Last week I discussed the first step in the goal setting process, visualization. If you followed the action steps, by now you should have a first draft of the story that will become your vision. If not, go back to last week’s blog post and read that first before continuing.
The process of setting goals comes from behaviors that you already exhibit in your daily life. When you want something, how does that happen? What do you do to get it? The answers to these questions seem to revolve around common themes. Visualization, Decision, Action, Assessment.
Visualization comes first. It has to. Until you imagine possibilities, the reality cannot exist. You can only focus your attention onto things that you believe in and/or desire. Once you think about it..you see it..you get it down on paper..then your goals will begin to take form. Visualization, the acts of meditation and journaling your thoughts, and having a clear desire to change, are all catalysts for what’s to come if you commit to this process. Follow through on the action steps and continue on.
Make a plan
You know what you want. Your vision has been clarified and refined to be as accurate as possible. You’re motivated, eager, and already beginning step two. This is the planning stage. Arguably, planning is the most important step. A good plan will allow you to make smooth progress and roll with the punches when things get tough. A poor plan can hinder your progress. A poor plan may even deter you from wanting to take any action at all, and you’ll lose motivation.
You start planning the moment you decide “this is for me. this is what I need to do.” You think off all the ways you could potentially make the thing happen. Set a weight loss goal of 35lbs? You’ll start searching things like
- nutrition tips
- workout advice for overweight thirty-somethings
- how to lose weight
- motivational playlist on Spotify
You’re making a plan. This is a great start. Except..lots of people end it there.
The ones who dig deeper, ask the deeper questions, and get down to the specifics. They’re the ones who succeed. They’re the ones who break the barriers and reach new heights.
Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself (or your iPhone) to make a solid, succinct, and detailed plan, and to inspire action:
- When do I want this to happen?
- Is that realistic?
- Is this important for me?
- How will I measure success?
- What are 1-3 things I can do today/this week/this month to bring me closer to my goal?
- Is this goal meaningful to me?
- What else should I know?
- What’s the best case scenario if I take action?
- What’s the worst case scenario if I do not take action?
You might be thinking that this is a long process, and asking yourself “why delay and take so much time to prepare?” This can take as long, or as little time as you need. In theory the moment you decide on the first step you can take, you can get after it! The planning model serves multiple purposes. It’s a jump-off point for most. If you’re a creative/thinker type, then planning is a rabbit hole and you’ll get lost in the details. If that’s the case, commit to doing one thing on a very regular basis that grows over time and is positively influencing your goals. An example of this would be – walk for 10 minutes per day, every day for 2 weeks. If you do that, the next two weeks you can add 5 minutes, then add 10 minutes, then 15. Soon you’ll walk for an hour per day, every day, and it will become so habitual that you can add on the next step. Commitment sometimes comes in small doses. It doesn’t matter how well you perform, or even what it is that you do. Commitment and consistency will outweigh and help you win in the end.
Success has to be measured. This is an important step in your planning process. With a large goal, it’s sometimes a de-motivator to still be working, day in and day out, and see little progress. This is why so many people stay exactly where they’re at. It’s frustrating to see the weight on the scale only move slightly, and be so far away from the final goal. It’s difficult to see the same amount in your bank account at the end of every month. These moments are called “The Dip” as titled by Author Seth Godin. People set goals that take a while to reach and complete. Just before significant progress can be seen, there is a dip. Not always an actual dip. In most cases, it’s a lull in productivity, a bout of procrastination, or a stagnation. You may see this as a reason to give up. You think “this isn’t going anywhere..I’ll shift my attention elsewhere now.” When the going gets rough, you give up. Is that you? I didn’t think so.
Usually you can persist. You can persevere. You can get out of The Dip.
You can make this easy by setting clear standards of measurement for progress and then use that as a tool. Measurement comes in the form of micro goals. 35lbs is a lot of weight to lose if you’re not already in the habit of nutritious foods and exercise. Splitting that up into benchmarks will help you notice results and give you optimism that your plan is working. This is why we ask the “When” and “is this realistic” question. Losing 35lbs in 2 weeks, not so realistic. Losing 35lbs in 6 months with 5-7lb increments every month is realistic, and motivating. All you have to do is walk 10 minutes per day. Then after 2 weeks add 5 minutes. While you do that, add 4-6oz of one lean protein source to your diet every day for one week. In the next week make that 6-8oz. In the next two weeks, make it 12 oz per day. After a month, you could lose 5-7lbs, and be one step close to your goal. Treat yourself with some self love and a pizza, and get back to work.
Clarify your vision – sort through your thoughts and put them into order of priority. What’s the one that stands out?
Once you’ve decided – answer the 10 questions written above about your most important goal. Be as detailed as possible.
Take action on the most immediate step. “What can I do right now?”
Read on next week to learn more about taking action and following through.