We all know the drill. The most successful people set goals. The most successful people work their goals. And on, and on, and on. And we do that, right? We set goals; we work our goals (at least for a while)! But it’s just so hard to reach them.

Too late for goals? Nah!

Savvy people know they can set goals whenever their jobs (or lives) change. Plus they know that those life changes call for re-visiting and re-evaluating their goals.

Goals are about moving forward with an action plan so you don’t find yourself stuck doing the same old things.

Don’t react – act!

In an article about , the author points out something that resonated with me immediately. We tend to set goals after something happens: Christmas is over, the New Year is here; we’ve put on a bunch of weight, now we need to lose it; we encounter a health crisis, now we’ve got to really get going on an exercise regimen; we lose our jobs, now we’ve got to stop putting off creating that résumé and that LinkedIn profile.

So our goals become a reaction to some thing instead of the instigation for action. And we usually frame them as a negative. The results from my physical came back and my bloodwork doesn’t look good, so I’m not going to eat food that’s bad for me. Or, I just lost my job, so I’m not going to spend money and now I have to write a résumé and start networking. None of these statements say Hey, I’ve got a chance to make a change! I’m ready. Instead, they express dread and denial.

Prompt positive action

These reactions are just that, responding to something that happened. They feel bad when we say them. And, when we set goals as a reaction, we’re not in the right head space to set ourselves up to succeed. We have to get our motivations straight before we create goals that set us up to succeed. Instead of reactions, our goals need to be the instigators of positive action. We have to be in the mental space where we look at them as opportunities.

Another problem we encounter is unrealistic expectations. While it’s admirable and necessary to set goals that are a reach, that move us out of our comfort zone, it’s not necessary to set goals that we’re pretty sure we can’t reach. Why are we sure? Because the same [insert your favorite expletive] goal has been on our list for the last 2 years, or 5, or 10. One of my goals has been on my list for close to 20 years!! You’d think I could take a hint, right? Nope.

Torch goals that don’t serve you

So to create successful goals, ones we can achieve, we have to come to grips with those we’ve not reached in the past – especially the repeat offenders. We have to pull them apart, examine our motivations for setting them in the first place, then figure out what to do with them this year. And, discarding them (aka setting those suckers on fire) is on the table.

And that’s really scary, because what are you saying about yourself if you torch a goal? You’re saying that it doesn’t serve you and that’s all you’re saying. Period. End of story. Leave it behind and move on to something effective.

Back them up with a plan

Then there’s creating a plan. Oh. A plan. Yep, we need a plan to reach those goals, otherwise it’s way too easy to just feel good about writing them and never follow through on reaching them. Which means they’re wasted. They were waaay to hard to come up with, so let’s not waste them. Okay? Good.

Now I’m going to do something that you might think is a little mean. I’m going to stop right here. We’ve covered some of the things that make it hard for us to reach our goals: we wait until the last minute to create them; they tend to be reactive; they can be unrealistic; they address the past instead of the future, and we’re missing a plan.

I could write about goals for days, and I’m going to. But this is the end of this post. I’m going to let you ponder these ideas, and next week we’ll take another look at goals and consider what we can do to reach them.