If you don’t write goals, how will you know where you’re going?
My wife and I were moving house a couple of weeks ago. Our lives were in transition for a few days, living from tarp like bags and boxes with all of our worldly possessions. In our living room, we sold almost every piece of furniture not screwed down.
In the end, we would move into our new house. So, the tiredness, inconvenience and feeling of homelessness while we were moving would all pay off. We could see the pot of fruit loops at the end of the rainbow.
One morning when we had our things packed up ready to go, I was getting ready for work. I started to panic that I was running late.
I looked up where our vintage clock previously sat on he bookshelf and it was gone. Looking around for the smaller clock we kept on the hall stand, that had been packed up too. I couldn’t even see the bottom right corner of the TV from where I was getting ready because we had sold the stand right from underneath it. “How would I know if I was early or late?” I thought to myself.
My clock usually kept me on time. I knew how long I had before work and what time I had to leave. I knew the ideal time to have a shower, sip of my coffee and a shave. Even the ideal time to brush my teeth and put my shoes on. But on this day I felt a bit lost.
I had so many unknowns. Would I get to work on time? Did I have enough time to eat breakfast at home? Could I watch Home and Away re-runs before work or would I have to record them? I’m just kidding. I don’t watch Home and Away. My wife watches it. No, really.
Anyway… I was a bit lost that morning, until I found my watch. My feelings of panic started to disappear as soon as I could see I was on time. Mini crisis averted. I got to work on time but I probably would have struggled if I didn’t find my watch.
When I arrived at work that day, I checked my calendar to remind myself of any upcoming meetings. I keep my calendar close at hand (actually, I use a smartphone calendar) and set reminders to keep me on track.
Imagine if I wrote dozens of my most important appointments for the year in a paper diary and then stuffed it down in a drawer for the next 12 months. What are the chances I would be on time for every appointment? Probably not that great. In some cases, I would probably forget who I was meeting, where I was meeting them and the purpose of the meeting.
Imagine if we did the same thing with our goals. Just wrote them down and stuffed them in a folder or drawer for the year. Oh wait -most people do! Or worse still, they don’t write goals in the first place. Following are a few reasons your should write goals and keep them handy to refer back to.
There are many reasons to write goals, instead of just keeping them in your head. Aim, progress, accuracy and accountability are a few that come to mind.
When you write goals, you clarify exactly what your target is and at what point in time you expect to make it. Not only does the end point become clear but so does the path to get you there.
Once you have defined your end point, you can also set milestones along the way. Instead of waiting until the deadline for a major goal, you can check your progress along the way against these smaller steps. Think about the purpose of the minutes and seconds hands on a clock (although there are possibly many). Most of your appointments might be on the hour, however, if you check the minutes and seconds hands before the appointment you will know if you’re on track.
Accuracy improves when you write goals. If you don’t write goals, it’s too easy to shift the goal posts depending on your mood or what you think at the time is realistic. If you allow other people to take control and set your goals, (a manager for example) they will probably shift the goal posts on you too. I remember once that I doubled the sales required according to one of my sales targets. But instead of being praised or rewarded, one of my managers decided the original target was no longer good enough. So, in their eyes I failed. Imagine how I felt. How could I ever be successful if the goal posts would shift every time I kicked a goal?
Take ownership of your goals. You improve your chances of success when you accept responsibility for your goals and hold yourself accountable for success or failure. Set a big goal but one that’s actionable. Set a goal that’s within your control.
Of all the reasons for getting your goals on paper, accepting ownership of end results is the most important. You will always face external forces. Some will set you back and some will push you forward but they will often be beyond your control. Writing your goals is the first step to taking responsibility for what happens to you. There are some things you can control, so focus on those.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” -Theodore Roosevelt.
Some people believe in fate. That outcomes can’t be altered. Chances are, if you’re not setting goals, you’re not leaving it up to fate. Instead, you’re falling into someone else’s plan. What someone else wants to happen, is not necessarily what is meant to happen.
Write goals. Keep them close.