It’s the New Year and you know what that means. ’Tis the season for resolutions and goal setting. As we all know too well, goal setting and making resolutions can be double-edged swords. On the one hand, if you don’t set specific goals, you can’t realistically expect them to manifest out of thin air. What’s the saying? It’s never going to rain roses, so if you want more roses, you’ll have to plant them. Or something like that. On the flip side, setting specific goals and then not achieving them — or never getting around to working on them — can be discouraging. So, let’s look at four easy ways to get on track with goals in 2019.
Keep it simple.
Structure can be good, especially when you’re working with employees on their work goals. But structure doesn’t require complexity. There are all sorts of fancy systems and acronyms out there for goal setting. I’m not going to bother selling you on any of them, because frankly I don’t use them. Or rather, I’ve tried a bunch of different ones, but have always found the simplest approach to goal setting works best.
My big goal-setting secret? Discipline. Write down a few goals and stick them in a place you see them regularly — like your day planner or your whiteboard. Then, look at them. That’s pretty much it. Really, it works. But I do add a little method to my madness. Each year, I make a list of five major or pie-in-the-sky goals. These are your big dream goals. You want to open a new business, write a book, write five books, complete the Iron Man, double your income, become a real estate mogul or retire at 50 in Provence, France. Wait, I’m retiring in Provence, so you can’t have that one.
Pie-in-the-sky goals will only ever be possible if you acknowledge in black and white that they could be possible. After all, pie exists... and so does the sky. Who says you can’t put the two together? Decide which dream goal you would like to achieve in one year, three years, and five years (or 20 years, whatever timeframe you want). Assign them that time target and write them down. If you don’t write them down, you won’t get any pie.
Next, pick one to five down-to-earth goals for the next 12 months, or whatever job or business time cycle you choose. Your earthly goals fall into the time-sensitive and measurable category, and might be tangible, such as improving your sales revenue by 1 to 2 percent over the next quarter, making a job change, getting your taxes done on time, hiring a new assistant, or walking or running a 5k event. Or they might be emotional, such as repairing a difficult work relationship or developing a more positive attitude toward your employees. Whatever you think will make a significant improvement in your day-to-day life or business operations. Small goals can have big ripple effects.
Put your goals front and center.
Once you write these goals down and give them a time target or hard deadline, you might be amazed at how they manifest. Often much sooner than you originally planned. I call that the reticulating activator effect. There is this thing in your brain called the reticular activator system (RAS). Simply put, it’s your brain’s filter system for channeling relevant information to your consciousness, based on what you happen to be doing, thinking about, or what you choose to believe.
When you decide you must have a Monstera philodendron, suddenly you see Monstera all over the internet, in your social feeds and in places you shop. You say to yourself, “Where did all these Monstera come from — they weren’t here before?” Yes, yes, they were. Your brain just wasn’t instructed to pay attention to them with intent focus. Same goes for your goals.
Case in point: Just as I typed the last period in the paragraph above, my husband walked in the room with a Sprinkles cupcake box for me, holding a chocolate peppermint cupcake. Just the day before, I’d said to him I was feeling a little put out because it had been a long time since he brought me a cupcake... and I really wanted a peppermint cupcake. He said, “Peppermint cupcakes don’t exist.” I said, “Sure they do, there has to be one out there somewhere.”
Some people call this RAS effect setting an intent. Whatever you want to call it, getting what you want boils down to your thinking about it and focusing on it with intention. You must put it out into the world. Now, I’m eating my peppermint cupcake.
Find a custom fit.
When it comes to goal setting for your employees for their job role, you need to have a bit more structure to your process. In this dynamic, you as the owner or manager are responsible for working with your employees to help set goals that both help them develop professionally, and help the company achieve overall goals. You’ll need to check in with your employees on goal progress on a set schedule.
Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all goal-setting system to work for all your employees. Some employees respond to rewards, and some respond to what may be taken away. Some employees value cash, some value time. Attaching performance goals to either benefits or consequences should be done with a keen understanding of the individual and tailored as such. Employee goal setting is a customized affair.
Put intention behind your effort.
Why do you and your company need to set goals? For me, that’s the most important consideration. Going through the motions of mandatory goal setting for the sake of it isn’t terribly productive or inspiring. From my own experience, the biggest reason for setting specific goals is to give meaning to my actions and effort.
Have you ever felt like you were working so hard, but not manifesting the results you feel you deserve? Spinning your wheels can be an exhausting and frustrating experience. Especially when you’ve put forth a lot of effort on a project or task, only to feel like you wasted a bunch of time. If there is no real intention behind the effort, what’s the point? If there is purpose, a goal, attached to that effort and time spent, then you — and your employees — get to feel confident about the work.
Ultimately, you don’t owe anything to goals you’ve previously set, but have not achieved. It’s quite possible that goals you set yesterday for yourself, your employees, or your company, are no longer relevant in today’s reality. The important part is setting the goals in the first place. Make the goal, work the goal, change the goal.