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Following an overwhelmingly positive response to our close of year Thank Paper, we decided to issue a follow up to help you prepare for the year ahead to start our sixth series on ‘motivation and communication’ for managers. The New Year is traditionally a time for people to set resolutions such ‘I’ll get fit this year’, ‘I’ll earn more’, ‘I’ll start that new venture etc.’ However, January the 15th is apparently the point that things start to unravel and the resolutions fall by the wayside with somewhere between 80-90% of them failing to stick.
The aforementioned Thank Paper provided an opportunity to reflect and to be thankful for what the past year had provided. It may have been tough or bountiful or a mix of both, but one thing is clear it’s in the past now. This time next year, what do you want to be thankful for achieving? It’s your choice whether you maximise your outputs and experiences over the next 12 months or simply just get through the year.
It’s your choice whether to make a deliberate focus on things you want to achieve and provide inspiration to others around you, or simply carry on as normal. The first week back at work brings the inevitable email catch up, tidying up after the end of year flurry and Christmas deadlines, and for many it’s also a very quick fall back to a ‘business as usual routine’. Or not; if you set some clear goals and maybe more importantly, an accompanying system to achieve them.
Yet how many of you have really got clarity on what your purpose is for the next 12 months or indeed even the next month? I asked around at New Year when seeing friends and family and far too few had any real clear solid goals or purpose. Some mentioned maybe they were going to lose a bit of weight, get fitter, or look for a new role; most simply seemed resigned to just carry on. Not overly inspiring, and possibly problematic as articulated by the Australian test umpire Bill Copeland:
It’s too easy to meander through life and a year passes, then 3, 5 and 10 and you end up a decade on living a life that’s largely the same save for a few more pounds around the waist, more channels on the TV or whatever channel surfing device you use. It’s far too easy to end up a passive consumer of other people’s view of what your life should or could be. If you don’t have a plan, then you’ll fit someone else’s plan for you and spend time you’ll never get back.
I was fortunate enough to survive a fatal car crash some twenty odd years ago, where the person I was travelling with was killed instantly in a head on collision with a drunk driver. The traffic officer who was first at the scene told me afterwards he couldn’t fathom how I escaped with my life from what was left of the car. Believe me, such an event grants one a very different perspective on life and one which from time to time I have to remind myself not to take for granted. The crash was a wake up for call for me and the first time I got serious about setting a new direction by thinking about what I wanted out of life. It put me on a path that saw me go to university as a mature student and graduate with a first class honours using principles of goal setting and a system of measured accountability.
Being given a second chance got me thinking of things that I wanted to do and I set out a mini-goals list. I read more and more on the subject and became fascinated about how we learn and basic psychology. Many of my old fears and self-imposed labels disappeared as I realised that whatever happened from this point forward was all a bonus anyway. I also realised that I could have a lot more influence on what my life would look like but that I had to take a more proactive role in defining it.
Setting goals became an important part of my life from that point forward. I understood that I needed a new plan to build a new life. Goal setting is the first step toward successful goal achievement. It’s not a process to be rushed though as effective goal setting makes all the difference. Writing out a wish list is for dreamers – goals are more planned and deliberate.
The easy answer is to know what you’re aiming at and to be able to measure whether you’ve achieved it. Celestine Chu, a popular blogger on personal excellence offers the following six reasons why setting goals is so important.
1. Gives clarity on your end vision – this step helps you to articulate what you want for the goal. It helps you live more consciously and explore your purpose and your values. They say that everything in the world is created twice: First it’s created in the imagination or the mind and secondly it’s manifested in reality. There is a famous story attributed to Roy Disney brother of Walt, who at the opening of Disney World was asked whether he regretted that his brother never got to see the finished article. Roy rebuffed the question stating that “we are here today because Walt saw it first”. To cement this further, Roy made sure that the planned ‘Disney World’ actually changed its name to ‘Walt Disney World’.
2. Drives you forward – Goals can help you express your inner desires and motivate you. When you are doing something you’re interested in hours seems like minutes. Having goals that you set and own helps to keep you motivated and on track even when the going gets tough. Clear goals help build resilience.
3. Gives you laser focus – goals give you a single focal point to put your intention on. Think of a goal as a funnel which guides your time, energy and efforts towards a desired output or result. The clearer you are about the goal the more focussed you can be. You can a broad life purpose but goals allow you to break down particular aspects such as physical health, finances, career and channel your efforts.
4. Makes you accountable – to yourself not to anyone else. Your goals should be just that, yours, and not someone else’s. Accountability requires commitment and a system of planning and measuring progress. Accountability is not a chore but a reference point towards something you want to achieve. It helps to keep you focussed and on track and avoid life’s little distractions which can eat away at your time and energy.
5. Be the best you can be - goals help you achieve your highest potential. It’s easy to settle, to be safe and comfortable at different stages in life. This can prevent you from growing and from using your untapped potential. Not expressing this can leave you very frustrated as you realise that life is passing you by and you’re not fully engaged in it. Goals can help provide a stretch beyond the normal and safe routine of life. Helen Keller said it best, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” When people first start setting and achieving goals they quickly develop more ‘audacious’ goals as they realise they have so much more to give.
6. Live your best life – the popular maxim states One Life; Live It. It doesn’t say merely exist or scrape by but live it. Many people given a second chance at live review and refocus their efforts. We’ve all seen the stories in the papers of people who after being diagnosed with terminal illness pack more into the last few months of their life than many comfortable individuals would achieve in their extended lifetime. Make sure your best life is your dream and not someone else’s reference point.
There are many myths and misperceptions about goal setting. This paper will not address all of these but we’ll look to tackle some of these in later papers I’m sure. The first thing to understand is that it’s your choice whether you want to make a difference in your life and set out to deliberately achieve something of value in the next year. You may have set goals before and they’ve fallen by the wayside, with this as a reference point it can be difficult to set and go for new goals. The following exercise will help you to take some small steps in the right direction.
Start with the question – Where do I want to be in 12 months’ time?
Great question, but for many people they honestly answer – “I don’t know.” They can give you a long list of things they don’t want and maybe a whole series of wishes, wants and maybes but not clearly articulated goals.
To help you think about this choose five things (goals) you could focus on in work and five things (goals) you could focus on to improve your physical health. The trick here is to put down 1-2 very short-term immediate objectives i.e. next few days, 1-2 short-term objectives i.e. next few weeks, and 1-2 medium-term objectives i.e. next few months. An example is set out in the template below left (Fig 1).
For each of the goals who want to achieve use the template set out on the right below (Fig. 2) to gather your thoughts and write them down. Get used to writing quickly and scrubbing out, and restarting rather than getting it right first time. Goal setting, like exercise, takes a little getting used to, especially if you’ve not done it properly for some time. You need to get back into shape one step at a time.
Fig. 1: Top 5 Personal & Work Goals
Fig. 2: Template to expand on each Goal set
Know+Do publish regular Think Papers on a variety management related topics. To help managers, we offer in-house training on a range of business success and management issues. We also have expert performance coaches available to encourage organisational and leadership growth. We welcome comments and feedback on the Think Papers - drop the author (Andrew Ramwell) a line via firstname.lastname@example.org, call (0161) 280 4567 or tweet @rammers02.