There is something about the cooler weather and beauty of the leaves turning colors that bring a refreshing change in perspective. Nature is discarding the old to make way for the new. There is a fresh beginning in the atmosphere as school starts across the country and fresh excitement builds.
Starting a school year is a great time to re-evaluate your goals. Remember those New Year Resolutions? If you haven’t checked in on them yet, now is a great time. Never made a resolution? Now is a great time to set some realistic goals. This is a great time for students and parents alike to set up goals for the year. This is a great time to set up a vision.
Where do you start? How do you set goals that will make a lasting impact? Should they be long term or short term?
Let’s demystify the practice of great goal setting. Here are 9 simple steps to goal setting and achievement.
1. Evaluate/Discover Your Why: Goals, by nature, are to help you become a better person, better at something. They are a progression toward success. Before setting a goal, it is essential you discover your strengths and weakness. What are you good at? What are you not good at? What skills do you have? What skills do you need? What are your fears? Weaknesses? Passions? Values? Knowing where you are starting from is essential to know how to get where you are going.
2. Dream Big: Life is short. What is the point of goals if we are not dreaming big! Some questions to ask might be if today was your last day, what three things would you like to do? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Why is that important? What does success look like in 3 months? 12 months? 5 years? Make a mission statement. Have a word to ground you this year. Put that mission statement and word in a place you see it daily. I use my planner and have the mission statement and word as my wallpaper on devices.
3. Triplets: Setting goals takes utilizing little action steps. I use the triplet technique. What three things will I do every morning and every evening? What three ways will I connect with my family and friends? What three things will I avoid? What three ways will I reward myself for success?
4. Vision Board: I love a good vision board! I also, love one that is easily changeable. A good vision board should show the END GOAL. This will serve as motivation on those days you have no energy or desire to put in the work. Those days will come. I use magazines, art, leaders, and celebrities I would want to immolate, and quotes on mine. I have a financial advisor that had a voided check written out to him in the amount of $1,000,000.00 on his board with a glamourous house. I have a friend who wanted to go to Harvard. Her board had a picture of the school and the campus colors. Once you have a board, put it where you will see it all the time. My son has his in his room. I keep mine in my planner (so I can see it no mater where I am).
5. Set some realistic goals: Often I am asked if a student for school should focus only on academic goals. I say no. A student is a person; a person should focus on all aspects of their life when goal setting. When setting goals, consider setting personal goals, family/friend goals, and academic/professional goals. Each goal needs to be clear. Have a purpose behind the goal. The reason for doing something is essential to motivation to succeed. Set the action steps up right then. Set target dates to achieve. I like to start with three goals in each category for the year.
Target dates are flexible, but help give a deadline to work toward. These should be specific. The key to goal setting success is specificity and motivation. The more specific the goal, action steps, and target date are, the more likely you are to succeed.
6. Monthly focus/Action Steps: Each month, I choose a new word to focus on that supports my yearly word. I start the month looking at what I need to do more of and what I need to less of. This helps me set my monthly smaller goals in each category (personal, family/friends, and professional/academic. I also use this time to break each goal down into tangible smaller action steps I can reach in a month.
7. Track Progress: It is easy to get discouraged when you do not see progress. Good progress is slow progress. Those who follow me, know I love tracking progress in all aspects of life. I bring this same practice into my goal setting. Each month, I use the Habit Tracker for each goal I have. This lets me know which days of the month, how often I am succeeding, and how often I am not succeeding at my goals. This is a quick look at where I have succeeded and failed. I use this simple document (free download below). Each goal gets its own monthly tracking grid.
8. Reflect and Review: Achieving goals is a process. We learn through reflection and review. Without evaluating where we have been and where we are, there is no way to achieve accomplishing what we set out to do. Weekly, my family reflects on what we are grateful for. Life is hard and failure is a part of the process. But focusing on this can be debilitating in a number of areas. Finding one to five things a week you are grateful for, helps change that process. Each month, we look at the top 5 things we accomplished. Then we look at where we failed to make progress (or flat-out failed). The Habit Tracker helps us evaluate. But, we also discuss how we are feeling about our progress and WHY we failed or succeeded. I know I am pushing knowing the why, but reasons we do things helps us understand our success and failures.
9. Revise: Reviewing and reflecting on goals is not helpful if you do not take action on what you learned. Use this time to re-evaluate and revise your goals. Life moves at a fast pace. What may have seemed doable a month ago, may not be impossible in that time frame. You may need to move your action dates. Or maybe, you realize a goal is not for you. This is the time to see what needs to change in your goals, your life, and action to make success a reality.
10. Reward: I love rewards! I am a firm believer in rewarding yourself for achieving the difficult. Knowing there is a reward at the end of the line, is great motivation to keep moving when things get hard. Sometimes it is a simple matter of making a deal with yourself. When a goal is achieved, or a significant milestone, reward yourself. Lost weight? Get new clothes. Learned a new instrument? Set up a concert or video share? Mastered the sewing machine? Share the product with your family and friends. Rewards can be big or small.
Goal setting is so important to self-growth, growth in business, growth in our relationships and so much more. Teaching our children how to set and achieve goals is a life lesson that will benefit them in more than just academics. Doing this together as a family will strengthen your bond. Goal setting as a family also gives an added benefit of built-in accountability partners.