Goal Setting for Dummies

Here’s my confession.  I’ve never been big on setting goals for myself.  Maybe it has something to do with fear of failure, inherent laziness or the fact that I’ve got terminal ADHD and get interested in so many things that I never get around to setting goals.  Partly it’s because I spent too much time in management seminars hearing about SMART goals and the whole process seemed like too much work… by the time I’d written the perfect SMART goal, I could have done the task at hand.  Anyway, if you’re like me, here’s a process that has actually helped me become a goal setter.

They say that you’ll increase your odds of achieving a goal by 80% just by writing it down.  Now, I confess, I have no idea who “they” are, but I’ve been trying this “writing my goals down” thing for a few years now, and it’s actually paying off.  If you’re not sure where to get started, here’s a method that I learned from my friend Tim Cork at NexCareer, that worked for me.  Maybe it will work for you too.

  1. Start writing… Take a sheet of paper and start writing all the things you want to do in your life… think big and small.  Don’t limit it to your career.  Think holistically.  Think about courses you want to take, places you want to visit, people you want to meet, etc.
  2. Set timelines… Now go back through your list and tag each item in terms of when you want to have achieved this goal.  Tag by 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.
  3. Organize… Then, rewrite each of your goals on an appropriate page (eg: all the one year goals on one page, 3 year goals on the next, etc.)
  4. Reality check your list.  How do the goals “sit” with you?  Make any revisions and then,
  5. Break it down.  Take your one year goals and break them into monthly activities.  What are you going to do each month to stay on track towards your goals.

Once you’ve got your plan, think about how you’re going to hold yourself accountable.  Do you need to share your goals with a “buddy”, do you want to work with a coach or a mentor?  Or will sticky notes on your refrigerator keep you on track?  Building in structures to keep you focussed on your goals is key to making them happen.

Each month, review your list and check off what you’ve accomplished.  If something’s been sitting there for a few months, ask yourself why.  Maybe you’re not really committed to that goal.  Or maybe that goal is too big and you need to break it down into smaller chunks.

Goal setting doesn’t have to be a huge arduous process.  But to be effective, you do need to practice follow through.  Successful leaders have a set of personal leadership goals that help them guide their career choices and decisions.  If you’d like help setting your Personal Leadership Plan, check out our website

Happy leading!