The Complete Guide to Personal Goals
When we leave the house each morning we know where we are going. Sometimes though, we want to take a more leisurely stroll without knowing the destination, to relax of clear our mind, in this case, we may not know our destination but we know our purpose. It’s when we don’t know the destination or the purpose that we begin to get in trouble. Small obstacles become roadblocks because all we can see is the obstacle, we have nothing else to focus on. If, however, we know what we want and where we want to go, if we have a goal, the problems become minor bumps in the road. Setting personal goals is important, very important and in this Complete Guide to Setting Personal Goals, I will share my experience as a life coach and insights from my interviews with world champion athletes, successful leaders and entrepreneurs as well as regular everyday people like you an I.
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There’s a lot more to goals that meets the eye. Your goals are literally stored in your orbito pre-frontal cortex, the part of your brain just behind your eyes. Coaching is about helping the coachee to self-reflect. The self-reflection of coaching is literary the only way that we know from neuroscience to enact behaviour change in the pursuit of our goals.
Personal Goals Rule #1 | One Goal at a Time
Many of us set goals, too many goals, and that’s often the problem. I often hear when I start a new coaching relationship a long list of goals that my coachee would like to achieve. In truth, when we start a coaching relationship, neither of us really know the true goal until we’ve spoken for a while, we just know that we want to be more happy and clear on how to be more happy.
It’s important to stay with one or two goals at a time and to have a clear plan on how to achieve it. With too many goals, our plan becomes huge and we quickly become overwhelmed and disheartened when we fail to make progress. In the psychology of motivation, progress is #1 yet sticking with a personal goal can be suprisingly difficult for may people.
Personal Goals Rule #2 | Forget SMART, Make it Inspiring
When we think of goals we think of the proverbial mountains we want to climb, but when you look at a mountain what inspires us? Is it climbing a challenging snow capped window on the world or the climbing wall at your local park? The desitnation that you choose can be the difference between achievement and failure because, to put it simply, you have to really want it, and I mean really. Whether or not you feel its realistic and achievable (we will cover this later) a goal needs to truly inspire you to take significant daily action in its pursuit. So often we are told that our goals should be SMART the acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and targetted. Really? If Bill Gate’s goal to bring computers to the homes of millions was SMART you wouldn’t be reading this right now (on Windows at least). Does a SMART goal really get you excited? Does it make you spring from your bed on a cold winter’s morning? SMART is fine for your day job but for your life, aim a little higher.
Examples of inspiring life goals:
- To stand up for those without a voice, by dedicating 1-day per week helping an animal welfare charity
- To give yourself to others by connecting more deeply with close personal friends
- To gain wisdom and perspectives by travelling to new and exciting destinations
- To enhance the lives of thousands of people with an eBook on how to set goals
Personal Goals Rule #3 | Align Goal and Need
Goals also need to be compelling, however, you need to understand the true underlying reasons for wanting to achieve the goal. This comes at 2 levels. Immediate emotional motivations and deeper life levels.
We often set goals such as to stop smoking “because we should” but that’s not normally enough. In a coaching relationship, we try to find the real reason for wanting a goal so that we can make sure that the goal will give you what you are really trying to achieve. For example, a common goal is to lose weight and this, on its own would seem fine. If, however, we discover that the real reason for wanting to lose weight is that we feel unloved or somehow unattractive, we may want to set goals that are more in line with healthy self-esteem. It’s not to say that losing weight won’t help your self-esteem, but there are many other options for self-esteem and the reason may reside in failing to live in authenticity to who you really are.
Personal goals are not tasks, and by definition, take a while to achieve. To stay with a goal, you have to commit to the plan and then commit to focusing all of your energy to achieve it, this is the entrepreneurs secret. Goals that fail to meet what we truly need are likely to be missed leaving us drained and frustrated.
Personal Goals Rule #4 | Believe
Often, personal goals can seem unobtainable, so far off that we fail to make a truly committed effort to attain them. It’s important to plan how the goal will be achieved, step-by-step with a plan A, plan B and a plan C if necessary. Our flexibility of approach and problem-solving skills are what will ultimately bring success. Sometimes, however, its useful to make our goals real by visualizing achieving them. This often has the effect of making our brains more convinced that the goal is attainable and worth the effort. Our brains and bodies, alas, are energy efficient by nature and are designed not to expend energy on unobtainable goals and the evidence from neuroscience and psychology is conclusive on that point. Visualization makes the goal real, tricking the brain to commit precious energy reserves to achieve it. In fact, our brains emit a stream serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters during visualization of a pleasant experience, that give the brain the motivation to achieve it.
In my coaching work, the 1st thing we work on is values and goals. It’s my job to help my coachees to find the goals that they really desire, the goals that are in-line with their true values, the goals that really will make them happy. From there we work together to make it real. It’s truly a wonderful job.