As it's the time we have been thinking about our New Year's Resolutions, I thought this would be the perfect moment to take a look how to set great goals. I'm including goal setting in this Postivity Series because there is real evidence that setting and working towards goals (even if we don't actually achieve them) can make us happier.
So what makes a goal great? It needs to reflect your values (for more on values, check out my previous post) because value-based goals are much more meaningful. A great goal needs to be challenging - anything too easy and you could well lose interest before you reach it.
Spend some time visualising the benefits of attaining your goal - what will you see, how will you feel? What will you say when you look at yourself in the mirror and know all that hard work has paid off? Also do an 'ecology check' - what will you have to give up on the way? What impact will it have on your family and friends?
Make sure your goal is stated positively: don't say that you want to be less stressed, focus instead of being more relaxed - remember, what you focus on is what you get, so make sure you are focussing on a positive! A great goal needs to be specific - if you want to start running, how far do you want to go? And in what time scale? And remember to be kind to yourself - if you need to change the goal, perhaps to give yourself more time to achieve it, it's better to do that than give it up completely.
What makes a goal less than perfect? Recently I worked with a client who had spent her life setting challenging goals - she was a GP, then a consultant, she had so many certificates and qualifications.. but each time she reached a goal she felt a sense of disappointment that the goal was not everything she had hoped for. When she explored the reasons around this, she uncovered two problems - first of all, the goals were set to partially to meet family expectations; and secondly -she had been so focussed on achieving her goals that she had forgotten to enjoy the journey. Some valuable lessons can be taken from this example.
Conversely, I had spent my life NOT setting myself goals and thinking that I was simply 'not goal oriented'. This, it transpired was a bit of skilful self-delusion (largely a fear-driven, avoidance technique!) which I managed to maintain for years. With a bit of a push from a great coach, and having spent a lot of time studying NLP, I now know that everyone can benefit from setting goals. The sense of achievement that comes when you achieve your goal, and recognise how much progress you have made, is an unbeatable feeling!
Finally: make sure you put time in your diary for working towards the goal - life can easily take over and we can spend days reacting to life's problems. By putting your plans into your diary, you can keep focussed on your destination no matter what.
So - what do you want to achieve in 2015? It's time to get planning and set yourself some great goals!