The Power of Finish Lines: My 3 Step System to Setting Goals
I have never wasted a moment studying about goal setting. The more I learn, the more I fine-tune my process of reaching goals. I have an insatiable drive to find the best practices for achieving dreams.
After years of research, I have pieced together a system that works for me and has enabled me to write a book, travel to nearly thirty countries, and run a trail half marathon (even with health problems). If this sounds like an advertisement, it's not. I'm just saying that the system I walk you through in this post, works.
Like I said above, I have a drive to reach goals. As I look through my past, I realize that this drive has come from two things:
1. As a child, I loved getting stars on my chart. In school I would do anything to get a bravo sticker on my homework. When I was potty-training, my mom says that I would sit on the toilet forever, determined to stay there until I got another star. Let's just say, I do well when I have accountability and rewards. :)
2. As a young adult, my health crashed and I found myself without the energy to invest hours and hours into my dreams. I needed a streamline process to reach my goals. I needed to discover why some people reach goals and others do not. (And quickly found it had nothing to do with how much energy someone has.) All of a sudden, I had a pretty good reason to search out best practices in goal setting.
As a mentor, I find that there are four main roadblocks that my clients blame for not being able to reach their goals. You probably recognize them:
1. No Time
2. No Money
3. No Discipline
4. No Ability
And while each of the above barriers may seem to keep you from reaching your goals, I have found that THE GREATEST roadblock to reaching your dreams is:
That's right. Your goals themselves can be your greatest roadblocks.
Nine times out of ten, when I help straighten out a person's goal, they reach it.
It's like magic.
That is why, when a person comes to me with their goals, we focus first on re-structuring his or her goals. THEN we find that the other four roadblocks (no time, no money, no discipline, no ability) are easier to hurdle.
So how can you re-structure your goals?
There are a million goal setting systems out there, one of the most common being the SMART method (Are your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound?). I am convinced that I have researched and tried every method out there and have had some success with each. But in the last three years I have cut out the fluff and walked away with three simple facets you need for a good goal:
1. A Finish Line
2. A Process
3. A Deadline
Seems simple, yes? That's the point. Too many goal setting systems are complicated. I don't have the energy for complicated. I'm not going to present some time-intensive, complex method below so you feel the need to reach into your pocket and pay me to be your mentor. I'm just going to simply teach what works for me, step-by-step.
So, let's delve a little deeper into each of these facets:
1. A Finish Line
This may seem obvious. Every goal is a finish line right? You are finished when you learn piano, travel the world, or renovate your home. The problem is, these are what I call "bottomless goals".
For years I studied the piano saying "I want to become a pianist someday", not realizing that I already was one. Why didn't I realize it? Because I did not specify what my finish line would be. I did not say, "win a piano competition" or "accompany 200 vocal students in recitals" or "play Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu."
Even though I did all of these things, none were my finish line so I continued to reach for this bottomless goal of "become a pianist". All would have taken was a clear finish line.
Re-structure these goals: To look something like these goals:
Travel the World Travel to 50 Countries (and Live in 3)
Become a Runner Run a 10k Every Month for 1 Year
Own a Home Library Own a Home Library of 1,000 Books
Simple, yes? That's the point. Too many times I have mentored someone who is frustrated because she cannot reach her bottomless goal. I simply ask, "What will you look like as a pianist? What will you be doing? What will be your finish line?"
2. A Process
Hand-in-hand with a finish line is having a process. This step I find to be the one most often forgotten in other goal-setting systems. Yet, I cannot emphasize how critical it is.
Imagine running a mile on a track. In my middle school, our dirt track had quarter mile laps so we would cross the finish line three times before actually completing the mile run. Each time we crossed the line, our PE teacher would cheer us on, shout out our current time, and let us know we only have X number of laps left.
Crossing the line three times before the finish would let me know three things: how far I had come, how far I had to go, and how much time I had until the deadline. It kept my mile runs from feeling never-ending. It allowed me to adjust my speed to reach my goal time. It gave me mini-celebration moments as I got closer to the finish line.
Your goal process should be made up of 3 laps or mini-finish lines. For example, I have a goal to run a trail half marathon every year. I have a clear finish line: run a trail half marathon by October 6. My first "lap" was to run a 5k by May 20th, my second was to run a 10k by July 1st (just ran it last week, I'm ahead of schedule!), and my third goal is to run a 15k by August 20th.
Make sure your mini-finish lines are clear steps to your end goal and relatively equally measured. (Don't have two laps within the first month and then only one lap over the next five months.)
Each time you cross a mini-finish line, you know: 1) how far you've come, 2) how far you have to go, and 3) how much time you have until the deadline.
3. A Deadline
Simple concept. Ironically, the last facet for me to adopt.
For years, I hated setting deadlines and saw them as the surest way to a panic attack. Turns out, I was doing it wrong. I would set my goal's deadlines, without a finish line and without a process, and then stress out when I wasn't progressing fast enough. No wonder deadlines gave me anxiety!
Set up your finish line and your process and then assign a deadline to each of the four steps (3 laps + finish line). Hold to your mini goals so that the final deadline doesn't pop up "out of nowhere".
In my goal to run a trail half marathon, I not only had my final deadline of October 6th, but also deadlines for each of the mini-finish lines. I ran a 5k by May 20th, a 10k by July 1st, and I will run a 15k by August 20th. To use my mile run metaphor, it is nearly impossible to run a 7 minute mile when you don't know how much time you have left at every lap.
Deadlines don't give you anxiety when you know what is expected by a specific date and you have a clear process to get there in time.
Running my 10k last week. Awesome mini-finish line!
Three facets may seem too simple, but I find that simple is best when reaching for goals. The more complex a system, the more time you waste setting your goals rather than achieving them.
This system, combined with my 5 Minute Steps to Success system, are what have helped me and my clients reach goals. Add an accountability and rewards program, and we have a dream-reaching machine! ;)
Finish lines give us power. The power to gauge our progress, identify our remaining steps, and revel in our successes.
Take 15 minutes to re-structure three of your goals tonight. Identify a clear finish line, process, and deadline for each. What will be your first five minute goal to success?
25 June 2016
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