When you stay true to yourself, you'll be doing something challenging, engaging, stimulating and meaningful. These are not cliches or stories from other peoples' lives, but a reality. What you need to get there to stay focused on your path and have these two factors on your side:
- enough motivation and
- enough ability
Here are some thoughts about how you can set goals that move you to take action, and how you can make it as easy as possible to build routines that work.
Set exciting goals that really motivate you
You may have heard of SMART goals (if you haven’t don’t worry) but this misses the most crucial point that the only goals really worth doing and that we’ll feel proud of a year from now are those that stretch and excite us.
Here’s the acronym SO EXACT to make this happen:
- S-uccinct: a few words that are easy to remember, so work for us all the time
- O-ne focus of measure: more than one focus dilutes the goal.
- EX-citing: something for which you will have long-term enthusiasm, framed in a positive statement.
- A-ssessable: a measure to know when the goal is achieved.
- C- hallenging: stretching you beyond your normal limits but always achievable, especially in the early stages
- T-ime framed: twelve weeks is a reasonable time frame in which achieve a serious goal, and yet near enough to maintain motivation. If necessary, you can sub-divide your goals to fit in these time frames.
Make sure they are your goals and not those of others
We are surrounded by stories of people who have ‘made it’ and messages of how to live so we can be as happy as they seem to be on the outside. This all has a corrosive effect - most of us in one way or another have succumbed to peer pressure and the allure of money, prestige or security.
It’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want then to find out too far into the journey that it isn’t. And now you've got no drive to stick at it. Clarifying and prioritising what you really want is an important step in designing goals that will bring happiness and success. By clarifying what your values are, you will understand your career drivers and find direction.
Write your progress and get help from others
There is a huge power in writing down your goals. This will help you to clarify, distill and record them. While writing your goals down is a powerful exercise in itself, the real value comes in building routines to make progress on a regular basis.
Make yourself accountable to just one other person who is committed to helping you achieve them, be that your mentor, supportive friend or colleague. Groups are great too to create accountability and build momentum—key ingredients in helping us stick with new habits. Thus, if you want to cook more, consider joining a cooking group. If you want to run more, consider joining a running club. The more positive reinforcement you can surround yourself with, the easier it will be to make difficult changes.
Build your cue, routine, reward process
First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Try to build habits with a clear cue, be that the start of the day, the end of another activity or the beginning of something. Then there is the routine, the thinking or action you do. More on this below. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Celebrate your achievements particularly in the early days no matter how small they are to build your momentum further.
Make sure your routines are easy to do
Go from thinking and procrastination to routine action by making your routines as easy as possible to execute. Think about:
- Time. Do I have time to do this when I expect to? What can I change to make this happen? The shorter the amount of time, the better
- Money. Can I afford it? Is it worth that much?
- Physical Effort. Do I need to go somewhere to start? Or can I change things to make it happen right here?
- Brain Cycles. How hard do I have to think about it? Is there a set of instructions I just have to follow?
To help you make lasting change in the new year, we've put together the 2017 Goal Setting Workbook with our favourite advice from 9 experts on productivity, goal setting and habit formation.
• Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy
• Mike Gardner, author of Business Owners: Your Family Misses You: Time Management Strategies That Free Up Two Hours A Day And Get You Loved Again
• Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
• Graham Allcott, author of How to be a Productivity Ninja
• Timo Kiander, author of Work Smarter Not Harder: 18 Productivity Tips That Boost Your Work Day Performance
• James Clear, writes about behavioral psychology, habit formation, and performance improvement.
• Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
• Steve Roesler, award-winning writer and speaker on leadership, management, and career management topics
• Alex Cavoulacos is one of the founders of The Muse and you can now pre-order her new book The New Rules of Work
Knowing how difficult making your next career move is, Martin created the Career Design course. With simple, guided steps online, it makes finding your perfect career easier, more attractive and affordable. Find out more here.