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Goals, who needs them?

Well, research indicates that less than 3 per cent of us regularly set written goals. However, those who do invest time in this exercise are overachievers who seem to succeed effortlessly. To them, non-goal-setters appear like dead leaves in the wind, their trails mostly decided not by them but the direction in which the wind blows fastest.

A written set of goals, organised and structured, can help keep us focused in the same way a map helps us find our destination in an unknown city. Corporations spend millions on planning and goal setting. Even at work, employees are often judged by their ability to achieve goals that have been set for them. And yet, in our personal lives, we rarely use the power of setting goals.

Davinder Sachdeva, General Manager (Sales) at one of the five largest software companies in the world, tells us how he does it. "Writing down a goal means it is important to me. Unless I write it down, it is a vague idea floating in my head. When I write it down, I can fit it into my schedule and make it real."

Here's a simple five-step process of setting goals that you can actually achieve, rather than just wish for.

Step 1: Define your goal

This seems simple, but surprisingly isn't. Most people do not clearly know what they want. Defining a goal helps you articulate what you want -- not only to others, but also to yourself. Imagine leaving your home every morning with a vague idea of where you are headed. What are the chances you will get anywhere worthwhile?

So, how do we define specifically what we want? Take a rough sheet of paper and pick an area of your life (career, education, health, relationships, spirituality, personal growth, etc) where you would like to set a goal. Write down around 20 things that you want to see happen. Don't think or analyse too much. Let your thoughts flow.

Now prioritise this list -- rank these 20 in the order of their importance to you. What you are doing is gaining clarity into what is most important. You will find yourself a lot clearer in your head.

Step 2: How will you know you have achieved this goal?


As an example, let's work on your top three goals. Most often, if we don't have good validation criteria after having set a goal, we will never know if we actually succeed in achieving it. So, ask yourself this significant question: How will I know I have achieved this goal?

This might be straightforward for some goals. If one was 'to get a promotion', or 'get admission into XYZ institute', the for that is straightforward. But, if your goal is 'to become a better manager', that's a little vague. You might want to set the validation criteria as:

1. The attrition rate in my team will drop.
2. Rewards earned by team members will grow.
3. Meetings will be shorter.
4. I will give and take regular feedback from my team.

If these things happen, you will know you have become a better manager. Now, look at your goal and try making your validation criteria as specific as possible. Notice that all four points mentioned above can be measured tangibly.

Step 3: How to go about doing it

Take a good look at your goal and validation criterion. What do you need to do to make these results happen? This is the time to break down your goal into actions and sub-actions. Come up with a list by asking yourself this question.

Step 4: Set a time frame

Setting a time frame for your goal breathes life into it and also allows you to build it into your schedule. It also helps you create a sense of urgency about your goal. If you are having trouble doing this, refine your goals and make them more specific. The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to set a time frame around it.

Step 5: Take Nike's advice

Just do it.

Unfortunately, this is what proves to be the most difficult step for most. Inertia, procrastination and laziness hold us back from doing what we know we should be doing. Here's some simple advice on how to get things done:

1. Read your goals, your validation criterion and action steps every single day, more than once if possible.
2. Use a planner and fill in your list of actions. If you see what needs to be done in your planner, you are more likely to do it.
3. Use a reminder service. You can use an online calendar or reminder service to send you a reminder email every day.

The trick is to keep your goals and action list on top of your mind somehow, and keep taking action. If you do not do this, chances are they will meet the same fate as your New Year resolutions.

Finally, if this sounds like too much work, try to spice it up by making it fun. Introduce elements of things you like. For example, I usually do boring things like making monthly budgets and taxes while sitting at my favourite coffee shop. By combining these two activities, I am able to transfer the 'fun' element from one to the other.

Most often, we need to tweak our mindset just a little bit to create huge results in our lives.
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