Question #3 – How do I define goals so that I’m motivated to really achieve them?

In recent years we’ve been encouraged to super-size everything in our lives. That includes the goals we set for ourselves. I agree that black women need the courage – and encouragement – to go beyond the limiting visions we’ve been taught were realistic, but bigger isn’t always necessarily better.

When it comes to defining goals, I advocate being as specific as possible about what you are committed to achieving. Going after a goal simply because it’s B.I.G. – and only vaguely defined – just leaves more “wiggle room” for disappointment and failure, because

  1. When it comes time to actually get down to work, you can feel overpowered by the mere thought of the task ahead of you!
  2. Going after something you can’t clearly see makes it impossible to stayed focused!
  3. You can’t be 100% satisfied with your success if you didn’t quantify what success really means to you in the first place!

So, instead of a random list of “New Years Resolutions”, get out a pen and paper and begin clearly defining your vision for your life in 2011!

  • Instead of “I want people to take more notice of me on the job”, commit to enrolling in personal development workshops on negotiation skills or presentation skills or public speaking, so that by September there is a marked improvement in the way you project yourself in the office.
  • Instead of “I want to improve my foreign language skills to increase my chances of getting promoted”, commit to learning Swedish so well by next January that you can hold you own during a short presentation (including fielding simple questions) with that colleague from the Stockholm office.
  • Instead of “I want to start my own business”, commit to having a feasible business plan by mid- February, securing your financing by late April, and getting your promotional kit out to 500 prospective clients/customers by the beginning of June.

You never walk alone…?

There are two school of thought on whether or not you should publicize your goals. Some people feel that by publicly committing yourself to achieve a goal, you are more motivated to stay the course. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to lose face. Maybe it’s because getting positive feedback on your progress along the way makes it easier to stay on track.

On the other hand, sharing with the wrong people opens the door for individual naysayers or a general hostile environment to distract and demotivate you. Let’s face it, not everybody will be happy that you are working hard to bring positive change into your life. And sometimes the people closest to you (spouses, friends and family members) have their own agendas that don’t include you changing anything about the status quo.

My recommendation?

There are actually a lot of way that you can keep yourself accountable without letting the world know your business. Here is a short list of some of the options open to you:

  1. Recruit an accountability partner. This should be someone who wants to give and receive honest constructive feedback while on their own journey towards a goal. Maybe it’s a good friend (but: see above), but it could also be a colleague or good acquaintance who is also committed to successfully achieving their goals in 2011 – and beyond!
  2. Actively seek out a mentor. There is someone else who has already achieved the success you are looking for, no matter what segment of life your goal is in. Besides being a living, breathing example that what you want is attainable, a mentor can provide you helpful tips and insights along the way. They can also share the story of their troubles and victories with you to keep you both grounded and motivated along the way.
  3. Hire a coach. I always liken the job of a good coach to the job of a midwife. A coach isn’t there to do anything for you. Everything you want to achieve (your goal) and what you need to achieve it (your positive mindset and decisive, continued action) are already inside of you! A good coach is simply there to help you activate and apply your own innate energies in such a way that the “birthing” process is as efficient and effective as possible.
  4. Make use of accountability 2.0. There are also a wide range of software- or online-based accountability techniques. If you are highly computer-affine, sites like support you in holding yourself accountable to stay in action and continue moving towards your goal throughout the year.

Whether you are computer-affine or still a fan of the old school notebook and pen:

  • Write down your goals!
  • Write out your strategy and action plan!
  • Keep a written account of what you do and how it works for you!

The simple act of writing something down triggers something in our brains. It takes our nebulous thoughts and gives them form. Our written words also serve as a reminder and motivator. When we look back over something we’ve written in connection with a goal – whether it was to celebrate a success or to work through a temporary setback – let’s us reflect on where we were, where we are, and where we still need to go.

“But – Who am I to say I can’t, when God says I can?”

(from an entry in my journal in January 2006)

Are your goals for 2011 S.M.A.R.T.?

Whether what you would like to achieve in 2011 is simple or truly transformational, cross-check your goals according to the S.M.A.R.T. system. Although there are many ways to evaluate goals, Formulating Your Goals using S.M.A.R.T. gives you an opportunity to add some much-needed contour and detail, so you can better visualize what you want to achieve – and how!


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