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We’re all guilty of setting bad goals. Goal-setting isn’t a simple task, and it’s easy to get frustrated, throw your hands up and walk away.
The typical advice-column approach to goal-setting can leave us feeling empty-handed: we set goals that aren’t particularly meaningful, our success is based on factors out of our control, and we’re left with no clear road map to follow.
If you’re fed up with setting meaningless goals and want to start pursuing success that is actually in your control, I’ve got three tips to help get you started.
1. Stop pursuing meaningless goals
The biggest mistake we can make with goal-setting happens at the very beginning. We have a bad habit of setting goals that sound nice, but don’t hold any important meaning to us.
I’ll give you an example. What’s more meaningful: “Go on a big vacation” or “go on our family’s dream vacation to Italy?” If there isn’t much at stake or the reward is unimportant, you’re much less likely to succeed.
From 2017 to 2018, Accord Group’s sales nearly doubled from $27.5 million to $53 million. At the same time, we grew our team to 140 people. Now more than ever, hundreds of employees and family members depend on us to meet the sales goals we set. That’s what I call meaningful.
To set better goals, first figure out what’s meaningful to you. Use your passion to power your success.
2. Stop focusing on what’s out of your control
One of the biggest holdups to setting meaningful, achievable goals occurs when we frame them around factors that are out of our control. In this situation, it’s not necessarily our goals that need work, but our mindset.
For instance: Michael Phelps could have set a goal to win the gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the Rio Olympics in 2016 (spoiler alert: he did). Most of us would agree his goal is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented).
If you think about it, though, Michael Phelps has no control over the other swimmers in the race. He can’t control their skill level or speed, and he has no real control over the final outcome. What he can control is his personal lap time.
His goal, then, should focus on improving his lap time rather than “winning the gold.” With this small adjustment, he’s now completely in control of whether or not he meets his goal. Using this mindset, he can succeed even if he doesn’t win the gold medal.
I know it might sound like crazy talk, but it’s important to remember that chasing goals that are out of our control will eventually lead to disappointment. Approaching the process with a healthy mindset, however, can turn any bad goal into a great one.
3. Stop winging it
Setting meaningful goals that are completely within your control is great – but it’s pointless if you don’t have a clear road map for success.
What’s worse, the road maps we manage to come up with are usually pretty unhelpful. It’d be like planning to drive from the West coast to the East coast without knowing what states you were going to drive through. You’d know the general direction you need to go, but you’d have no idea what landmarks or cities to look for to make sure you’re on the right path.
This is an inefficient way to travel, and it’s an inefficient way to pursue your goals, too. Here are a few ideas I use to draw a better road map:
- Make smaller goals for your bigger goals. When Michael Phelps sets a goal to improve his lap time, his goal is made up of many of smaller goals, like weekly practice and training. In the same way, your big goals should have monthly and weekly goals, too.
- Keep your goals in front of you. It’s a rookie mistake to set a goal, then not look at it again until your deadline. Check your road map every week to make sure you’re on the right track, and make changes as needed. It’s easier to correct a week’s worth of negative direction rather than an entire month.
- Look for early indicators. It’s vital you pay attention to the details as you pursue your goals. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to lose weight. If you’re keeping a food log and realize you’re eating more calories than normal, you don’t need to step on the scale to know you’re making negative progress. Use these details to make adjustments.