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.

How to be resource-full.

Another limiting belief that may hold you back is the idea that you don’t have what you need to succeed so something you should always do as part of your planning for your goal is to review your resources.

These might be things that you have like a computer or a car; it might be books you own or tools.

Then there’s the people you know or you’ve known in the past: family, friends, colleagues – any contacts you’ve made, even a long time ago.

What about all the things you’ve learned, whether in formal education or from reading, TV, experience?

Get all of these down on paper and add to it as and when you remember others.

Another resource you need to consider is time: how much do you have to devote to your goal and, if necessary, how can you create more?

A role model can be a very valuable resource. Among the people you know are there examples of those who have already achieved the same or a similar goal? Can you use their example to help you? (It needn’t be a real person – how about a character in a film or book – how did they accomplish what you’re trying to achieve? How could that help you?)

And what about you and the qualities and abilities you have? Note them all down as well. And I mean all: can you play tennis/ the piano? They may not seem directly relevant to your current goal but think about what they say about your manual dexterity or physical agility which could be significant.

Do you have a lot of patience? Are you a quick learner? What kind of learner are you and how does that impact on your goal?

It’s good to sit down and get as much of this on paper at one time as you can but it can also help to leave the list around for a while so that you add other things as they occur to you. Stick it on the fridge, for example, and maybe other people will point out things you’ve forgotten.

The point of this is to remind yourself of the many resources you can call on; to help you remember something that might be useful further down the line and to increase your confidence in your ability to achieve your aims.

It should also help you to see the resources you need but don’t have yet and this is your next list. Think about what you need and where you can find it. Don’t forget to check back to your first list to see if there’s anybody or anything on it that can help here.

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.

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