Can asking three questions (pictured to the right and highlighted below) bring you closer to achieving your writing, business or personal goals? Yes.
Articulating answers can help you:
- choose the right goals
- surface how committed you are to achieving them and help you re-order other priorities
- identify the specific activities needed to attain your goal
Are you ready to get started?
Question one: What do you want?
Put it in writing, either on paper or screen. Research shows the mere exercise of listing your goals so they are staring back at you initiates changes in the brain can propel you forward. No longer is your goal ethereal. Now you can look at it, pin it on your wall, carry it with you, a useful visual marker to keep it top of mind.
Question two: How much do you want it?
List the outcome and corollary benefits of achieving your goal. Ask yourself, if I accomplish X, then I will benefit by Y. Now include sentiments around how achieving this will make you feel. If I accomplish X, and benefit by Y, this will make me feel Z.
It’s also important to consider your goal in relation to other things on your plate. Where does it rank? How willing are you to doing the work necessary? In today’s busy world, if your goal is not on your priority list, it’s unlikely to get done. This step is crucial.
Since we all have multiple goals, taking the time to clarify their relative importance should make decision making much easier whenever you find yourself cramped for time or with an extra ten minutes on your hands. When you know your top three goals for the day and have 10 items on your list, this clarity helps you focus on which item should command your attention first. Your choices become clearer. It can also help you with the prevalent feeling of overwhelm faced by so many in today’s busy, stressful and often uncertain world by helping you decide which item to tackle next. As you make progress, keep asking yourself what needs to happen next to keep your momentum strong and your efforts on track.
Question three: What are you willing to do to get it?
Now it’s time to flesh out your goal. Working with the information you have now, write down the discipline, time and resources it will take. Don’t fret your list is incomplete — you never completely know what doing something required until you’ve actually done it. You may overestimate or underestimate it — accept that as part of this process. Be aware of the potential for analysis paralysis and allocate a limited time for this entire exercise, no more than an hour.
Be honest about the sacrifices it might take to meet your goal. Do you need to become more ruthless with your time and let other things go? (Most people do.) Do you need to learn new skills or develop new partnerships to take you where you want to go? (No one can do it all alone, all the time.) Do you need to invest in tools or services to get the job done? What will it cost? What seeds do you need to plant today for later harvesting? Conversely, what baby steps can you take right away to inch forward?
Weigh all these factors. Now with a more concrete and detailed vision in hand, ask yourself — are you willing to do what it takes? And if the answer is no, this is still a powerful and useful exercise. Trying on a new goal is like shopping for clothes — not every suit on the hanger will look good on you. Even if you decide to reject or temporarily abandon a goal, your quiet reflection should provide insights. Going through this process will either motivate you or clarify once and for all that your nagging doubts deserved attention.
This exercise is not for the faint of heart. If there is a big disconnect between what you want and what you are willing to do, what you have is a dream, not a goal. (And you may decide it’s someone else’s dream, not really yours, at that.) The person who says they want to be healthier and takes no steps to eat better, exercise more or spend time recharging is only kidding themselves. The business that says it wants to grow and boost revenues and does nothing to enhance its visibility or sales is doing likewise.
To be sure, some goals are harder than others. Even the world’s top athletes and business superstars sometimes falter or fail to achieve their goals. And you too might fail — but you will surely fail if you never scrutinize your goals enough to get serious about them.
If you find this exercise has you excited and energized, you’ve just cleared away one obstacle (complacency) and it’s time to get busy. Take one step today that transports you closer to your goal, even if a small one. Chip away, a bit every day. Allocate whatever time and energy you can muster. Choose a mantra that reiterates the importance of incremental work and incremental progress. Quotes like “every long journey begins with one small step” or “inch by inch, everything’s a cinch” are popular because they remind us that success does not occur without effort.
If attaining your goals has been hard for you recently, begin with small steps. Reach out to others who can help you. We are all challenged in some way; no one is perfect. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Develop a support network who will spur you on when you need encouragement. Spend time doing things that recharge your batteries and clear your head. As a former mentor once told me, remember to stop and smell the roses. And here’s one more idea — all next week, just for grins, reach out and try to help one other person move closer to attaining one of their goals.
What advice would you give others to help them reach their goals? Are there some specific tactics you can share that might help someone struggling with a writing, business or personal challenge? I welcome your thoughts.
© 2013 Anne Doherty Johnson
About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations. She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals. Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.
This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.