It can be tempting to say, “Aw, I’ve tried setting goals. I’ve listened to (or read) what the experts say about setting goals. I’ve made sure I write my goals, tell others, and all that stuff. It doesn’t work. I’ve given up.” Yep, sometimes it can be tough to know if youre making headway or not. But before you give up, consider these 5 factors that will help you to predict goal achievement or failure in your life.
This is the big one. If you don’t have a growth mindset, nothing else will matter. As Henry Ford famously quoted,
Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.
If you’re stuck with a fixed mindset, self-doubts, or negative self-talk, consider one of more of these excellent books.
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
- Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross
- Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking by Jon Acuff
- Your Brain at Work by David Rock
- Change Your Paradigm, Change Your Life by Bob Proctor
Meaningful and motivating
If goals aren’t meaningful or motivating, you won’t achieve them. Period.
Halt for a moment and give yourself a moment to predict goal achievement or failure.
Did you write a goal, or a project? Goals fill you with inspiration, passion, and excitement. Projects seldom do that.
Did you write a goal that overcomes something you’re unhappy or dissatisfied with? For example, if you hate living in your house, maybe your goal would be to buy a new one. But often, we end up writing goals we think we “should” write, or that someone else thinks we should pursue.
If you have a life plan, are your goals congruent with your life plan?
Do you have goals in more than one life domain? Over-achievers often write only business-related or revenue-related goals. That just isn’t healthy.
Did you write your clear motivations for each goal? (And did you rank order those motivations?) Did you frequently revisit what you wrote? Motivation creates momentum. Unless you stay connected with your motivations, you’re unlikely to achieve your goals.
Did you specify a reward for each goal? A reward gives you a hit of dopamine which spurs you on to achieve your next goal. You need that hit.
On the flip side, consider the costs of achieving that goal. Otherwise, you’ll be surprised and resentful when you feel the pain of what it’s really gonna take to achieve the goal. (And rank order your goals, too, because later you might discover that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.)
Emotions drive actions. To predict goal achievement or failure, ask yourself if you’ve established meaningful and motivating goals.
Did you write more than 10 goals for the entire year? If so, you stand little chance of achieving any of them. Write no more than 7, and 5 might be better. If you’re a beginner, try writing only 3.
Without looking, can you name the 2-3 goals you’ll be tackling in the current 13-week (one quarter) timeframe?
If you can’t name your first 2-3 goals off the top of your head, they aren’t “top of mind” for you. Sorry, there’s just no getting around that.
You don’t need a massively detailed top-to-bottom plan. You can do that later.
For starters, you need to identify and write some first steps.
Also, how manageable is this goal – in whole or in part – within a year or a quarter? For example, “lose 200 pounds in a year” is unlikely to be physiologically possible. But “lose 10 pounds in the first quarter” is certainly doable with a solid plan in place.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Before you start, decide what to measure. If you need help, try Doerr’s book, Measure What Matters.
Start with an active verb because that’s measurable. It’s visible and verifiable. We can all see when you:
- Deliver a keynote address
- Finish remodeling the sunroom
- Win the race or the match or the award
- Publish the book.
Yes, a SMART or a SMARTER goal is measurable. It will certainly help you to predict goal achievement or failure, and then see evidence thereof. But don’t get too stuck in the weeds with that formula. (Stay tuned for a post on why setting SMART goals matters!)
Also, be clear about whether you’re establishing a habit goal or an achievement goal. Both are important. But the metrics might look very different.
You have goals. You do. Stop denying it and get busy.
Expecting yourself to meet a deadline makes sense if your goal is something like publishing a book. But setting a date for finding a spouse.
On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best, how confident do you feel that you’ll meet your stated goals?