Goals: Catalysts, Not Anchors

Goals: Catalysts, Not Anchors

Motivational Goal Setting

For me, and many others throughout the US, if not the world, September feels like a fresh start. Traditionally “boring” or “dull” office supply stores start to display bright, shiny, clean & fresh notebooks, pens, folders, filing systems, organizers, planners, agendas, etc. Clothing stores brag about new trends. All in the name of “Back to School”. The smell of a clean slate, a new beginning is all around us!

Even if you and those directly related to you are out of the school system, it can still be a great time to take a step back and look what we’ve accomplished so far this as we still have time to pivot, take it up a notch or re-prioritize to finish the year with a bang!

I use the time to review my goals. I know. Goals. Big, bad, scary goals. I mean, once a goal and a plan has been established, it fuels my rise & shine every morning. It’s the first part, the being honest about what I want by when, that I, as well as many of my clients, can find a bit intimidating or overwhelming. Through my work as an executive and life coach, I’ve found that people often view goals as though they are anchors: once something is called a goal, there’s no turning back, it holds us in place and the only forward is to achieve the goal and up anchor it. For me this comes from my deadline driven schooling and corporate background: school reports and exams, then work projects and reports came with their own deadline expectations which weren’t often flexible. Add to this the fact that, as adults, we naturally tend to focus on, worry about the “how” of goals and it’s not a big surprise we’re gun shy about calling something a goal.

For this reason, when I’m strategizing my own goals or working with my clients, I start a little different than most. This isn’t my weekly or even monthly review of to-dos, but a more in-depth review of what I wanted to achieve in my business or self-wellness or in my relationship. When I do this, as odd as it may seem, I always start with my “Life” goals, those I want to achieve by the time I reach my death bed. I also create these goals using mind-mapping. I find that starting with “Life” goals, a time that is vague and as long-term as it gets, as well as leveraging a diagram or pictograph type method for brainstorming versus a traditional list, both help keep me focused on the “whats” and not the “hows” of what I want. I’m less constrained and more creative. Not only do I have more clarity, but I also have more fun doing it this way!

I then use the same mind-mapping approach and work backwards:  I look at 10 year and 3-5 year goals before I look at 12-18 month goals. It’s only when I finally get to my 12 or 16 months (this year I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2022), do I take each goal and create or re-create a plan of action around it. I start by really getting clear on my why regarding the goal, usually a couple of sentences-what good will this bring to me and those around me, what makes this important to me. I also add the measurable result I’m shooting for ($50K in revenue, 8 new clients, lose 20 lbs., etc.). Once I know what I’m moving towards and why, I move to separately listing out all the skills and resources I already have that will help me achieve this goal. This reminds me what I have access to and helps it feel less daunting.

Now, standing on this solid ground for my goal that includes my what, why and strengths to draw from, I start listing out the 6 big milestones I need to reach along my journey to my goal. Using the example of losing 20 lbs., these might be: exercising 20 minutes 3 times a week, cutting out soda, exercising 30 minutes 5 times a week, losing 10 lbs., etc. Keeping the milestones high level is key, which is why I use 6, but some people like a monthly milestone or a nice number like 10. Each milestone should have its own target date to help us stay on track towards our goal’s target date. Keep in mind, milestones are not actions and they are not to-do lists, but steps we need to achieve and places to celebrate our progress along our journey to our goals.  Speaking of celebration, I name a reward or way to celebrate each milestone. Some people like to buy themselves something or eat a special meal. Keep in mind it should be something that doesn’t go against your goal (like reward for losing 20 lbs. shouldn’t be an extravagant dessert but it could be going to a special restaurant, just staying on track with my food intake while at the restaurant). Personally, depending on the goal, I like to take the moment to mention the success to my coach, a friend, or my boyfriend; for me, just the acknowledgement of the milestone is enough. Again, this is a blessing/curse from my corporate life where not much was celebrated with gifts or special treats, but everyone is different and should choose something that resonates for them.   

The last step is to create the list of actions required to achieve the first milestone and the first milestone only. Until you’ve hit that milestone, the others don’t matter yet, so I like to keep myself focused by limiting what’s in front of me. My list of actions is the opposite of my list of milestones in that I blow it out: I list as many of the things I know I’ll need to do to hit that milestone, with their target date. As a true lover of crossing items off a to-do list, I find that tracking even the small actions I’m taking up front helps build early momentum towards the milestone and goal.

For me, this process helps reduce my fear and anxiety around calling something a goal. As long as we’re moving forward and giving it our best effort, it doesn’t matter if we actually achieve the goal or decide to pivot because we realize that goal wasn’t right for us. Goals are catalysts to motivate and drive us forward, they are the boats and the waves, not the anchors holding us in place.

Rebecca Heydon is the Founder and CEO of MoreIsPossibleCoaching.com, specializing in helping people do one of two things: 1) find their superpower and unleash it, and/or 2) really leverage their superpower to live the fulfilled life that they want. She can be reached at Rebecca@MoreisPossibleCoaching.com

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