Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Setting Effective Goals #7 - I ACT ON

Did you ever notice that ACTION is an anagram of I ACT ON?! In this final installment of the Setting Effective Goals series, I’m going to leave you with food for thought about how you can take action towards your goals, because they’re not going to achieve themselves!

As a teenager, I would prepare for exams by creating wonderfully thought-out and colour-coded study plans. Unfortunately, that's as far as it went most of the time, because I wasn't experienced or disciplined enough to turn my great intentions and planning into actual study! Only action will deliver progress, but too many people fall into this same sort of 'paralysis by analysis', so let's talk a bit about what you can do to get over this.

It’s important that you put just as much effort into planning the actions as you do into planning what you actually want to achieve. These days, I work backwards from my goals. I know where I want to get to, so I figure out what things I need to do to get there, what order they need to be in, when they need to be achieved by, what risks or complications I need to be aware of and how the actions will fit with the other things I have on my plate.  Again, you need to be careful that you don’t get  too caught up in this, but it really helps to think about it in advance.

There are two concepts from two fantastic books that I want to reference here:

1. Control what you can control

Click pic to view in detail
In the hugely famous and successful book , ”The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Dr. Stephen Covey introduces readers to the idea of the circle of influence and the circle of concern. You will always feel much more empowered, and will always make more progress, if you focus your energy, thoughts and actions on the things  that you can have some impact on. You can read more about this here. In fact, while you're there, you might as well read about all of the Habits, as they're very relevant for achieving your goals.

2. Focus your energy and actions towards the positive

In the book “The Power of Full Engagement”, the authors talk a lot about energy management. They make a great point about how people try to make changes based on the behaviours they want to avoid. For example, those wanting to give up smoking often spend all their energy thinking about cigarettes and expend a lot of energy on “will-power” and discipline. In fact, they will use far less energy and will have far greater success if they focus on the positive behaviours that will get them to their goal - e.g. exercise, some replacement activity, breathing exercises, etc. Then they can measure progress and feel good about themselves instead of constantly fixating on what they are missing and trying to resist.
They also make a very compelling point about the need to move as much as possible to routine and habit. Habits use much less effort and discipline than conscious actions, so when planning for your goals, try to focus on creating habits (e.g. have set days and times for repeat activities like going to the gym, reading a book, meeting people , etc.). That way it goes from having to force yourself to do something to being something that you just do without thinking.
You can read a good overview of the book here.

[Just as an aside, I was sent this mindmap today, which presents the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions. If you want to put yourself to the test, you can use your newly sharpened insight to critique what’s wrong with these goals and how they could be more effectively written]

So, that’s it for the Setting Effective Goals series. I’ve finished the (FREE!) 8-page Worksheet and I’ll send it to the folks who’ve signed up in the next couple of days. Best of luck in 2013 and I hope my  posts help you to get closer to success and happiness, however you choose to define it!