So what’s all this talk about goal setting? I know just what you’re thinking: “Hey buddy, I’ve heard about enough of this goal setting thing … I’ve got it!” But have you really got it? As I think back to all of the workshops, seminars, general sessions, and leadership events that I’ve attended, a common element of each was that at some point one of the speakers talked about the importance of setting goals. In fact, the earliest message I can remember listening to was about goal setting and its importance. What a revolutionary concept goal setting was for me at that time! I hadn’t really given much thought to setting my own goals, and prior to that first message, hadn’t heard very much about it. I was sold. Goal setting was the thing for me.
As I attended successive conferences I continued to hear about goal setting. During each message I found myself sitting in the audience thinking, I’ve heard this before. Over time I heard it again and again and again. I thought I’d heard enough until I realized one very important thing. Sure, I’d been listening to each speaker talk about setting goals and I’d taken note of their different approaches and ideas, but had I truly “gotten it”? The answer was a resounding NO. I’d listened to all of them, but I hadn’t yet taken action. I had thought about my goals and ideas and what I wanted to accomplish in life, but my goals were stuck in my head and nothing was being done to accomplish them.
The purpose of this article is it to help you avoid making the same mistakes I made early on. Sure, I was a goal setter and lots of us are, but was I a goal finisher? Not at first I wasn’t, but over time I’ve learned the value of taking the goals from my thoughts and dreams and placing them on paper and making them happen … over time I’ve become a goal finisher. So just what is a goal finisher? Quite simply, it’s the difference between success and mediocrity. (Ok, quick side bar. Mediocrity: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance. You don’t want Mediocrity!) Choosing to be a goal finisher will define who you are and what you eventually accomplish in life.
To help in the process of becoming a goal finisher, I’ll outline six steps anyone can take to transition from being a goal setter into a goal finisher:
1. Be specific: Make sure you set goals that are clear and specific. A goal should be indicative of what you want to accomplish and should be measurable. An example of a non-specific goal would be to say: “Do better in school.” The problem with a goal like that is trying to define it. How do you know when you’ve achieved it? Just what does “better” mean? A better goal would be: “Get a 3.5 GPA This Semester.” It’s easy to define and you know when you’ve accomplished it.
2. Take some time to plan out your goals. The best way to do this is to set aside an hour or two and go somewhere quiet where you can focus. Write down whatever goals come to your mind and then begin the process of working through them. This will help you avoid just arbitrarily setting meaningless goals. Spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish. As you think through your goals, what they mean to you, and how they will affect you, you’ll notice that they begin to change and eventually become solid statements of what you want to accomplish in life.
3. Place your goals into an easy-to-read format and post them somewhere where you’ll see them every day (e.g. the wall in your bedroom, your bathroom mirror, on your night stand, etc.). A bulleted list can be a very useful way to lay out your goals. That way you can quickly read them when you see them. Don’t have them bunched into a paragraph or written on a post-it note. You want to have your goals written out so that they are clear to see and clear to read. This way you’ll see them, read them, and be reminded of them each day!
4. TAKE ACTION! It’s one thing to write your goals down, but don’t forget what we’ve spent the bulk of this article discussing … you must be a goal finisher and not just a goal setter. As you see your goals each day you’ll be reminded of them. Work aggressively to accomplish them. Take steps every day to get closer to accomplishing your goals. Work a little harder on your homework, spend a little extra time practicing your free throw shots, exercise a little bit more, work a little more at whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, and you’ll find yourself well on your way to becoming a goal finisher!
5. Track your progress: As you make progress on your goals take note of it and write it down. Keep track of significant milestones along your way. Write notes next to your goals indicating your achievements. When you complete goals, put a check next to them on your list, but don’t cross them out or remove them right away. Leave them there as a reminder of what you’ve accomplished and the progress you’re making. Doing this will provide momentum and give you greater confidence in your ability to achieve your goals.
6. Monitor and redirect: Schedule time every few months to re-visit your goals and to assess where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished. It is so vital that we take time in our lives to stop and think about where we’re at. It’s kind of like a personal inventory. Identify what’s been going well and where you need improvement. During these personal inventories you may come upon new goals or possible modifications to current goals. Take note of these new ideas and write them down.
As you strive to implement these six easy steps you’ll see a big difference in your goal setting efforts. You’ll find that you move more quickly from goal setting to goal finishing and you’ll feel better about your personal progress.
Don’t forget that truly successful people don’t spend their lives waiting for things to happen to them; they take the initiative and make things happen for themselves. They identify areas in their lives where improvement is needed and they aggressively seek out ways to improve. They are not satisfied with simply being goal setters. They are committed to being goal finishers!