It can be easy to say, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.” You can wish away entire weeks and months by simply putting things off. But when you do that, you’ll find that you lost time and didn’t achieve your goals.
Sound familiar? Then this is the perfect guide for you. It’s time to get those dreams out of your head, dust them off and make them happen in your life.
Why You Stopped Pursuing Your Goals
When you set your goals, you had every intention of achieving them. Your soul was on fire with possibilities. This was the year you’d get that promotion, or finish your degree, or write that book that’s been floating around in your head. But as time went by, obstacles got in your way. Maybe you started a family and no longer have the same amount of time. Or worse, maybe you got in your own way. A lack of confidence can be an insidious thing. It’s also possible that you outgrew the goal (or realized it wasn’t right for you) but never revised it.
How You’re Going to Get Started Again
It’s time to get out your list of goals and do a thorough review. There are a few preliminary steps you need to do before you can jump into making a new list.
- How old are your goals? If they’re more than a year old, it’s time to re-examine them from your current perspective. Is it still something that fits into your life? Dreams can change over time, and your goals should, too.
- Examine your own feelings. It might be your underlying beliefs that are getting in the way. Low self-esteem creates a feeling that you’re not worthy of the things you pursue, so you stop chasing those dreams. Now is a great time to work on building your confidence, which will help every area of your life.
- What’s your motivation? Are you pursuing these goals because you’re trying to keep up with your version of the Joneses? Is a spouse, partner or parent pushing you toward something you don’t feel is quite right for you? It’s time to gently but firmly assert your own needs. Your confidence also plays into your feeling of self and how you see your place in the world. Make sure you’re clear on that vision and that it’s not someone else’s version of it.
- Make a different choice. Accepting a life that doesn’t include your dreams is a choice you’ve made, consciously or not. It’s time to make a new choice, one that creates a happier you.
Once you get the mental side of setting your goals under control, it’s time to take a look at the tasks.
Be SMART About Your Goals
While those capital letters are a great emphasis, they’re actually an acronym, too. SMART will help you focus in on the things that really matter when you’re setting goals. We can get sidetracked by daydreaming about the end result or fixating on an imagined obstacle. When you’re writing your goals, you need to stay focused.
Specific: If your goal is too large or broad, you won’t achieve it. “I want a promotion” versus “I want to be promoted to Senior Manager within my current department” are two very different goals. The words you choose are important, too. Choose terms that resonate with you.
Measureable: If you can’t measure your goal, you have no way of knowing if you’ve achieved it! Saying you want to be able to run a mile (instead of just getting “in shape”) sets a very precise target.
Achievable: If there’s no way to ever get to that goal, it doesn’t belong on your list. Or at least not in that form. Maybe you can break it down into smaller goals. If not, then it might not be the right goal for you.
Relevant: This is similar to achievable, but we’re going to add in realistic. Sometimes relevant is about timing, too. Is it the right time for you to pursue that goal?
Time: You need to add a time component to your goals. It will give you a sense of urgency and help you push through if things get tough. Don’t make the time too long, either. That defeats the purpose.
One thing to keep in mind: Goals are an elastic process. This isn’t the time to set-it-and-forget-it. But that doesn’t mean you should just start pushing your timeline out; that’s the wrong kind of elastic. It means that it’s OK to adjust things based on what you’re learning. You can even add to it, if you find it was too easy. Maybe you’re stronger than you think and a mile was a piece of cake—make it two.
Putting It All Together
When you put the process together, you get a meaningful goal that excites you. Being excited about your goals is really the true secret to achieving them. Steve Jobs said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” It’s time to find the vision that pulls you!
This article was published in October 2017 and has been updated. Photo by @perminofa91/Twenty20
Maxine Nwaneri is the founder of The Future is Greater, a coaching practice in which she helps ambitious professional women demolish the obstacles in the way of achieving their goals, living out their dreams, and creating personal and professional lives they love. She does this using the same powerful strategies that helped her go from homeless to becoming the successful businesswoman she is today.
Maxine has over a decade’s experience in the corporate world, including several leadership positions. She holds an MBA from the University of Cambridge UK, is a Certified Transformational Coach and an International Speaker. Maxine’s work is underpinned by her 7 Step GREATER Future Framework, which she developed following an analysis of her successes and failures over nearly 20 years.
Maxine is a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United Kingdom, but describes herself as a “citizen of the world,” having lived in several countries on four continents and traveled extensively all over the world. She currently lives in Norway with her husband and their daughter.