Where are you going? (Part 2)

Returning to the topic of goals and to an idea I often recommend: how about creating a “mood board” for your goals?

Interior designers create a collage of samples of materials and colours; they sketch details and plans to help them clarify and communicate their ideas.

A clear picture in your mind of how your life will look with the goal achieved is a powerful motivator and you can enhance it with a tangible version of your vision – your “mood board” for your future life.

Why? Well, apart from making your vision more real and graspable, it’s also fun – and, I repeat, working towards your goal has to be pleasurable wherever possible so that you don’t lose momentum.

Gather pictures that illustrate what you’re aiming to achieve. Let’s have an example….

Maybe your goal is to run your own restaurant: your board could include pictures of successful restaurants, the chefs who inspire you, the type of food that you want to create.

You could also include other people’s rave reviews to remind you of what success looks like and how other people will see you.

Your values are also key to the whole process so add a statement of the values that will underpin your venture. Service? Quality? Value for money? Sustainability? It’s up to you.

(Your goals and your values have to be aligned or you’ll be fighting yourself every step of the way: for instance, making a lot of money very quickly and being environmentally friendly may be hard to reconcile.)

Many companies these days have mission and vision statements to steer by and they’re just as appropriate for individuals.

Tip: If it’s all in your head – or even in words and pictures on your board – nothing’s going anywhere until you take action so remember to work out what step you need to take first and do it!

Where are you going? (Part 1)

If you don’t set your own goals, other people will set them for you.

When you have no clear idea of where you want to get to, it’s too easy for others to make decisions for you. Don’t let other people hijack your life and direct it according to their preconceptions.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know you’ve arrived? How will you know where to focus your time, efforts and resources?

With only finite amounts of time, energy, money and so on, it would be a shame to waste any of it. If you’ve chosen the right goals and planned carefully how to reach them, there’s far less risk of going down blind alleys or covering old ground again.

And, if you keep your eye constantly fixed on the end point, how can you be sure you don’t miss important moments en route?

There’s got to be pleasure in the journey – after all we’re talking about your life here and, if everything on the way to your goal is just a hard and joyless slog, it’ll be a miracle if you make it.

There have to be shorter-term goals to mark your progress and to give you the opportunity to reward yourself as you achieve them.

By the way, don’t forget the other people in your life. How will your goals affect them? What are the benefits for them? How many of your goals can you share?

Tip: Sadly, we ourselves are often the easiest people to cheat on so, if it’s only your goal, don’t keep it to yourself. Find someone you trust to be supportive, tell them what you’re aiming for and ask them to check how you’re getting on every so often.

When it’s not all about you….

Part of the ecology of your goals is the people around you and this is something you need to think about very carefully when you’re planning.
Who are the important people in the situation and how will what you do affect them?

If you’re single and have no dependants, giving up your job to start your own business will only have consequences for you whereas, if you have a family to provide for, you’ll have to take their needs into account.

There’ll be the financial consequences to consider, of course, but will it also impact on your ability to, say, help your kids with their homework, ferry them to activities or simply spend time with them?

What about how you currently allocate your time? How will that have to change?

What support do you need to put in place to help things go as smoothly as possible?

And this is not only a practical point but a psychological one as well. If your family is used to having you fulfil certain functions in their lives, how will they react when this changes? If you were the one who cleaned up after them, how will they deal with doing it for themselves? Will you and they be able to accept lower standards - at least until they’ve mastered the skills needed? The upside of course will be their increased independence – is that something you’ll see as a positive?

Will your partner understand and support you? Will your success damage their estimation of themselves or will it increase their pride in your achievements?

Whatever reactions you get from everyone, you need to know how to deal with them and how you’ll get everyone onside.

This must be the time for getting everyone together, discussing all the pros and cons and negotiating as fair a distribution of tasks and rewards as possible. Not something you should do when you’re all tired and/or hungry!

Try to set aside a couple of hours when you can all be undisturbed and have an agenda that you can work through calmly.

Beyond the immediate family, who else will be affected by the changes you’re going to make? If you’re going to launch yourself on a new and better life, will this win the support of your friends or might they be envious of your success? And, if the worst happens, how will you deal with the loss of that friend?

It’s important to remember that the people closest to you have their own picture of who and how you are and how they relate to that. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that they know your capabilities and may have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. Keep in mind that when they seem to have reservations about your ability to do something, it’s often a reflection of their doubts about themselves and their own capabilities.

This may seem a touch pessimistic and I hope you won’t get that kind of reaction but, if it does come and you’re prepared to deal with it, it’ll lessen the pain and, if that person is important to you, you’ll be better equipped to help them come to terms with the new you.

