Sunday, January 01, 2012

Setting your goals for the coming year (guaranteed to work!)

It’s the time of year when many people make resolutions, set goals and devise plans for the coming year.

Photo by --Tico--

But is this a useful thing to do, and if you do it, how likely are you to achieve what you set out to do?

what are goals for any way?

Last year instead of outlining my plans for the year as usual (since I’d failed miserably in 2010), I looked more generally at the process of setting goals (see Looking forward/ looking back).

Setting goals is more than just making an extended ‘to do’ list. Somebody once said to me that we shouldn’t make lists, we should make timetables. Lists don’t prioritise or give us deadlines, they’re just like a shopping list of vague desires.

If goals are going to be of any use, they need to be realisable and time-limited.

At least that’s what the business types out there would have us believe.

They’ve even come up with a concept: S.M.A.R.T. Goals should be:

  • Specific – create a clear, unambiguous goal
  • Measurable – have concrete criteria for measuring progress
  • Attainable – your goal must be realistic and achievable
  • Relevant – is your goal worthwhile and are you willing to work towards it?
  • Timely – you need a deadline or target date for reaching your goal

But that’s maybe only relevant for people who actually want to achieve their goals. I pointed out before that there are other useful reasons why we might want to have goals without having to actually achieve them.

Sometimes the slick, analytical, business-like method of setting out goals is rather scary. What if we can’t be specific enough? Maybe we’re not sure if it’s relevant. Maybe the target date we set is unrealistic and we feel like failures if we don’t deliver in time.

In short, this approach to goal-setting may actually put us off setting up any goals in the first place!

goal setting which always succeeds

We need another approach. Ladies and Gentlemen. I present G.I.V.N.O.

Goals which might more usefully be:

  • General – by not being too specific in your ambitions, you have the possibility of going off at a tangent and making use of unexpected opportunities that might come your way. If you become too fixed on a specific goal, you might miss these.
  • Impossible – why limit yourself to something attainable? Won’t that always mean you are working within your limits and not stretching yourself enough? Dream the impossible dream. You don’t have to actually get there, but by striving you will arrive somewhere new and exciting.
  • Vague – sometimes a vague goal where it is hard to measure progress is enough to get the subconscious going and to seed a tiny dream deep within your brain. One day this may blossom into something specific and measurable, but in the meantime a seed is all that is needed.
  • Not relevant – so come up with a half-baked idea that doesn’t, on the face of it, seem to be worthwhile or that you’d be willing to make an effort for. Make sure it’s outside the realms of your normal practice. Then forget it and don’t work towards it. The very act of thinking of it will mean that you will begin to notice things in the world that pertain to this idea. Gradually it will take hold of you and perhaps not seem as irrelevant as it did at first. At the very least it might shine a light on alternative ways of achieving those goals that you think are worthwhile.
  • Open-ended – rather than time-limited. What if you have a deadline for a goal and you don’t make it? Doesn’t that make you feel bad? I’ve had many great goals on my list in the past and some of them have taken many years to achieve (see below), but I have eventually got around to them when the time is right. So set out to achieve something, but leave it open-ended and it will get done when it needs to get done.

an example of an open-ended goal

One of the things I said in 10 things I want to achieve in 2010 was to re-design this blog. Well, two years later I’ve finally got round to it!

It’s still a work in progress, but I hope you like it so far. Do let me know what you think and if you can suggest any improvements. (If you’re receiving this by email, just pop over to the blog home page and check it out.)

what are your plans for the year?

Do you find setting goals useful? Do you have any goals in mind for 2012? We’d love to hear what they are and will certainly be cheering you on from the sidelines.

Do leave a comment and share your plans with us. We’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, Happy New Year. May 2012 be peaceful, rewarding and stress-free.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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