You may be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda person and enjoy the thrill of improvisation, but I can pretty much guarantee that unless you plan in advance how you will achieve your goal, you will not achieve it! You may really want it, you may work really hard, but your attempts will likely be disorganised, half-hearted and ineffective.
If you think that planning is boring and corporate (and it is), then replace a yawn-some plan with a jolly goal map and try thinking of your goal as a fun adventure. A goal without a goal map is kind of like rhubarb without custard. There is just no way you could eat it so it becomes pointless.
When you start thinking of your big lifelong dreams, it can make you feel very anxious because there is a great deal of uncertainty and a lot of steps from where you now, to where you want to be. On the other hand, if you think of your goal in 90– 100-day bursts, it is much more manageable and easier to think about what your goal map might look like.
1. Plant some signposts
You need some markers on your goal map so that you can see that you are going in the right direction. It is helpful to start with “what does success look like”, and work backwards to set your signposts. If you were on track to achieve your goal what would it look like 8 weeks from now? What about 4 weeks from now? What events would have to happen?
Merely deciding what these steps are, helps you to understand what to expect and what will happen, by when.
Goal: Get to X kg weight
Week 12– Weigh X kg
Week 8 – Weigh X +2 kg
Week 4 – Weigh X + 4kg
Goal: Run 5km
Week 12 — ran 5km
Week 8 — ran 2.5km
Week 4 — ran 1.5km
Goal: Knitting a scarf
Week 12–165cm long scarf knitted
Week 8–110cm long rectangle knitted
Week 4–55cm long rectangle knitted
You get the idea! I recommend that for maximum signpost value you set out the progress that you would expect to see week by week. Yes, it is a bit of a faff, but later on, we will talk about the importance of regular reviews and these milestones will help to indicate whether you are on track.
You can also set signposts for a non-cumulative goal. For example,
Goal: opening an Etsy Store
Week 12 — Etsy Shop is live and launched to social media channels
Week 11 — Logistics are finalised (e.g. packaging, terms and conditions etc…)
Week 10 — Sales copy and info for the shop is written
Week 9 — Pictures of products taken, uploaded and prices set
Week 8 — Social media channels set up to connect with customers
Week 7 — Final products made
Week 6 — Prototype products made (continued)
Week 5 — Prototype products made
Week 4 — Products designed
Week 3 — Product type/style decided on, ideas brainstormed. Logo created.
Week 2 — Other successful Etsy sellers researched. Shop name decided.
Week 1 — Read and understood how Etsy works
2. What are you going to do differently?
Now you have your signposts sorted telling you where you will be, it is time to actually reach the first signpost!
Would I be correct in saying that if you have not achieved your goal so far, then you are probably not doing the right things each day to get there?
We all have 1,440 minutes in a day, and in order to achieve your goal a good few of those minutes will look different to how it does now.
The harsh truth about personal change is if you “keep doing what you have always done, you will always get what you always got” — Jessie Potter.
If you want different results, you need to do something different. The trick is to decide what it is you are going to do differently and when you are going to do it.
- If you want to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories.
- If you want to run 5km you have to practice running.
- If you want to knit a scarf, you have to fit knitting into your day.
- If you want to open your own Etsy shop, you have to find time to work on your business.
I recommend that you start by brainstorming all the ways and methods that you can possibly think of to achieve your goal. Spend at least 15 minutes doing this, you want as many ideas as possible.
Now you have a list of ideas, it is time to decide what your preferred options are and what is feasible. If you were to do everything on your list you would likely go into complete overload meltdown! So keep it simple, pick 1–3 things for your goal map that you feel comfortable doing and will help you get to that next signpost.
3. When are you going to do it?
Now you’ve got the what of your goal map it is time to add the when When you put a date and a time to an idea you are taking it from an abstract concept to a concrete action.
- When are you going to have your knitting party?
- When are you going to wake up early before work? 5x a week? Monday, Wednesday, Friday?
- What days will you knit in your lunch break?
When you decide in advance, you can stop thinking about it. You don’t have to waste any more mental energy adapting and adjusting thinking “well if I don’t wake up early tomorrow, I will definitely have time over the weekend”. NO! You have decided that the days when you wake up early to knit and you will do it, end of!
Psychologists also recommend that to help cement in your mind what you are going to do, you should create an “If-Then” plan. The format goes like this, if situation X happens, then I will do action Y.
- If I have a drink with friends, then I will drink only vodka and diet coke
- If it is lunch time, then I will have a protein shake
- If I find myself on the Just Eat app, then I will make myself beans on toast
The idea is that by linking the situation and the action together you fuse them in your mind so that when the situation happens, you automatically and non-consciously start to do the action. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, there have been hundreds of studies which show that these “if-then” plans (implementation intentions if you want the fancy psych. term) are effective across all sorts of goals from stopping smoking to losing weight to recycling more, studying more and spending less. Give it a go and check out this article you want to do some further reading.
4. Write it all down!
Make sure you have exactly what you are going to do and when written down. The more places it is written the better! Electronic and/or paper, in your journal, in an app on the cloud, on your desktop. Where it makes sense to do so, add the actions to your calendar or diary.
Can you imagine if you went hiking and you only memorised the map to get to there? You would get completely lost and never actually get to your destination! So write your goal map down and keep looking at it!
The goal map is probably the hardest part of goal setting to do, so give yourself a massive pat on the back for persevering and getting this far!
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed this post please share it with a friend and let me know in the comments below, what are you working on and how are you going to get there? How do you plan to achieve your goal?
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