To finish on a more positive note, seeing you take on challenges and succeed (whether it’s as you originally defined success or whether you’ve made necessary adjustments) will have a very liberating effect on those around you.

You’ll be a great role model, especially for your kids; you’ll demonstrate in the most compelling way that things can and do get better when you tackle what’s wrong in the right way.

And it’s more or less a given that when you’re happy, it rubs off onto other people. Spread a little joy and watch how everyone benefits!

How to stay motivated. Part 1

Once you’ve set yourself some great goals, how do you keep yourself buzzing with the enthusiasm you need to reach them?

By definition a goal is going to be at least a bit beyond your current reach and here’s a major argument in favour of having interim goals. If you’re aiming for something 5 years ahead, there’ll be times when it all seems just too far away and too much effort.

When you’ve broken it down into smaller steps, you can feel that you’re making progress as you tick each one off the list and this keeps you motivated for the next step. But what if you don’t reach the point you wanted?

One thing to keep very firmly in mind is this: there’s no such thing as failure. Repeat after me: there’s no such thing as failure. And say it like you mean it! In fact, say it till you mean it!

It’s something that I find causes a fair few raised eyebrows and shocked stares. Otherwise intelligent people look at me as if I’ve lost my grip on reality. But, they say, of course there’s failure – you can’t just pretend that things don’t go wrong. Well, I’m not pretending. There’s getting a result you didn’t expect or didn’t want, maybe, but unless you stop there and don’t try again, how can you call that failure? You know more than you did before. If nothing else, you’ve learned another way not to do it and you may have discovered some other useful ideas as well.

And remember how important positive self-talk is. Don’t look at your result and tell yourself what a mess you made of it. Look at it and ask what do I know now that will help me next time? There’s a story I like of a middle manager in a big American company who made a mistake that cost the company $8 million. He went to his boss and said “I expect you’d like me to resign.” “ Resign?!” said his boss, horrified, “it’s just cost me $8 million to train you!”

So if you’re thinking of giving up because you didn’t get the result you wanted ask yourself what it’s cost you in time/money/emotion and if you really want to throw all that investment away. Make sure that you’ve wrung every last drop of learning and benefit from the experience.

As another great way of staying motivated, I’d encourage you to find someone to be your buddy. It’s a system that’s increasingly used these days to help people familiarise themselves with new, potentially daunting situations. New kids at school for example or someone starting a new job will often be given a buddy to support them.

Who do you know who can do a bit of hand-holding or a bit of cheerleading? Who can lend a sympathetic ear and maybe also give you the occasional “You can do this!” kick up the backside? Who will listen as you sketch out your ideas and give you constructive feedback?

Pick carefully. You need someone you trust of course and preferably someone not directly involved in or affected by what you’re doing. You also need someone who doesn’t cap all your revelations with stories of their own, far more traumatic experiences!

Next time, my favourite way to help yourself stay motivated – although I have to warn you, you may kick a bit when you hear what it is.

Ditch the resolutions and achieve your goals!

How many New Year resolutions have we all made and broken over the years? And, no matter how often we demonstrate to ourselves that they don’t work, why do we still keep on trying?

Just think about it… it’s always a downward spiral: we resolve to give something up, we don’t manage it, we feel bad about ourselves and think we must be weak or lacking in will power. Then we probably go back to our old habits for comfort and are convinced that there’s no hope of improvement.

But we keep on trying because we so badly want things to be better and they can be: with a different starting point, it can all be so much easier.

The first step is to stop making resolutions. The whole idea is off-putting and the word itself could have been designed to make you feel depressed before you even start.

“Resolution” conjures up a picture of bracing yourself, gritting your teeth and squaring up to something difficult. “Promise” is a much more positive word: it matters how you talk to yourself about these things and the word has so much more – well, promise about it, don’t you think?

Rather than making a resolution, make a promise to yourself that you’ll work towards your goal and make sure that the goal you’re working towards is an enticing one. Once you’ve chosen something that will stretch you (although not unbearably) and fixed the timescale for it, work backwards from that date and decide when you’ll achieve each interim step. Now you’ve got a plan to get you to your goal. Remember to reward yourself for each step as you achieve it.

And if “resolution” is a hard word, telling yourself that you’re “giving something up” is another quick way to shoot yourself in the foot. It sounds too much like losing something. Think of it as moving on from something, an old habit that no longer serves you or something you’ve grown out of.

So leave the resolutions behind and make yourself a promise that you’re going to move forward to your chosen goal. (Remember to write it down – somehow that makes it more of a commitment to yourself.)

Plan your interim mini-goals and timings, reward yourself as you achieve each one and, come December 2012, you could be looking back and congratulating yourself on all you’ve achieved.

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