Using goals to get what you want

About the author: Stuart Rimmer is the Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Great Yarmouth College and runs Inception Coaching, providing leadership development to individuals, groups and companies. He talks to Education Support Partnership about setting goals.

Have you ever felt adrift and like you are not getting anywhere, despite working hard? This is a common thought and thankfully can be solved fairly easily. The answer may lie in how you set your goals.

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” 
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go!” said the cat.

Goal setting is just about planning your journey. Essentially you are answering two question. Where do I want to go? Secondly, how will I get there?

Whether you are a top business person, an Olympic athlete, a teacher, or a student taking the first steps of your future career, goals can help establish long term focus and short term motivation. You can set goals in every aspect of your life, not just around work. This will help you make better use your time and the resources available to you. In fact, taking a broader life view can help ensure you enjoy a happier balance in the here and now. It can also make celebrating achievements along the way easier, which has a knock-on effect on self-confidence and wellbeing.

So you want to set some goals – how do you do it? You will need to invest some time initially to do this, and should also expect to revisit and refine these goals over time. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  

Firstly, ask yourself some ‘big’ questions. What do I want to do with my life? In ten years’ time how will I know if I have been successful? What does that look like? It’s important to recognise that success can only ever be defined by you as an individual and should not be set for you by others.

Break life down into different areas and think about what you would like to achieve in each part. Think about your education, your career and work life, wellbeing and health. You might also consider goals under the headings of family, friends, home, and community.

Once you have written these bigger goals down check to ensure that they are what you really want. Are they realistic? Have you set a timeframe for them? Are you happy to commit time, energy and sometimes money to achieving them?

The next stage is to break these down into smaller goals that you can check in with regularly. Let’s explore an example. If under your physical and wellbeing goals you wish to run a marathon, your big goal might be: “It is September 2017 and I have just completed my first marathon race”. To achieve this we might need to break this down. Smaller goals might be: “I will find a good training plan”, “I will join a local running club”, “I will run three times per week”. If you were to achieve these smaller goals, the chances reaching the big goal have greatly increased.

In the modern world, we are obsessed with short term, quick fixes and ‘life hacks’ but there are no short cuts when it comes to achieving big goals. You can’t run a marathon in a week, you can’t lose five stone in a month (healthily), and you won’t get your dream job overnight without some planning and work. 

Big goals require time investing on them. They require commitment and strength of character to stay the course. I have also found that getting support from friends, family or the people I work with are essential when it comes to achieving big goals. So once you’ve set your goals, share them with people you love and trust. Write your goals down and review them regularly to see how you are getting on.

Goal setting can be a hugely powerful tool in designing the future life that you want. Goals will help you challenge yourself. They make you decide what is important in your life. They break the big dreams down into manageable steps. They set your destination and give you the road map to get there. We live in a busy and hectic world and it matters greatly where and how we spend our time. As Henry Thoreau says “It is not enough to be busy. The question is ‘what are we busy doing?’”

What are you busy doing right now? For the next week, month or even years? Start setting your goals now to make your dreams come true.