Before we dive straight into 6 tips for smart goal setting, action planning and following through (which is all future focused), it pays to first pause and ask smart reflection questions which will elicit important insights to inform your goal setting.
So in relation to the past 12 months and the coming 12 months ahead, journal your responses to these 11 prompt questions:
11 Smart Questions to Ask Yourself
- What I found most challenging in the past year was…
- What I learned most from this year is…
- What I am most grateful for from this past year is…
- What I am most proud of from the past year is…
- As I end this year, the way I am choosing to remember it is…
- What no longer serves me and I'm choosing to leave behind is…
- As I look toward the coming 12 months, the mindset I am choosing is…
- The areas of my life I most want to focus on in the coming year are…
- The 1 promise I make to myself for the year ahead is…
- The priority area of my life where I most want to receive loving guidance, opportunities, signs or miracles is…
- One action I can take right now to help me move forward positively into the new 12 month cycle ahead is…
Once you've completed that journalling exercise, then go ahead and work through these 6 keys below for smart goal setting, planning and follow through.
6 Keys for Smart Goal Setting & Execution
1. GOAL SETTING – Have Heart in the Game
Be sure that whatever goal you set, you have a solid and positive emotional connection to it.
Goals have to MEAN SOMETHING to you. If they don’t mean anything to you, and there’s no intensity of emotional connection, then you’ll be far less motivated to do what it takes in following through to achieve it.
Right now look at your current goals (whether you’re in a goal setting phase or already in action). If you have any goals which lack positive emotional intensity – then ask yourself:
- Why would I even have this goal?
- I am just doing what I think I “should” do?
- Am I trying to satisfy an expectation (my own, someone else’s or society’s expectation)?
For each goal, ask, WHY IS THIS GOAL SO IMPORTANT TO ME? If you can’t answer that question, with any level of conviction, it holds you back from achieving it before you’ve even started.
This is why the goal-setting phase is SO important. Successfully achieving goals is NOT just about action to make things happen. It’s about having the right types of goals at the outset – goals that are important to you, that have meaning and that you FEEL emotionally connected to in a positive way.
To help you find that emotional connection, simply imagine that you’ve already achieved the goal, and then notice at how you FEEL. Imagine how different your life would be with that goal achieved. Imagine what would open up in your future if you were standing in that position of having proudly succeeded with your goal.
Key #2 – GOAL SETTING – Quality not Quantity
Focus on a small number of deeply meaningful goals that are going to make a REAL difference in your life once achieved. This is going to be far more valuable to you than having LOTS of goals.
The reason is – there are only so many hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in a year. There’s only so much physical, mental and emotional energy you have to give each day. So you have to be wise about what you give yourself to. If you try to do too many things, you’ll end up scattering your focus and energy, and diluting your results.
It’s better to do a few things very well than lots of things poorly.
By all means have lots of goals, but select the top priorities (the mission critical goals) to focus on first, and once those are achieved, move on to the next set of goals.
Key #3 – ACTION PLANNING – Realistic, Achievable Plans
All goals need to be translated into action plans.
It’s tempting when action planning to be bold in the timeframes you set – deadlines for achieving the goal in its entirety, and deadlines for all the smaller milestones along the way.
While it’s great to be bold, and to use audacious goals and deadlines to motivate yourself, just notice whether you FEEL motivated and inspired by your action plan or if you feel burdened and pressured by it?
Nothing will kill a goal and your motivation faster than an unrealistic and unachievable action plan. Once you fail to meet a milestone, it can really dent your confidence and enthusiasm.
It’s not to say don’t reach for the stars, but rather go for the stars in a way that works for you! Set yourself up for success with an action plan that resonates and you know you can definitely achieve.
Key #4 – TAKING ACTION – When You Don’t Want to Do What’s Good for You
There may be instances where you have a goal that you genuinely DO want to achieve, and you are emotionally connected to it, and you do have your achievable action plan, BUT …when it comes to taking action, you can’t seem to follow through and do what it takes to make it happen.
This can often be because you want the END RESULT, but you don’t want the PATH THAT TAKES YOU THERE.
Simply put – you don’t enjoy the actual steps involved in achieving the goal.
Humans are driven by pain and pleasure – where avoiding pain typically is a bigger motivator than gaining pleasure. Therefore, if you believe that some aspect of your action plan involves “pain” (something you don’t enjoy), and the “pleasure” part (achieving you goal) comes AFTER the pain, then many people AVOID the pain (never taking action, thus never achieving the goal!).
Does that sound familiar? It’s easier and more motivating to avoid the pain of your action plan steps, than it is to focus and take action to get the pleasure of your goal achieved.
If you find yourself stuck in this pattern remember this:
- You can have SHORT TERM PAIN (whatever steps in your action plan you don’t enjoy) for LONG TERM GAIN (achieving your goal and living a better life for the rest of your life!)
- Or, you can have SHORT TERM GAIN (avoidance, temporary relief), for LONG TERM PAIN (staying stuck, status quo, no goal achieved!)
Key #5 – FOLLOW THROUGH – Model Your Previous Success
If you’ve successfully achieved any goal in the past, then study what happened.
- What was it about THAT goal that made it achievable for you?
- Was it the type of goal?
- Was it that the goal meant something deeply important to you?
- Was it because someone else was holding you accountable?
- Was it because you achieved it in a group setting, with other people also working on the same type of goal for support and peer motivation?
- Was it because you used a particular structure or process to stay on track?
Study your previously achieved goals, and model your own success. Why deviate or reinvent the wheel if you know what uniquely works for you!
Key #6 – FOLLOW THROUGH – Getting Back on the Wagon
If you fall off the wagon, get right back on.
The ability to show up every day in your life, week after week, year after year, with the same courage, the same dedication, even on the days when you’re feeling like a hot mess and you don’t know what the heck you’re doing… well… it makes a difference!
Remember – you don’t have to “have it all together” in order to succeed with your goals. You can make mistakes, you can stumble, you can have unanswered questions, you can be confused (all of this is human!)… and so long as you consistently show up, you will make progress. Progress is key, not perfection.
Setting Yourself up For Success to Achieve Your Goals
Your mindset influences how you feel, how you behave, the choices you make and the actions you take. All of which then becomes your RESULTS.
Here are 2 free tools to help you rocket forward with the MINDSET YOU NEED to be effective with your goals:
- Free Online Class: The Unstoppable Mindset – 10 Beliefs You Need to Achieve Anything (Watch Here)
- Free Audio: Daily Visualization for Goal Achievement (Download)
Related Online Courses with Q&A Support – Get Started
- How to Have Your Best Year Yet – Goals & Action Planning Workshop with B
- How to Master Your Mind – 6 Week Online Program with B