As I write this, it is February 4th and we are 35 days into this new year. If you’re one of those who set goals for 2016 and actually wrote them down somewhere, then you are one of a small percentage of the population who accomplished this task. Most of us will make resolutions. We’ll promise to make changes, to eat healthier, to exercise, to spend more time with our children, to stop and smell the roses. But few of us will take the time to create specific definable goals. A Harvard study revealed that 83% of the population have no goals at all. Only 14% of us even have a plan in mind for how we want our life to go. Even fewer still will write any of this down on paper. Just 3% of us will take pen to paper. So if you are one of those who wrote your goals down, give yourself a pat on the back. You are the ones I want to talk to today.
Those goals that you took the time to think about and write down just a few weeks ago, where are they now? Sure, a few of you will pull an index card out of your pocket or refer to a page taped to your bathroom mirror. Some of you will have a journal, a day planner, or a notebook. But the majority of you have a quizzical look on your face right now because you can’t remember exactly what you did with that sheet of paper. For that matter, you’re a little bit foggy as to what those goals you wrote were even about.
Don’t feel bad. Although I don’t have a Harvard study to back me up, my gut tells me that you are not alone. In fact, based on my small circle, I’m gonna bet that you are in the majority of the minority. If I had to guess, I would say that only 3% of the 3% write their goals, develop a plan to achieve their goals, and then successfully track their goals. And that is why approximately 92% of the goals we set will fail within two weeks of setting them.
Goals that are written down and never checked are only slightly better than no goals at all. Writing goals gives us a target, a vision for where we want to go but tracking our goals helps to keep us on the right path and moving closer to our target. I once heard goal setting compared to a sailing ship. The captain might have a destination in mind for his voyage but if he fails to track the progress of his journey, he will sail aimlessly around most likely never reaching his targeted destination.
Don’t be discouraged. It is never too late to get back on course. Unless of course, you’re the captain of that ship and you’ve run out of provisions and your crew has died or the ship has sunk…but I digress.
So how do we get back on track? First, find that sheet of paper where you wrote down your goals. Re-word your goals if necessary to insure they are S.M.A.R.T goals. By this I mean:
S – Specific – Your goals must be as specific as you can possibly make them.
- Bad: Write a book.
- Good: Write a book proposal for “Nanny’s Wisdom.”
M – Measurable – Remember, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” As much as possible, quantify the result.
- Bad: Save more money this year.
- Good: Put 10% of each paycheck into a savings account.
A – Actionable – Start each goal with an “action” verb (run, eliminate, create) rather than a “to be” verb (have, be, am).
- Bad: Be more consistent with yoga practice.
- Good: Attend 3 or more yoga classes each week.
R – Realistic – This one is a bit tricky. Your goals should stretch you. If you aren’t stepping out of your comfort zone then you aren’t growing. Said another way, “if your goals don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.”
- Bad: Write a best-selling novel.
- Good: Submit a book proposal.
T – Time bound – Every goal needs a date associated with it. A goal without a date is just a dream.
- Bad: Learn to use Quickbooks.
- Good: Learn to use Quickbooks by March 31st.
Okay, now that you have written smart goals, you need to break these goals down into manageable and achievable actions. You are creating a road map that will help you get to your desired destination, ie. your goal. This time you are going to keep your goals in front of you. You’re going to refer to them often. I recommend that you read over your goals every morning. This is the secret sauce that turns dreams into reality. Thoughts become things. Read over your goals and visualize what you will feel like when you have achieved each one. Don’t rush this part. Give yourself time to reflect on each goal. Express gratitude for this part of your day and for the freedom to set goals for your life.
Track your progress along the way. Give yourself credit for even the smallest step towards your goal. My favorite definition of success is “steady progress toward a worthwhile goal.” Celebrate yourself on this journey. Ultimately, the journey itself will change you, if only you pay attention. You are a member of an elite group of goal setters. The few who strive to be, as Zig Ziglar liked to say, “meaningful specifics and not wandering generalities.” Congratulations for that.