• Work Life Journal

A goal without a plan is just a dream

Goals don’t just happen; they’re cultivated - usually through a lot of hard work and determination.

You have a vision of success, wealth, happiness or health. But how will you make this happen?

You might have devised the most perfect goals for 2020, but without a plan to making these a reality, they will remain just an elusive dream. Planning and goal setting are powerful mechanisms for establishing clarity of purpose and taking the steps towards achieving your aspirations. The two go hand-in-hand; in fact, one without the other is fruitless.

Goal setting and planning are known to boost self-motivation. In fact, studies indicate that people who develop a plan and write it down are over 40% more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t. Not surprisingly, there is a positive link between goal setting and performance. Studies also show that planning promotes a higher sense of wellbeing due to the motivational and satisfaction elements associated with it.

Time management is a key ingredient to the planning and goal setting process. Planning allows you to take control and responsibility for your work, actions or other elements of your life and allows you to make decisions on the appropriate timing of your action and achievement. This enables you to unpack the overall effort required to achieve your goals into a tangible list of tasks which can then be prioritised. One important provision is to accommodate for contingencies – this is far more effective and more likely to result in better outcomes than if you fail to include buffers for any foreseeable risks such as interruptions, hurdles, barriers or other disruptions.

I often use the SMART approach to goal setting. This requires that goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. An important factor to consider when setting your goals is to consider whether the goal is not only achievable but a personal stretch. Challenging goals inspire greater energy and motivation, tending to lead to significantly greater performance. However, it is important to get the balance right. Once you achieve your goal, your motivation increases and leads to a personal sense of gratification. On the contrary, setting unachievable goals can be demotivating, and has been shown to reverse the positive effects associated with goal setting.

Learning goals – those which involve learning, developing or extending your skills or knowledge – are proven to be more conducive to performance improvement than the goals that simply require a tick-the-box achievement.

In order to work through your goals, it is important to identify your barriers and understand what is holding you back. Clarify what you want to achieve and overcome procrastination. Take a growth mindset to see obstacles and failures as challenges that you can learn and grow from, rather than seeing these as adversities that debilitate you or obstruct your goals.

Reflection on the year/month/week/day you’ve just completed is crucial to collecting your thoughts and giving permission to positive self-recognition of your achievements and major wins. Don’t forget to reflect on the things in life that you are grateful for. If you achieved some major goal last month, allow yourself to reinforce your awesomeness in this feat; but also, what or who are you grateful for to supporting your achievement along its path to fruition? Goals don’t just happen; they’re cultivated, usually through a lot of hard work and determination.

On the flip side, there may have been some problems or obstacles that you may have encountered along the way. For some, such setbacks may leave them immobilised and unable to move past these. Yet, for those with a growth mindset, staying resilient and determined means that they are likely to devise ways around these issues, or may learn new ways of moving forward. In fact, they may even welcome perceived challenges in order to learn and grow from.

So, important elements of reflection require you to contemplate what you did well and how this was achieved? However, it also requires you to reflect on the problems or barriers you encountered and how can avoid or navigate these issues better next time. Most of us experience problems to some extent when we are working towards achieving our goals. Your mindset, resilience and determination are important factors that you need to deploy to just keep going – or to pivot, if need be, to devise a new strategy towards achievement. However, don’t let obstacles get the better of you… in other words, just keep going and don’t give up!

So, what’s stopping you? Start planning your success, wealth and happiness goals today!

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