13 Dec Setting goals isn’t enough: 6 strategies to get you what you want
Nearly every day, I talk with clients who are ready to finally tackle something important in their life. A better career. More connection with family. Better balance between life and work. Healthier relationships. Most often, they come to me because they weren’t able to move forward on these goals by themselves. I help them crack the nut on what it takes to achieve their goals.
Let’s take Jane (name changed) as an example. She simply wanted more time for herself – time to decompress and just relax. With several kids in tow, a full-time job, and loads of mommy guilt, she felt there was no time for her. And she really tried to do it by herself but self-care wasn’t happening at all. But eventually, Jane turned it around. How did she do it? She started with baby steps. At first, she found ways to create 15 minutes or even 30 minutes here and there. Eventually, she was able to create half days and even full days so she could have some time for herself. Her “baby step” strategy was essential to her success.
And then there was John. He wanted out of his current job but not until he found something more fulfilling – something that played to his strengths. For a really long time he spent more time ruminating about his problem than taking action. But then then we started to work together. What did we figure out? He wasn’t moving ahead because of his fear that he wasn’t good enough. His mindset wasn’t helping him one bit. After we worked together to tackle his mindset issues, he was able to dissolve the fears, build confidence and then take action. Today, he is in a job he loves.
These are just two examples of people who tackled what seemed to life goals that didn’t move ahead. Setting the goal wasn’t their problem. They needed a better strategy.
What’s Your Excuse? (We all have them!)
When people come to me, I hear a lot of different reasons why they haven’t been able to reach their goals. Here are some of the top excuses:
- “I just don’t feel ready yet to leap in.”
- “I’m not confident I can do it.”
- “Other things keep getting in the way”
- “I’m too busy. There isn’t enough time.”
- “If I’m not going to do it well, I might as well not do it at all.”
- “I have no idea why I’m not doing the very thing I want to do. It’s just not happening.”
Getting Unstuck: 6 strategies that work
Because my job is to help people get unstuck, I pay really close attention to strategies that work for my clients. So as we head into the last days of the last weeks of the last month of the year I wanted to share what I have learned from coaching my amazing clients about moving forward on goals.
- Tackle your mindset first before anything else.
If you aren’t moving forward on your own life goals, then your mindset might not be where it needs to be. In fact, chances are very good you have a set of thoughts (limiting beliefs, fears, or mistaken assumptions) that are holding you back. For example, if you wanted to push for that promotion, you might be thinking, “There is no way I can get a promotion.” Or if you were wanting to finally take steps to advance your business forward (but haven’t) there are likely fears lurking about.
One more thing: if you don’t think you have a mindset problem, check again. Many of my clients come to me thinking mindset is not their problem until we dig in and realize that is the only thing stopping them from moving ahead. Creating the right mindset is probably the hardest thing to do but getting your head in the right place is where you will get the biggest bang for your buck. For a taste of what it means to get into the right mindset, read this interview with Carol Dweck.
2. Believe you DO have time.
There are 168 hours in a week (excluding sleep time) but once you take out sleep time and work time, you still have around 40 hours available for whatever else. If you want to see the math read here. The point is that when you say, “There isn’t time” you are really saying, “This isn’t a priority for me right now.” And that’s ok if you are honest with yourself.
But if something is really important to you, you will make time. So if you have an important goal, stop saying that you don’t have time and start saying, “I’ll make this a priority.” It is the first critical step to then looking at your schedule and making the time.
Start with believing that you do have the time. And then work backwards.
3. Determine the “why” behind your goals.
A lot of my clients will come to me with a set of goals they haven’t yet achieved. But sometimes when we unpack why those goals are even on the agenda, we figure out why they were so important in the first place.
Let me give you an example: Sharon (name changed) was focused on moving up in her career and wanted a promotion. She felt she was owed her promotion after many years in her current role. It wasn’t until we unpacked “why” she wanted her promotion that she realized the entire reason she wanted the promotion was because she didn’t feel valued. And when we dug even deeper, she realized she’d be even more unhappy in the roles she’d get when she was promoted. Once we did a little work, her ideal role shifted (because she took a deeper look at her “why”) and then she designed a strategy to move to the exact role of her dreams.
Another great example is around finances. It can be really difficult to stop spending money and start saving money. In fact, it can be so downright hard that we basically stop saving money. But what if you dug into the “why” behind your saving goals. If your intention for that saved money is a dream vacation or your kids’ education, then buying those $200 concert tickets might feel a little easier. When you focus on the bigger picture (your “why”), the short-term pain is much easier for the long-term gain.
4. Use accountability strategies will get you off your butt
Moving forward on life goals isn’t easy. If you are reading this, it’s because likely you’ve tried to move ahead on certain goals but without success. Instead of beating yourself up (something that will get you nowhere I might add) I would suggest you look at answer this question: What strategies will work for you to move ahead?
- What spurs you to take action on something?
- Are you more likely to move ahead if you have an accountability partner? A friend or perhaps a coach?
- Would creating a system of rewards help you push yourself forward?
- Would a system of weekly check-ins on your goal (reflecting on what worked and what didn’t) help you make more regular progress?
- Would breaking your goal down to discrete bite-sized pieces help you move ahead?
Think about what has worked for you. And if little has worked for you, then look at what has worked for others and then experiment until something sticks.
5. Baby steps really do matter.
Too often, when we think of goals, we are measuring our current circumstances against the end result. Case in point: You want to lose 30 pounds and instead you look at the scale which hasn’t budged for a year. The “thought” of 30 pounds is enormous – so big you decide to bury your face in a piece of cake. But every trainer or health coach (that is effective) will start with small steps. Sometimes, those small steps are super small like 5 minutes of exercise every day. That seems easy enough! And then before you know it, you are doing 30 minutes a few times/week.
It is the same with any other goal. Take those small steps (with accountability strategies per #4 above) and you will see progress.
I have seen again and again the power of taking small steps and how that builds to larger and larger steps. Remember Jane at the beginning of this blog? She entire system of self-care was built on taking very small steps for herself. It started with buying herself her favorite coffee drink and then blossomed into allowing herself a girls night out and eventually time away on vacation.
6. Remember that doing something is better than not doing anything.
So many people who come to me have totally given up on trying. They have little or no hope left in their ability to create change. But when they reach out for a coach, at least there is a part of them that still thinks something is possible. Moving forward on a goal may not implement the entire goal. But goals are usually not accomplished in one day, one week, or even one year.
What I do know is that hard work takes the day. Those who persevere every day (sometimes taking two steps back with one step forward) are the one’s who achieve their goals. Those small steps don’t seem to matter under the weight of the goal you set forth for yourself. Remember this: we overestimate what we can do in one day and under-estimate what can do in one year.
Your next step? Look at the six strategies above and then ask yourself: which strategy above do you want to employ for your next life goal?