As I’ve said before, I’m fairly new to successful goal setting. Too many times in the past I’ve scribbled down New Year’s resolutions and goals in the margins of notebooks or on miscellaneous scraps of paper that I conveniently misplaced or on sticky notes adorning my laptop. I think I’ve even put them in Evernote so they could follow me everywhere.
My goals didn’t feel real…
It really bugged me that I couldn’t get traction on my goals. In both of my coaching certifications I had created goals. But those goals never seemed reachable to me. Sometimes they didn’t even feel real. They felt ephemeral and flighty.
Then, a couple of years ago, I came across Michael Hyatt’s program for setting and reaching goals. And he talked about spending time thinking about the motivations behind your goals. So I did. I recorded the motivations behind my goals: the reason I wanted to do my books every month; the reasons I wanted to take control of my health by exercising regularly; the reasons I wanted to expand my circle. I worked hard to come up with multiple motivations for each of my 8 goals.
Dig deep to find the motivations.
For example, here are the exact motivations I uncovered for my exercise goal:
- I want to be able to think with more clarity.
- I want to be able to eat without worrying so much about gaining weight.
- I want to be stronger.
- I want to be more limber.
- I want to have the stamina to build my business.
- I want to have the stamina to build a new life.
- I want to have more energy.
You see how I really dug deep and thought about all the reasons behind that goal. You know, all those motivations were great, but I had one more step to go. I had to identify my main motivation – the real reason this goal was critical to my success.
What’s the underlying motivation?
I remember looking at all of those reasons for achieving that exercise goal and I remember how hard it was to figure out my main motivation. I knew that I didn’t want it to be some long, drawn out, complicated statement. So I walked away for a few minutes, and when I came back it came to me. I really wanted to feel and look my best. That was and is the desire that sits beneath all of the other motivations for exercising regularly. Oh, and for me, when I exercise, I eat better – nice set of checks and balances!
I finally wrote this: I want to feel and look my best.
Figuring out the why…
Maybe you’re wondering why I spent so much time figuring out those motivations? As I was immersed in the process, I wondered the same thing. But, as I worked through my motivations for each goal, I got it. Really digging into why I wanted to achieve each goal helped ground me in the goal. It felt real; it had heft; it had a reason to exist, and that reason was critical to my moving forward at that point in time.
Writing down my motivations for each goal also did something else. It helped me figure out how to start the process of reaching each goal. I found that I could identify the critical first small step that would get me moving forward.
Find the first step forward.
For my exercise goal, my first step was to write down when I was going to exercise each day on my calendar. I picked that first step because I know (from extensive reading and agonizing experience) when we write a task down on our calendars, we’re more likely to accomplish it. Try it; it works! And it worked for me. When I created an appointment with myself to exercise, I exercised.
The problem was I didn’t always write it down. And I got up late. Didn’t have time to exercise. Forgot to exercise. Went to the movies instead of exercising. Watched an episode of Castle for the 12th time instead of exercising (I could have watched from my treadmill!!). Pick an excuse.
Remember why you created that particular goal?
Which brings me to another reason writing down our motivations helps us reach our goals. When I got off track, I pulled out my goals pages, and, sure enough, my motivations were still listed beneath each goal. They hadn’t disappeared; I didn’t need to figure out what they were because I wrote them down. Nice! So, I took the time to read through my goals again and got re-acquainted with why I created them in the first place. It helped. I got back on track. When I want to get back on track I read through all my goals again, then go back and make some notes on the goal(s) I’m struggling with.
And, I followed another tip from Michael Hyatt, I started reviewing my goals weekly – well, I tried. I did it some weeks and skipped others. When I took the time to review them – even when I didn’t review all of them – I could identify where I’d made progress. I also identified where I had gotten stuck (a couple of fun, but poor meal choices and over programming my day were chronic offenders).
Review, analyze, tweak, celebrate!
I took those lessons to heart, celebrated the wins, and resolved to work on staking claim to time on my calendar to exercise, go over my books, go over my goals regularly. I ended up going over my goals monthly. I also learned that it’s a good thing to reassess your goals and tweak them! Because –you know this, right? – things change; life happens; priorities shift. So I just claimed the right to evolve and tweaked the goals – which made them stronger and kept them relevant to my life and work.
Capturing our motivations sets us up to reach our goals!
When we invest the time in uncovering the motivations for our goals, we set ourselves up for success. Those motivations help us own our goals at a deeper level. Then, when we take the time to review our goals and motivations regularly, we reinforce our successes and use them to keep going forward. We also have the opportunity to tweak our goals based on our progress. Then we celebrate progress. Don’t forget the celebration!