We’ve all been there – caught up in the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon and making passionate commitments to take up yoga, eat more kale and climb every UK mountain in the next 3 months… Many of us recognise that we are caught up in the cliché of setting goals that will fall by the wayside within a matter of days or weeks, and lots of us also know that we there is no actual hope of us every achieving our dramatic resolutions.  So why do we do it to ourselves?

Goal setting is an important aspect of personal and professional development for many people – it gives us a fixed point in time to work towards and hopefully ‘improve’ ourselves or our situation as we slowly travel towards that goal. We are motivated by these positive changes, and the sense of achievement that is felt when we successfully reach our goal.  However, the positive psychological impact of achieving a goal can only be experienced if we can actually reach that target. Goals need to be SMART – so get ready for a good acronym!

Goals should be:

Specific – what do you want to achieve? ‘Be more successful’ isn’t a great one, as it doesn’t allow for you to focus your mind, skills and resources efficiently enough in one specific direction. ‘Take on 3 new customers’ is specific and clear, and can help focus your mind on what exactly it is that you need to do in order to achieve your goal.

Measureable – can you measure your goal? The ‘take on 3 new customers’ goal above is clearly measurable, as you either achieve it or you don’t! Something like ‘build greater rapport with my existing customers’ isn’t so measurable or ‘black and white’, unless you consider asking your customers to fill in a survey at the beginning and end of your designated progress period to establish whether or not you have been successful. Avoid the fluffy!

Attainable – is it within your power to actually achieve this goal? ‘I want to walk on the surface of the moon’, for example, is a pretty unattainable goal unless you are already in the European Space programme or are a mad billionaire.

Realistic – how likely is it that you will achieve this goal? You don’t want it to be too easy, or the psychological rewards of achieving that goal will be low.  Similarly, you don’t want it to be too hard as you might not achieve it. You need to find a healthy balance with a goal that requires dedication and hard work to achieve for maximum satisfaction, self-worth and ongoing motivation.

Time-based – set yourself a specific time-based window for your goal, i.e. 3 months, 1 year, etc. This will give you a fixed date to work towards and encourage you to pull together your resources so that you can achieve your aim by the deadline given.  Without a deadline, it is easy to lose focus and motivation and put off important tasks for another day.

Back in January, I set a clear goal for this year – to complete my book by Easter – and though there are still a few tiny tweaks and adjustments that need to be made, I achieved my goal! It will be available to buy from the 1st May (Virtually Painless). As a result, I can say first-hand that the sense of personal achievement and self-confidence in my own abilities has definitely received a positive boost as a result of setting, and achieving a personal goal.

So what is my goal for the next 6 months? You’ll have to wait and see! I’d love to hear yours though!

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