How to Set Goals
Hey there, welcome to the Mindset for Life podcast. This is Bethanie Hansen, your coach, and I’m here to talk to you about goal setting.
When was the last time you set a goal? I mean, a clear goal, something achievable, measurable, attainable, something you really wanted to hit. I can remember having such a goal, I decided that I was going to lose a certain amount of weight.
Now, those of you who have listened to my podcast a lot, you already know that I went on a weight loss journey, during which I lost 95 pounds successfully over the course of almost a year. And then, a couple years later, I was kind of vacillating around that last 10 pounds, and I decided, let’s just move it forward. So I can say I actually lost 100 pounds. So I had to really lose about 10 or 15 pounds at the bottom, there.
And then, I lost the five more and hit my ideal goal weight. I didn’t have that goal in the beginning. In fact, I didn’t really care what my end goal was, I had first decided on a goal that was about, oh, 65 pounds of weight loss, I really didn’t think anything else was achievable. I didn’t even think it was possible. Then when I got close to that 65 pound mark, I started to wonder if I could lose about 15, more, maybe 20. More, I was pretty excited about that. And ultimately, I learned that I could lose 20 More than that 25 more, until I really hit that 95 pound mark initially. Sometimes when we set a goal. And sometimes when we’re working towards a goal, we really don’t know what’s possible for ourselves, what we’re capable of, we don’t know until we get started.
So an initial goal could be something really attainable. Something that’s not a huge stretch, but is aspirational for us. That 65 pound goal for me was definitely aspirational. It was a huge distance off in the dirt journey. And it took many, many months to achieve that first chunk of my goal. But once I attained that big goal, I started to see that there was another path ahead, I could also travel and another one.
Perhaps in your goal setting you’ve had a similar experience, or you might in the future. When work goal setting, it’s first difficult to decide what the goal should be, what is a reasonable achievement, that’s going to take our time and effort that’s going to inspire us and make us feel really great about a challenge. And it’s going to be not so far off that we feel it’s a totally unattainable goal. If I had been told, when I started that journey, that I should lose 100 pounds, I would have felt very devastated. I don’t think I would have started, I would have been so discouraged because I had tried to lose weight for years, nothing worked. And I could at best lose 20 pounds maybe.
So when I started on the journey where I really did lose 100 pounds, it took very small, achievable goals over time consistently practiced. And then when the achievement was reached, I had to keep going. First, I had to maintain the success of attaining the first milestone, and I had to get used to what it was like to live in that space. Then I had to keep going.
So when we’re talking about goals, a lot of people talk about smart goals. Specific, measurable, achievable, time bound. Oh, what else, and timely… something like that. When we’re talking about smart goals, I think what we really mean to say is let’s break it down into some steps.
Let’s break it down into some planning. Let’s break it down into ways we can actually measure and see if you’re on track to reaching the goal. Let’s just say you have a professional goal.
Perhaps you want to write a book, perhaps you want to make an advancement in your career in your leadership and your teaching or your coaching. Whatever it is you’d like to attain in your goals, pick one thing, one thing you’re gonna go all in for. Something you actually care about that motivates you.
Let’s choose something pretty big, but not impossible. Like let’s just say if you want to write a book, that you’re going to start a big picture. Outline just the topics you would put in different chapters of that book. You could start with that as a goal. You could collect three or four resources to put with each chapter title as your next goal.
And then your next goal is, you could write a summary paragraph for each of those chapters that’s going to introduce what the topic is, and give a little bit of background. In fact, each chapter could just have a paragraph that says in this chapter I’m going to tell you about out XYZ. And I’m going to tell you why you should care about XYZ, then I’m going to give you a story or two to support XYZ. And then I’m going to wrap it all up with some takeaway you can apply right now.
That alone would be a great goal: chapter titles, summary. And then you go through and say, well, I’ll give myself a couple of weeks or a month to write each chapter. And then by the end of the year, I’m going to have that book written. But I’m not going to write the book all at once, I’m not going to write it at all unless I break it down, right?
Going back to my weight loss goal example. You set your achievable goal, you continue to work through it. As you face negative emotions, you experience those. You entertain them, you feel what they feel like. You entertain the questions you’re asking yourself.
