Do you set yourself specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound goals but still find that you aren’t where you want to be? Then perhaps it is time to dig a little deeper.
I do believe that the design of our goals is very important. It can be very difficult to fulfil our wants when we aren’t specific enough or when we don’t set meaningful deadlines. However, there can be times when we have well thought out goals, but ‘something’ still gets in our way and sometimes it is difficult to tell what that ‘something’ is.
This means it could be time to dig a little deeper: discover what is going on so that you can fix the problem and get on with reaching your potential. In my experience, for us to reach our goals we need the following in place:
To some this list may seem a little scary and a big ask. However, I would urge from the outset to employ the first item on this list! Self-compassion is essential in all aspects of goal setting and self-development. Rome wasn’t built in a day; as with anything to do with self-development it is an ongoing process and if you look at this list and feel you struggle in any of these areas no one would expect you to be able to fix it right away. The first major step is to recognise where you struggle and then you can ‘learn on the job’, reaching some of your wisely set goals along the way. I am absolutely sure that Michelangelo learned as he painted the Sistine Chapel.
To help I’m going to talk about why each of these factors are important and some of the steps you can take so that you can move steadily towards where you want to be.
I think self-compassion is often something that is overlooked when setting and working on goals. Self-compassion is important for so many reasons. Here are two aspects to consider when looking at how self-compassionate we are:
- Being self-compassionate when we don’t reach certain goals or sub-goals is really important. Beating ourselves up will not help us pick ourselves up. Rather than being hard on yourself try treating whatever as happened as a learning experience and then move on. There may also be a necessity to give yourself a break, have a cathartic session with a friend, counsellor or coach or do something you find nurturing such as enjoying nature or doing something creative. This will greatly help your energy levels for getting back on the horse.
- It is important to differentiate between self-compassion and colluding with old patterns. For instance, we might tell ourselves ‘I don’t want to put this pressure on myself right now’ with regards to one of our goals. In the long run this might not be a very self-compassionate approach because it means we may just find ourselves in the same frustrating situation we are in in a years’ time. This is not self-compassion. It is worth remembering that going for our goals does mean sitting on the edge of our comfort zone. It isn’t meant to be easy. Admittedly, it is tricky to achieve the balance between self-compassion and self-discipline. I don’t think it would be possible to get it right every time, and again, this is where self-compassion comes in!
When it comes to successful goal setting motivation is, of course, key. There are two aspects to this:
- Is your goal something YOU really want? You might decide, out of all the possibilities in front of you, you want to work on that goal of climbing a mountain but find it is ringing hollow. Check that it is your goal and not someone else’s (or something you think you ‘should’ be doing). And is there a more important goal such as starting a family or changing job which is more important but you are putting it off due to lack of confidence or belief for instance?
- You may really want the thing you are working towards but you might not feel that motivated at times. This could be down to a multitude of factors including listening to your inner critic who says you can’t do it (see confidence), having people around you who deplete your energy or a sizeable, persistent issue in your life that needs to be sorted out first such as a work issue or health problem that makes you tired. Sometimes this can be quite an easy thing that needs sorting. On other occasions it may be something that requires a bit more work. For instance, it may be appropriate for you time have some coaching around confidence issues. Whilst it may take some time and effort, you’ll certainly be glad you did it!
For us to reach our goals the goal needs to be authentic. For instance, we may have a long-term goal to be a lawyer but if this is something imposed on us by a parent, for instance, we are far less likely to be successful or stay connected to it when we get there. Not only does the goal itself need to be authentic but the ways of achieving the goal need to be authentic too. Both the goal and the ways in which you plan to achieve your goal need to be in line with your core values and beliefs for it to stand the best chance.
For instance, someone may have a goal to set up a charitable foundation and for that they may need to raise a certain amount of money to begin with. Setting up an extensive property portfolio may be among the ideas to move the goal forward, but these actions may not be in keeping with that person’s strengths, values or even ethics which would severely hinder any forward momentum. In this case it may be necessary to go back and think of some possibilities for raising money which may be more in keeping with the goal itself such as a series of fundraising events or something with a more creative edge.
Putting confidence on this list almost seems too obvious. That’s exactly the reason why it should be included. Confidence can often be dismissed as a reason for not achieving goals either because it seems obvious or the fact that addressing this issue can be an arduous and even painful experience. Issues relating to confidence may be deep-rooted and complicated. For instance, if we were repeatedly told growing up that we are ‘not academically bright’ this could well be why we never quite manage to apply to do that History degree. It’s easy to brush these things under the carpet but only by recognising and breaking these damaging patterns can we stop them from holding us back.
It is worth examining some of our long-held beliefs and seeing if they are still valid. Are you really rubbish at sport? Are you as lazy as your dad says you are? Are you still too afraid to get on that plane? This doesn’t necessarily require hours of therapy to look at these beliefs although therapy may certainly be useful for some. Coaching is about being future focused, acknowledging the negative patterns we have into but finding a way to move on from them.
Not all confidence issues require oodles of soul searching. Some confidence issues can be down to a gap in knowledge or expertise. For instance, you may be dragging your feet when it comes to setting up your own business. Could it be that you need to take a course in social media or sales to give you some confidence? Perhaps you’ve dreamed about moving abroad but never gone ahead with it. Will learning Spanish give you the confidence you need?
Belief is something I’ve struggled with over the years and something that I have thought a lot about. Belief can be a slippery concept for some, but I have learned that you don’t need to follow an organised religion to have a core set of beliefs. For me belief has two aspects: belief in yourself as well as a belief in some structures outside of ourselves. Personally, I find great comfort and strength in nature and connection with others.
A personal struggle I have had is that sometimes it seems I can't control my level of belief and I have beaten myself up about this which is quite counterproductive when you think about it! Sometimes belief seems like that elusive, missing thing: that if we somehow found it than everything would fall into place. What I have learned since then is that our belief system is the foundation, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have dark moments when we waiver. Self-compassion is very important here again of course.
If, for instance, we have some bad news which impacts on the likelihood of achieving a lifetime goal we can forgive ourselves, for a time, for having moments of doubt and even despair. Our foundation, however, remains. Belief isn’t always about being able to say ‘I’ve got this! This is happening! It’s in the bag!’ It can also be about saying ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’, ‘I’ll try something different’ or ‘this is tough but I am not giving up’.
Perhaps you are in a situation whereby you haven’t focussed on your own goals until now. Or maybe you are at an important crossroads in your life. Coaching, particularly coaching which looks at the deeper issues, can be hugely helpful in getting to where you want to be so contact me if you would like some support. I offer free half an hour discovery calls for you to see if my coaching could be of help to you.