"Goals are dreams with deadlines."
I don't remember where or when I came across that quote but it stuck with me because it makes me feel empowered to know that I can turn my dreams into concrete goals. We can all do this...provided we set effective goals.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on the process until a business colleague hooked me up with a critical goals worksheet she created. Using this tool made setting effective goals a more challenging process than it's been in the past. It's also given me greater clarity with regard to setting goals and increased my confidence that I'm going to achieve them. I'm so jazzed about this process I want to share it with you.
The first thing I needed to do was come up with a Goal Statement: This one's obvious. Most of us know goals need to be stated in specific terms. But this worksheet asks that you use descriptive words that would be tangible and clear to a third party. If a third party read your goal statement, could they accurately describe the outcome?
Goal Need: "WHY" do I need to accomplish this goal? Sounds simple enough to answer. But when I wrote down the "why", I discovered that I was sometimes pursuing goals I thought I should be pursuing rather than ones I felt passionate about. I had to "own" my "why".
Measurable: Nothing new here...except the tool uses the third party concept again. If someone else observes the end result, how would they know the goal's been achieved? Thinking of it in these terms strengthens clarity.
Resources: What resources are needed to achieve the goal? Who/what will help? Hinder? In the past, I've focused more on the skills I already have or need to acquire, without giving full reign to people resources. And while I certainly consider the hurdles I have to clear to make my goals, too often I overlook the "people hurdles" unless they're obvious.
Attainable: We all know we set ourselves up for failure when we overshoot. I like to think I'm objective when it comes to assessing my own capabilities and financial resources. But I wasn't in the habit of reviewing circles of influence; not doing so often leads to "magical thinking" that somehow we'll heroically achieve our goals. It really is vital to be realistic about what's in our control - what we can influence and what we can't.
Realistic challenge: Did I anticipate success or potential failure? I never considered the "f" word (failure) much before when setting a goal. But for most of us (including high achievers), it can be motivating to articulate how we'd feel if we fail to achieve our goal. The more painful we imagine it would be to not attain the goal, the more likely it is that we've chosen a goal that's truly meaningful.
Time Phased: Like most people, I tend to generalize (I'll start working this goal in mid-January and complete it in 6 months). This tool asks you to fill out a detailed action schedule, listing specific tasks that support goal achievement as well as specific dates. For example, if one of your goals is to set up a blog, each in a series of actions (choosing a template, designing a banner, integrating banner and graphics into your landing page) would be assigned a specific completion date, rather than assigning a completion date to the goal of "launching a blog". Dates can be re-set as needed but it is eye-opening to see the schedule you lay our for yourself - you gain excellent perspective on how tasks can be time-managed.
In all, I completed 5 Critical Goals Worksheets over the past couple of months. It's more work than I've ever done around setting goals - I even found myself complaining a couple of times when I was doing it. But then I asked myself - if it isn't worth my time and effort to commit these goals to paper (in detail), then how worthwhile is it to pursue them?
So now they're written down...which is basic. And they've been shared - with my business partners and a few other trusted colleagues. Sharing our goals with others helps keep us accountable. I expect my colleagues to hold my feet to the fire...and I'll be doing the same with my own coaching clients. Who'll be holding your feet to the fire?