Hate setting goals? Do this.

As my clients know, I like goals. Not vague fantasies about the future with no plans of getting there. Actual, tangible, measurable goals. The problem most people face is that they don’t know the difference. A goal is a dream on steroids.  In other words, a goal has a strategy, a plan, and action steps.

If you’ve ever set a fuzzy goal in the past and haven’t achieved it, it’s probably because you didn’t do these 6 things:

1. You didn’t set a SMART goal.

We’ve all heard the acronym for (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Limited), yet we still set goals that don’t hit each point. For example, I was coaching a health coach who wanted to grow her business and get more clients. Her version of a SMART goal was “Get 10 clients in 4 weeks.” While it was specific, relevant, and time limited, it wasn’t going to work as a goal. Why? Because there’s too much outside of her control. It also had no specific action steps associated with it. After some back and forth, she decided that she wanted to increase her web presence to meet new clients. A better one month goal for her was to “Take daily action steps by working for 30 minutes each day to start a blog by creating a website and mailing list.”

2. You focused on results instead of actions.

For example, a not-so-SMART goal is “I want to lose 15 lbs this month.” Even breaking that number down into ½ lb per day is pointless. Why? Because there’s no real plan to get you there. A SMARTer goal would be to say “For the next month, I will take daily action in the form of 30 minutes of exercise, 8 glasses of water, cooking every meal at home, and meditating for 5 minutes each day.”

3. You didn’t maintain motivation.

Motivation is an emotion, it waxes and wanes. Try this exercise to tap into motivation on command.

4. You didn’t consider the past in a proactive way.

Most of us don’t achieve every goal we set. Largely because we don’t stop to consider what prevented us from achieving it in the past. For example, when I set a goal years ago to start my own company, I looked at all the ways I self-sabotaged in the past: not carving out specific time to work, putting others ahead of me, working in my apartment and getting distracted by chores, etc. Jot down your go-to methods of self-sabotage so you can call out your own BS.

5. You didn’t look at the beliefs that previously held you back.

Failures in the past create limiting beliefs which lead to roadblocks. Anticipate and address them by asking yourself:

  • What are the things I used to say to myself that stopped me from taking action in the past? Ex. I am selfish if I don’t prioritize my kids over my health.
  • What stories do I tell myself that get me off track? Ex. I can’t be successful as a writer, so it doesn’t matter if I don't write today.
  • What excuses or rationalizations have I made for not taking action? Ex. I’ll have more time to do this tomorrow.

6. You Weren't Accountable.

Announce your goal on Facebook. Check in with a friend each day to say whether or not you followed up on your actions. Sometimes we need external motivation to kick us in the ass.

New behaviors and new outcomes start by doing things in a new way.

And while you may have failed at your goal in the past, setting a SMART goal is an opportunity for you to handle your historical patterns differently. It’s an opportunity to take new actions and achieve new outcomes. Because ultimately, you only fail when you don’t start.