Goal Setting: Getting Yourself in Gear Wherever You Are
If you were blindfolded, taken to a foreign country where you had never been, and dropped off in the middle of a city, you would at first have trouble finding your way around. You would ask for directions, and then you would probably buy a map. Once you had the map and you knew the exact direction in which you were headed, you would find your way home. Because you are an intelligent person, you would stop along the way periodically and check with a “local” to see if you were going the right way. This would give you confidence and assurance.
The Motivational Map
I would suggest that goals are part of your map to success. An additional part of success and motivation is stopping to evaluate your progress and to periodically evaluate ” where you are.” This will tell you if you are on the right track.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you were on a workout and fitness program. You would measure your body fat, weigh yourself, and possibly take measurements of your waist. This is how you would measure your progress. In losing weight and inches, you would be even more fired up because you had seen results!
In order to get and stay motivated, it is absolutely essential to evaluate where you are on a monthly or quarterly basis for all of your goals. Doing this will have several advantages:
- It allows you to objectively stand back, take a timeout in order to evaluate where you are, and see how you are progressing compared to the goals you have set.
- If you are meeting or exceeding your goals, you will be that much more motivated. It feels good to be on track or ahead of schedule.
- If you are off the mark, this will give you a chance to make adjustments. This is good news because you would rather correct your course earlier rather than later. It is much better than waiting until the end of the year to fix a problem.
- The exercise of periodically looking at where you are will reinforce why you set out to approach the goals that you have in the first place.
The act of looking at your progress and where you are is very valuable and relevant. As members of the human race, we are always changing, and sometimes as we change, our goals and our direction change as well. In looking back at your goals, you may decide that you want to change some you have set, and this is healthy.
Ask And You Shall Receive
In reviewing your progress, ask yourself some very in-depth questions and think through the answers. As a young man, I thought that I wanted to be an actor. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, I discovered I didn’t want to live in New York or L.A. With that realization, I knew I didn’t want to be an actor and sacrifice as much as it was going to take. This was the result of asking myself the question: Is this what I really want? The answer in my head was a resounding no.
As you take this journey called life, it is very easy to get in a big hurry and not stop to think about what you are doing and why. Asking yourself the right questions and really thinking about the answers will lead you to your own truth. The truth will be the key to staying motivated because what you are going after is your own.
To Be or Not To Be
Here are questions that you need to consider. Take some quiet time, find a spot where you won’t be distracted, and ask yourself the following:
- What were my original goals, and why did I set them? Take a look at your original goals and ask yourself why they were important to you. What were you going to get out of them? How would achieving them affect your life and the lives of those around you? If you can nail down the answers to these questions, it can be a fire starter for your motivation. You may say, “That’s right. Now I remember why this is so important.”
- How am I doing in trying to reach my goals? Take a look at this area and determine if you are ahead of schedule. If you are, you will be very excited! You may find that you are right on track. That should be pleasing as well because you can see that you are exactly where you should be. You may be behind schedule. In that case, you need to decide what obstacles are standing in your way and take some action. At one point during the writing of this book, I got bogged down with being busy in other parts of my life. At times the progress was slow. I went back a few times and made adjustments in order to get things moving again. An Asian philosopher once said, “The secret of life is the constant readjustment to our surroundings.” So this constant process of evaluation and adjustment is necessary and motivating. It is also important to get a handle on how you are feeling about your progress so you can manage your feelings. If you are frustrated or upset, you need to take action to get out of that mode, because it isn’t productive.
- What can I do differently? Ask yourself if you are taking the right approach and what you have learned in the last three or four months that you can apply. What modifications can you make to your habits? To your lifestyle? When can you make the changes? Where can you make them? How can you make them? Is there anyone who can help you or give you advice? This is a key point. Many people are shy and reluctant to ask other people for help. I think they are concerned the other person will say no or will feel “put out” or taken advantage of. I have found that most people are flattered when you ask for their advice or help because it appeals to their ego. I also think people, in general, are nice and want to help. I have had very few people turn me down cold when I have asked for assistance and in general have been much more helpful than I expected. The power is in the act of just asking for help. Try this technique because it really works.
- How do you feel about where you are today? Are you very excited about your progress? Are you not excited at all? If you aren’t, why not? What is holding you back from making the progress that you want to make? What are the barriers standing in your way? Going back to the trip analogy, if you were taking a long trip across the Atlantic, would you be frustrated if after 50 days you had made little progress? Of course, you would! But that would be the time you would want to adjust your course. Then you would at least feel better knowing you were off course and had made the necessary corrections.
- What is your primary objective for this goal? Why did you set it to begin with? Why is it so important? What impact will this have on your life? It is very important to ask yourself these questions because they can be helpful reminders as to why you started in the first place. One of the primary factors in motivation is knowing why you have set a goal. You must understand why you are doing something; otherwise, at some point, you will stop wanting to do it.
- What has changed since I last evaluated? Have there been any changes? What has changed for you? What has changed in your company? Your family? Your community? Your world? Because decisions aren’t made in a vacuum, it is important to look at all the factors that could, did, or will affect your decisions. If any changes have occurred, you may need to modify your course of action.
- How does this particular goal relate to the other goals I have set? Is there an interrelation among the goals? Are any of the goals in conflict with one another? Let’s say you have a goal of spending more time with your family. A second goal is to work out six times a week and really get in shape. A third goal is to go back to school and get your master’s. As you can see, if you try to achieve all these goals at once, there will be an inherent conflict.
- Are you having fun? If you aren’t having fun, the questions that you answered don’t matter. At some point, you will run out of steam and stop working on your goals if working toward and reaching them bring you no satisfaction. One benchmark should be that you have fun in the process. I was at an amusement park recently and watched a 60-year-old man get on a ride. As he was buckled in, I had him in perfect view. I wanted to see how he would react. He was smiling and yelling, “Whoa– this is great!” He was having a ball. I mention this because there were other people at the park that day who were the same age and looked like they were having no fun at all. Why? They had the I-am-too-old-to-ride-this-ride-and-I-will-look-like-a-fool mindset. What a shame.
- What are you doing well? As you go through this process, write down what you are doing well. It is important to recognized and acknowledge your successes for two reasons. First, if you know what has worked, you can keep doing it. Also, you will have a sense of accomplishment. Even if some things are not going well, these positive reminders will help keep you motivated.
- Where are the key areas for improvement? Off the top of your head, if you had to identify one or two areas that could use improvement, what would they be? What kind of impact would improving these areas have?
- What would make a huge difference? If you think about it, what are a few things that you could start doing today that would make a huge difference?
- What are your key barriers? What are some of the key barriers in your way? How can they be eliminated?
If you periodically evaluate where you are, this will help you get and stay motivated. The periodic check-up will be your “compass” and will help you stay pointed in the right direction.