Looking at my calendar I can’t quite believe there are only five weeks remaining until we’re welcoming in another new year.
As we zoom towards the end of 2017, I’m reflecting on the goals I set for the year (business and personal) and what I’ve achieved. Many have a lovely big tick of achievement, others are happily in progress.
Yet there is one languishing on the list that I keep pushing to the bottom. Reflecting on this goal, I realise it’s not an effective goal – it doesn’t inspire me into action.
Time to reframe the goal to something more effective.
So how do we set effective goals?
There are five keys to inspiring, and therefore effective, goals.
1. They’re motivating
Effective goals are those that are highly motivating. No real surprise here. However, to establish a motivating goal, you need to understand what motivates you.
Neuroscience studies into motivation have established the approach-avoidance motivation theory, that the brain is triggered by either toward or away responses. For example, away from the huntsman spider on the bathroom ceiling, or towards the delicious chocolate cake on the kitchen bench.
Whilst we are all motivated into action by both reward and threat, generally people lean more heavily towards one or the other – those that are more motivated by reward (or to achieve something) or those that are more motivated by threat (or to avoid something).
“I want to eat more vegetables so that I feel healthy and energised” – towards/reward leaning
“I want to eat more vegetables so that I don’t get sick” – away/threat leaning
Having said that, and without going into the science here, reward motivated goals generally tend to be more sustainable over the long term, and therefore more effective, for most people.
2. We connect with them
Effective goals are connected to who we are, are set by us and talk to our own sense of identity in some way. For example, if you are family focused, a goal of being healthier may in fact be tied to your sense of family and wanting to be healthy and energised to spend more time playing with your kids.
3. They’re memorable
How you write down each goal (and you should write them down) is important – they need to be memorable and stick in your mind. The simpler and more direct the wording, the easier it is to remember and act on. Try creating an inspiring mantra or catch phrase to describe your goal.
4. They’re achievable and measurable
When setting effective goals, they need to be tangible and measurable. “Living healthy” is the outcome you want but it’s not definitive and not easily measured. A goal to achieve this vision might be “eating three serves of vegetables every day”.
5. They’re solution focused
Effective goals are solution focused rather than corrective. For example, “Cooking healthy meals five nights per week”, rather than “not eating take-away every night anymore”. Focusing on the area to be corrected simply reinforces the negative habit whereas focusing on the solution incorporates the vision for the future.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Establishing your inspiring goals is the first step in the process, once you have defined these the next step is to create the strategy, the milestones that you will achieve along the way to reach the goal.
Once you’ve established the strategy, you can set the actions needed to meet each milestone and ultimately achieve the goal. When setting actions, these should be helpful and likely to happen.
Celebrate each milestone as you achieve it, putting your brain in a reward state helps to motivate you towards the next action.
The aim in achieving a goal is to turn it into a new habit – the goal of “cooking healthy meals five nights per week” becomes a habit, your new norm that you no longer even think about.
Achieving a meaningful goal, and turning it into a new habit, is an exciting and often empowering experience.
Need some help to establish your inspiring goals?
Working with a coach can facilitate better thinking to establish your insightful goals, help you create strategies and actions to achieve them, and have someone to celebrate the milestones with you. It’s important to find a coach that you can connect with, who will help you focus on positive change and motivate you.
If you’d like to know more about the services provided by Sharon Stanley Consulting, I’d love to hear from you, please contact me here.
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