You confront those questions. And when your mind tells you this goal is unachievable. You challenge those questions. And you tell your mind that it’s wrong, you can achieve this goal you are made for hard things, you can do hard things, miracles can even happen. And when you bring your strengths, your attributes or qualities, those traits that only you possess, something is going to happen that would not happen for other people.
In fact, sometimes you go to other people, and you ask their opinion about your goals and you ask for their insight. And you ask for their feedback, like “what do you think I should aim for professionally? What do you think would be a good thing to work on?” A lot of people do this, right?
We poll the people and we ask everybody what they think about our lives. But the truth is, that’s really between our higher power and us that input is really helpful. It’s a great starting point. But ultimately, you are qualified, more than anyone else in this universe when you partner with your higher power to determine what your true goal should be, and what you’re capable of achieving.
No one else can do this. In fact, there are people who truly care about you that might even talk you out of your goal, because they’re worried about you chasing unattainable things and getting disappointed. So be aware: people who do love you and do care about you might not support your aspirational goals.
And they might have great reasons why they are against some goals you’re going to set. But that kind of talk has no value for you. It is helpful to challenge those ideas other people throw at you about why you shouldn’t attain a certain goal or why you shouldn’t shoot for that goal. And then, I would encourage you to let them go.
As you’re striving for a challenging goal, break it down into tiny steps so that you can make progress. And you can start to think about it in terms of a timeline.
The first thing to do would be to say, for example, how long should this goal take generally, in the big-picture sense of achieving this goal?
How many days weeks, months, or years do I feel like this goal should take me? Going back to the idea of losing 95 pounds or so, or even a 65 pound goal, a person might say, “Well, that should take like a year, or that should take two years. I mean, actually a goal like that really should take a long time. It took about nine months in reality, but I would have planned longer than that, and then attaining it faster was a bonus.
That was kind of nice. But in the end, we can’t necessarily aim for the ambitious timeline, we have to aim for a realistic timeline. And then achieving it ambitiously can be a blessing, a bonus, and a really exciting win.
Break it down into the smallest thing you can start with. So in terms of getting a promotion at work, the smallest thing you could start with is learning what the requirements are at the next level of the job. The smallest thing you could start with if you’re trying to change a personal habit is to figure out how to take a step in the direction of practicing that new habit.
If you’re trying to grow your business, the smallest step you could start with is to figure out what the first most important thing on your mind is about starting that business and then to do it.
One of the temptations for teachers, coaches and leaders of all kinds is to do a lot of planning. We’re going to do planning for the next six months. We’re going to plan out the next five years. We’re gonna plan, plan, plan; we’re going to do strategic planning. We’re going to do interesting, introspective planning. We’re going to do reflective planning; we’re going to do all kinds of planning. But if you are spending more time planning than you are taking action, it’s time to put the pause button on the planning and start taking action.
Do some planning, do some acting, and then repeat. In there we also want to add a bit of reflection to determine whether you’re on the right track to reach your goals.
Some of you have come to me for coaching, and you’ve asked me what your goals should be. And that is not an answer I have for you. Each person’s goals will be right for them. Now, I can always make suggestions of the types of things people choose to work on. But the kind of goals you should set personally need come from you from your brain, from your experience, from your needs, from your goals, your directions, your dreams, from the things you want in life, career and relationships.
Think about what you want those to look like in your life. If you’re dissatisfied with any area at all, think about what it could be. And let’s make a goal in that direction that’s right for you. So in the path of setting your goals, be specific about what you want to achieve. And if you’re tempted to decide how you want to feel when you reach your goals, I’d like to caution you against doing that. I have a lot of experience with this. When I was on the weight loss journey, I thought I would feel a certain way at the end.
What I learned in that process was that you have to feel that way the whole time on the way to reaching your goal, or you won’t feel it at the end. If you think you’re going to feel more energetic. If you think you’re going to feel cheerful, happier, more satisfied with yourself, then the whole time you are working on a new eating lifestyle, and a new fitness lifestyle, and a new everything lifestyle, on the way to reaching a weight loss goal, you have to choose to be happier. Choose to be more cheerful. Choose to be more satisfied with who you are the whole time and not wait until you try to get there.
