Goals – how to set them and how to get them – might be one of those topics we think we know about or may be too embarrassed to really ask about.
It’s a big topic that touches on lots of other touchy topics: who we are, what’s important to us, what we think is possible, and what we have the mental and emotional energy to actually do something about. Plus, it’s always changing! That self-help book you read 10 years ago might not hold up so well these days, and (of course) you’ve changed since then. In the realm of “personal development,” science learns things. Our culture teaches us things. Instagram shows us things. How do we make sense of all the things?
Luckily, there are experts in the realm of goal-setting and goal-getting that are able to help. Life Coaches work day in and day out with clients who want better careers, want to break certain habits, and want to lift their lives. They know what works better than most, and three Manhattan-based life coaches in particular – Lauren Schram, Diane Passage, and Sloane Miller – have agreed to give us all a 101 on what goals really are and how to achieve them.
As we get into the thick of Back to School season, we, too, can focus on fresh routines, new ideas, and a more distraction-free way of living that helps us better build the kind of lives that our hearts desire. We can get back to our grind! Lauren, Diane, and Sloane are here to help.
Why Goals Are Important
Both Lauren and Diane offer a similar analogy, in talking about why goals are important: Your life is a highway, and goals put you in the driver’s seat. Goals tell you where you wanna go, help keep you focused on the destination and, when coupled with a strategy (the “how” of it), they can help get you there.
Lauren: “As Yogi Berra said, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.’ Goals help you clarify what you really want out of your life and practice discernment. Goals make loftier dreams achievable by creating a path to get to the destination. Goals help you track your progress and keep you accountable. Goals are motivating because as you hit one, you become inspired to hit the next one, and each achievement makes it easier to visualize getting to the next marker.”
Diane: “To put it simply, goals give you a sense of direction. Goals and strategy go hand in hand, so if you have one, it’s imperative that you have the other. I like to use a car’s navigation system as an analogy. Entering a destination will do you no good if the system doesn’t let you know how to get there. And on the flip side, what would you do with a detailed road map if you don’t know exactly where you’re headed? You might have some interesting adventures, but at the end of the day, would you accomplish what you set out for? Goals – along with strategy – provide that sense of direction and control in order to achieve what you desire.”
SMART Goals are “Good” Goals
What makes a goal “good”? It’s gotta stretch you, but not snap you. It can be an idea you get from the outside world, but it has to resonate with what’s important to you personally. Plus, Lauren says, good goals have five key ingredients. Five SMART ingredients. Lauren explains.
“SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific (What are you looking to do?), Measurable (Quantify what you are doing), Achievable (Is it something you are able to do?), Relevant (Is it something that is in alignment with your values?) and Time-Bound (When will you do it?). SMART goals help take dreams and chunk them down into bite-sized portions so they are actually attainable.”
Lauren gives an example from a client of hers that wanted to get healthier. That’s a big topic, right? To make it specific, they identified that breakfast could be an area for improvement. To make it measurable, they decided that on two days a week, the client could prepare breakfast at home, easily, rather than her getting food at a drive-thru restaurant. On one day, she would have a meal from a diner. All very achievable, relevant and time-bound.
“These weekly goals were my client’s first steps toward achieving the big goal of being healthier,” Lauren says.
Max Your Success
For maximum success, Diane recommends that you think through three other pieces that surround your goal-getting process. She has her clients determine their level of commitment, develop milestones and rewards, and plan ahead for any bumps in the road. Diane explains more on each.
“Commitment: How do you know if you’re committed to working toward your goal? On a scale of 1-10 (10 being fully committed), how would you rate your level of commitment at this time? 10 obviously is perfect, and no one is stopping you! If it’s anything less than 9, all that means is there is exploration, options and tweaking that needs to be done to increase motivation.
Milestones & Rewards: We know goals are the ultimate prize, but what about your journey? Milestones are useful in measuring progress. And when you make significant progress, you deserve to be rewarded! Both are decided ahead of time, along with strategy.
When the going gets rough: This is about planning ahead for those bumps in the road. Some ways to foresee the sticking points are by drawing on past experiences and brainstorming possible issues.”
If you’ve tried getting goals before, but got frustrated, take heart. All of the life coaches want you to know that you can do it, even if you’ve gotten off track before.
“Just because something happened before, it doesn’t mean it will happen again,” Lauren says.
Before you get started on your new goals, you can take a look at what’s prevented your success, previously. Diane says those things tend to be an inability to commit, a fear of failure (or success!), lack of confidence or feeling overwhelmed. These are things you can look at, journal about, or talk to a life coach or therapist of your own about.
Explore Other Options
Even with a “good” goal, strategy and plan, Sloane says it’s okay if a goal-directed approach just isn’t your thing.
“Meeting an internal goal is not for everyone,” Sloane says. “Many, many people work better under intense pressure, just like many people make decisions from the gut or heart whilst others need to do extensive research before coming to a decision.”
Sloane suggests thinking back to see what’s worked best for you before in order to develop a plan that has a better chance of working for you now.
“So, first things first: Know yourself,” Sloane says. “Do you need external pressure or are you self-directed? Does outside structure help or do you prefer a more internal organic approach to solving challenges? Figure out how you actually function in the here and now and how you do your best work, and do more of that.”
Sloane says that working on habits can be as effective as using goal-setting techniques. You’re still looking to reach a target, but may need some help changing patterns and altering behaviors in order to get there. She describes the approach she takes with her clients.
“What are some healthy habits we can do more of, what are some destructive habits we can become aware of and explore what the motivation to repeat the habits might be,” she says. “Books by Gretchen Rubin and Charles Duhigg are excellent tools to dig into the power of habits.”
Keep these things in mind:
“It’s important to remember we are not perfect, and you are not expected to do things perfectly,” Lauren says. “If you falter and fall off the horse, don’t beat yourself up. Just dust yourself off and get back on it. You got this!”
“For me,” says Diane, “it’s simply knowing that we all deserve better… or the best. Everyone deserves to keep hitting that next level. We all deserve success and happiness, and we also have a responsibility to share that energy with others.”
Sloane says to keep your eyes on the prize: “Maintain your focus on the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve.”
And, our coaches say to keep these things around you!
- – An accountability buddy or coach
- – Aspirational messages and inspirational materials
- – Motivational talks
- – A Vision Board that you create, full of words and images that remind you of what’s important and why you’re doing what you’re doing
- – Daily Gratitude Lists: to help you see the great things you already have around you (which, many believe, automatically helps you create more)
- – Rewards: celebrate your success when you achieve your milestones
Lauren recommends these links, specifically:
- Thoughtful Mind Daily Quotes or Daily Thoughts from Jeff Kober delivered to your inbox!
- Simon Sinek’s TED Talk
- Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
- The “Positive Thinking” App
“You may need to try a few different tools to help you get there,” Sloane says, “but to keep that goal, keep what you want at the forefront of your mind. Write it on a sticky note and put it in your desk, have it on your computer desktop, have it on the face of your cell phone: keep it top of mind!”
Connect with the Life Coaches here!