your goals work.
How to create authentic goals
So here’s the exercise I want to ask you to do today:
- First, find a pocket of silence. Take one day this weekend to completely disconnect and just allow yourself the breathing room to think and reflect.
- Next, answer the question, “What do I feel like I was put on this planet to do?” Just freestyle write. Don’t worry about it making sense or being realistic. Just write everything down that comes to mind. What sorts of things have you always been drawn to? What are your most favorite activities? If you could do anything—no limitations—what would it be? What are your gifts? Strengths? Skills? What do you do better than everyone else you know? Write down absolutely everything that comes to mind.
- Finally, pretend this year was your last year. What one big thing would you want to accomplish? Just choose one thing. What’s the biggest thing you’d want to accomplish in the next year of your life? In 12 months, what would bring you utter joy to say you’d done? What would have made it a year worth living?
Later this week, we’ll talk about how to chase after that one big, amazing goal of yours.