How often do you set yourself goals, but then fail to achieve them?
It's not a good feeling...
But it probably isn't that you aren't committed enough, or don't have enough willpower.
It's more likely that you are going about how you set and work to achieve your goals in the wrong way.
This week, I examine 7 different ways you can define and act so that you can easily achieve your goals - including my favourite...
How you do this will transform your success.
Which one works best for you?
This is probably the most well-known of all goal-setting techniques, and for good reason: it is very effective.
In case you haven’t heard of it, SMART stands for:
S - Specific (what exactly are you going to achieve?)
M - Measurable (how will you know when you get there?)
A - Achievable (something that you personally can achieve))
R - Realistic (self-explanatory…)
T - Time-bound (you need a deadline!)
If you are new to goal-setting, it’s worth using this model as a baseline.
However, it is not the complete answer: when SMART was famously and successfully used across GE by Jack Welch, some teams’ performance was transformed by using SMART goals, while others’ wasn’t.
So there are clearly other factors at play here.
Other goal-setting methods try to address these…
My favourite acronym, BHAG stands for:
Big, Hairy Audacious Goal.
This builds on the SMART approach: but the focus here is that the goal being set must be a stretch goal - you can’t get away with setting unambitious, easily-achieved goals, just to be able to tick them off (which you can do with the SMART methodology).
As the inventors of BHAG state:
BHAG is clearly a positive adaption of the SMART approach - but as with any discipline, methodologies keeping moving on.
Recent approaches to goal-setting introduce even more of a focus on the psychological dimension.
A slightly unfortunate acronym for goal-setting (you don’t want to feel it is going to be hard!), this stands for:
H - Heartfelt - you need to have an emotional attachment to the goal you are setting
A - Animated - visualise the positive feelings you will get from achieving your goal
R - Required - you must feel really motivated to achieve your goal - you need a sense of urgency and necessity
D - Difficult - the goal needs to be challenging!
This approach combines the psychological dimension with a BHAG flavour.
It was originally defined in relation to personal goals in the 2009 book by Mark Murphy, “Hundred Percenters”, but can equally be used for career/ workplace goals.
One of the newest models of goal-setting, this uses the power of visualisation to help motivate you to achieve your goals, PLUS (unlike HARD) overcome obstacles along the way.
(For more information on this, read Gabrielle Oettingen’s 2014 book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking”).
W - Wish - what do you want to achieve? (It should be realistic but compelling.)
O - Outcome - how will you feel when you achieve it? (Visualise the positive impact…)
O - Obstacle - what might stand in your way? (Imagine your personal or contextual obstacles)
P - Plan - how will you overcome these? (If/when [obstacle] arises, I will do [action to overcome it].
For the scholarly among you, this combines one proven technique known as “mental contrasting” - the WOO; with another technique called “implementation intentions” - the P.
The big advantage to this approach is that it includes consideration of what happens when the going gets tough - which it almost certainly will.
And that’s the point at which people can give up.
Using WOOP helps you anticipate these moments, and plan to get past them - which is crucial to success.
Some approaches to goal-setting focus not on how you define the goal itself, but more on your psychological response to being set goals.
5. The Four Tendencies
Defined by Gretchen Rubin in her 2018 book of the same name, the “Four Tendencies” approach focusses not on the definition of the goal itself, but instead on your psychological response to being set goals.
She states that there are four different types, or "Tendencies", depending on how you react to being set external vs internal obligations:
Upholders - good at external and internal obligations
Obligers - good at external obligations, but not internal ones
Questioners - good at internal obligations, but not external ones
Rebels - not good at responding to either external or internal obligations.
Rubin explains the impact of being each of these Tendencies on your ability to achieve your gaols and change your habits, plus suggests ways to either build on or get past your Tendency.
For more information on this, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org to get my free worksheet on how to work with your Tendency to get the best results.
6. “Inevitability thinking”
Productivity expert Eben Pagan formulated this approach after realising that relying on willpower alone was demonstrably not an effective way for people to achieve their goals.
Instead, people should use inevitability thinking:
In other words, rather than focussing on the question of whether or not you will achieve your goal, you focus on the conditions or steps that will make it inevitable for you to achieve your goal.
For example, if you want to get fit, it will be very hard to fail at this if you hire a very strict personal trainer, and tell them from the beginning not to accept any excuses.
Or if you want to become excellent at public speaking, book yourself to speak at a large conference in six months time, plus book yourself on a “learn public speaking” course. That should create the right conditions…
Finally, my favourite approach to goal-setting:
This approach combines the best of all the above methodologies, and for me, gives the best results - because it can be so powerfully tailored to each individual.
There are a number of steps to this:
What is it you want to achieve? (Use SMART to define this, but - unless your main aim is to build your confidence in achieving goals - also make sure the goal is BHAG)
How would it feel if you achieved it? (Use the power of visualisation to really crystallise the goal, and make achieving it feel emotionally compelling.)
What is the first step? (Goal-setting can feel overwhelming, which leads to paralysis rather than action. Avoid this by defining that simple first step - after that the path ahead starts to feel clearer - and achievable…)
Does this goal fit with you and your life? (There is no point setting a goal that will give you an unintended negative consequence - your unconscious will stand in your way. For example, you won't be able to achieve a goal of getting a promotion if doing so will mean you spend too much time away from your family…)
Knowing yourself better than anyone else, what could you do to sabotage this goal? And what could you do to overcome this? (These are crucial questions - we all self-sabotage to some degree, and identifying exactly how you might do that, and what to do when/if this happens, will make the difference between success and failure. You could include an understanding of your Tendency here…)
Is achieving this goal reasonable? (The answer to this should be a big YES! It is a powerfully motivating statement.)
There you have it: 7 different ways to help you achieve your goals.
But don't forget setting goals and working out the best way for you to achieve them is only the start!
You have to take ACTION.
And that action is best founded in a proper plan.
The most effective way to take action is to work with a coach.
I can help you:
get clarity on exactly how to define what you want to achieve, and in the most compelling way;
plan how to achieve your goal, so that achieving it becomes inevitable;
and support you until you get there, helping you overcome obstacles and mindset blocks along the way.
As with most things, it is possible to do it alone - but it’s a lot easier to achieve goals with expert support.
To find out more about how I can help you achieve your goals, get in touch: email@example.com.
One final cautionary point...
As a recovering perfectionist myself, it’s important to note that goal-setting should be used as a motivator, not as a stick to beat yourself up with.
There is also evidence that people can behave unethically to achieve a goal; or be less willing to take risks, because they might upset their goals.
Plus setting overly stretching goals, then failing to achieve them, can be damaging.
So do make sure that when you are goal-setting, and working to achieve your goals, you do this in a spirit of positivity and kindness to yourself and others.
One more reason to do this with the support of a coach…
Good luck! xx
p.s. get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free consultation on how I can help you achieve your goals.
p.p.s to read Part 1 of this Goal-Setting Series, click here.