There will never be a big huge ball of happy emotions waiting at the end of any goal achievement. And if there is, it’s going to be short-lived. If you want those emotions to last, we have to reach the goal in the manner of feeling the emotions. Basically, we have to pursue a goal in a feeling of happiness.
We have to pursue that goal in a state of cheerfulness. We have to pursue the goal the whole time thinking about being happy, joyful, cheerful and more positive.
And it’s okay to feel discouraged along the way. In fact, I will tell you that when I was losing 95 pounds, I was pretty “down” a lot. I was discouraged quite often. You can ask my husband. He would say yes, I ran to him crying in disappointment so regularly, it was almost incalculable. You just couldn’t even count the number of times. And part of that is just… that’s part of losing weight.
It’s very hormonal, is very irregular, and it’s very discouraging. So we cry a lot. But I would like to propose to you that in the pursuit of your goal, whatever that might be, you’re probably going to have a pretty emotional experience, too.
And as you start to think about quitting in the middle of achieving a goal, you’re going to wonder if you’re on the wrong track. So let’s make part of your goal setting a time-bound piece where you don’t give up, you don’t reconsider, you don’t quit until a certain point. For example, if you’re going to launch a new consulting or coaching business, give yourself six months of dedicated, consistent, solid effort.
And at that six month mark, sit down, reflect on what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved, what outcomes you’re getting, and reassess. But do not change. Do not stop the work. Do not think about quitting or giving in until the timeline that you previously agreed to do.
That’s the time bound piece of SMART goal setting. If you quit sooner, if you give up sooner, you just might be giving up right before your biggest success is about to happen. Any kind of goal is going to take you through all kinds of personal struggle and doubt, mentally.
And you’re going to have all kinds of saboteurs trying to tear you down from whatever you want to achieve and tell you that you can’t achieve it, you can’t attain it, you weren’t meant for this, you should give up now. None of its true.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is.
Goal setting can be tough. It can be rigorous. It can be a transformative experience for you. And I want to partner with you along the way. So I hope you’ll come back again and again, to listen to the Mindset for Life podcast.
Thanks again for being here. I wish you all the best this coming week, being the best version of you
All of those things are arguments your saboteurs want to give you from the back of your brain because they’re worried about you. They think they’re your friends, and your sabotaging thoughts want to convince you that you should stop now so they can just preserve your energy and keep you going for the daily functions of life like keeping your heart beating, and keeping you breathing, and keeping you walking and all that stuff. But if you listen to the sabotaging thoughts side of your brain, it’s going to sound like you. It’s going to seem encouraging, it might even seem sympathetic, but it’s going to kill your goals, and it’s going to stop your progress. And then you’re going to start having a cognitive bias that makes you think you cannot achieve your goals.
Because here, we are all about the kinds of thoughts that will help you be successful, have more positive emotions and more success, and develop a strong and healthy mindset for the rest of your life. One that can help you through hard times. One that can help you have great times, and one that can help you keep growing in ways you’re happy and satisfied with.
Then the next time you set a goal, it’s going to be even harder to convince yourself to get started and keep going. So when you hear the doubt, challenge it, argue with it and dismiss it, and don’t reconsider your direction until whatever day you agreed with yourself to reconsider.
All right, so we talked about goal setting. Get specific. Make it small. Take the first step you can think of in that direction.
Give yourself a clear timeline, where you’re gonna come back and reconsider. Now, when you get to that reconsidering place, and you’ve made some progress, and you want to acknowledge that, celebrate it.
Do whatever you can to draw attention to your wins, to the progress you’re making, to all that you achieved. And if you failed miserably, draw attention to all the stuff you learned. What kind of opportunities do you now have with this knowledge that you’ve gained struggling through this experience? It’s gonna be a win either way, so celebrate it. That’s what makes it repeatable.
Then you can go back, set some new goals, and do it all again. That’s what it’s all about. And as I said, those goals are personal to you, even if your boss or manager comes to you, and suggests some goals for you. Unless you internalize them and make them your own, they’re never going to really be your goals.
So make them yours. Figure out how to own those goals. What would make them truly meaningful for you and translate them into something that works? All right.
This episode’s theme song is “Sunshine Club,” by Ishan Dincer. Used with Permission.
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