S = Specific – the more specific the aim, the easier it is to know when you have achieved it
M = Measurable – if the goal and progress can’t be measured how will you know how far you still have to go?
A = Attainable – aim for the stars but you can’t jump that high so your plan needs to be achievable
R = Realistic and Relevant – you need to know how success or failure will affect you
T = Time bound – without a time bond on the goal it becomes an open-ended dream
E = Evaluate – exactly what do you want, when do you want it and what will be the proof that you have achieved it?
R = Re-evaluate – as you progress along your path, constant monitor and control systems are required
Now I want to move on to the next level. This is the goal setting strategies you could use to ensure that you remain focussed on your goal in order to ensure that your chances of success are multiplied.
Most of the this article relates to the goal setting strategy of focussing your unconscious mind on your set goals. Firstly, you need to grasp the concept that the PRIMARY purpose and focus of your unconscious mind is to keep you alive.
It is kept busy all day and all night functioning with this primary purpose. It continues to address this purpose when you are busy, distracted, asleep or even unconscious. Every single chemical action and reaction happening in your body is being monitored by your unconscious mind so that it can make any necessary adjustment required to keep you alive.
It does not have a great deal of time for your whims and although it hears every single thought you have it assesses those thoughts only in terms of keeping you alive. With that fact in mind, let’s discuss goal setting strategies.
- Less is more. You might have goals in a number of different areas in your life and that is great. However, it is not practical to try to work on a number of different areas at the same time. It is best to focus on one thing at a time.
For example, you may wish to lose weight and to quit smoking – and these should be renamed as achieving desired weight and freeing yourself from your addiction to nicotine, but more of that later.
You will have a greater chance of success if you decide on the one that would make most difference to your life and focus completely on that. Both goals are admirable and both involve simply changing a habit. Why not achieve your desired weight first, note down what worked for you and use those lessons to tackle your smoking issue once you have achieved your target weight?
The more goals that you have the less you can focus on each one and that effectively dilutes the effort and the ultimate result. You have got time. When you have two goals that you wish to achieve within a given time period you can easily complete one and then the other within that time.
At a more advanced level you can work a number of goals together as long as they can work in conjunction. You just have a primary, secondary and tertiary goals. As long as they are congruent you can work on them at the same but have your primary focus in mind at all times. Once achieved, move to the secondary focus
- Commit your goals to paper and be as specific as possible. Your thoughts pass through your synapses in seconds. The simple act of writing your goals onto paper focuses your unconscious mind on the goal. And I really do mean WRITE THE GOAL ON PAPER. Using your laptop to type your goals will not have the same unconscious effect on your goal.
Use the SMARTER acronym above for each of your goals and put as much detail as possible into your goal.
Your unconscious mind is like a five year old child and will achieve your goal in the simplest way possible. You might decide to achieve a goal of being surrounded by money. You and I know that you mean that you have a bulging bank account. Your unconscious mind has a lot of work to do. It keeps you breathing and it ensures your heart continues pumping blood and keeps your brain functioning so that you can read and understand this post, plus the million other second by second things that keep you alive. It does not have much time to spare ensuring that you have the luxuries in life but it will do as you command
Unless and until you specify what exactly you mean by, “being surrounded by money” your unconscious mind is as likely to put you on a downward spiral that results in you ending up in a minimum wage position as a cash security guard as it is to help you become a millionaire.
Five years down the line when you are sitting in the back of a security van escorting money to a number of local businesses you will be “surrounded by money” wondering what happened to your goals and not realising that you have achieved the goal you set.
You just weren’t specific enough in relating the goal to your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind meanwhile, has achieved its primary purpose which is to keep you alive and has also helped you to achieve your goal. It just wasn’t what you envisaged.
The dilemma is that your unconscious mind is not a mind reader. It didn’t know you meant bigger house, bigger car, more holidays, lots of cash in the bank, because you simply said you wanted to be surrounded by money.
Similarly, when you decide you want a bigger house you might want to ensure that you specify exactly what you mean. You and I both know you mean a house of your own with more space and more rooms. Your unconscious mind is a busy animal and just as it can misinterpret your wish to be surrounded to by money it can misinterpret, “I want to be in a bigger house”.
Maybe, the downward spiral that achieved your, “surrounded by money” goal was matched by you losing your own home and ends with you renting a room in a 10 bedroom house. It isn’t your house, but your unconscious mind helped you achieve your goal for sure.
- Carry your goals around with you every day. Buy a little 3 x 2 inch notebook. Write the goals into it and carry it around with you. Whenever you get a quiet moment pull the notebook from your pocket and read the goals again. When you do this constantly and consistently you will eventually repeat your goals mentally every time you even think of the notebook.
The reason that you need to do this and to read your goals five, ten or fifty times a day is again an issue with your unconscious mind. Take a moment or two to think about how many commands you give your unconscious mind on a daily basis. How many individual thoughts do you process in any given minute, hour or day?
While typing this one paragraph I am thinking, “it’s quite warm in here I need to open a window, I am a little hungry and will have a sandwich when I have finished. As soon as I think about making a sandwich I am thinking about my sandwich options and the fact that I fancy a coffee with my sandwich. Have I got any milk? Yes I have. What nonsense is that politician talking on the radio? Hmmmm that noise must be my neighbour mowing his lawn. I must remember to polish those shoes in the corner for my appointment later. It is really bright in this room. I love the sunshine and on and on and on.”
You must think of thousands, maybe millions, maybe even billions of things in a given day. They may be simple musings, such as my neighbour and his lawnmower or they may be functional, such as, I will have a sandwich.
Your unconscious mind assesses every single thought and how those thoughts might have an effect on its primary purpose of keeping you alive.
Lawnmower – no problem.
Sandwich – no problem I am not starving.
Coffee – no problem I am not dying of thirst.
Bus coming – arrrrrggggghhhhhh!!! Get out of the way!!!
I want to be surrounded by money – no problem – I can get you a job as a security guard.
So I hope that you can see that only thinking about your goal once or twice a week might just get lost in the myriad other instructions and thoughts and mental traffic that you pass onto your unconscious mind on a daily basis.
When you tell your unconscious mind something fifty times a day, specifically, by pulling your notebook from your pocket and reciting the goal to yourself repetitively, it may not understand how your goal is going to keep you alive, but it will understand that it is important to you. It will then devote a little more time to helping you achieve the goal.
- Make your goal a positive and not a negative. You might be gaining an understanding of how your unconscious mind works. It needs specifics and it will focus on the specific more than the context.
For a financial goal many people start with, “I want to get out of debt”. Your unconscious mind will focus on the tangible of debt. It will not focus on the “I want to get out of…..” It should not be a difficult process to work out where you will end up if you focus on debt.
When your goal is to, “quit, give up, lose” a negative habit, you have set yourself up to fail because you have put a negative spin on the goal.
For example, “I want to lose weight.” Your unconscious mind has heard the word or thought, “lose” a billion times in your life so far and it has a negative attachment to the word. Remember that it is trying to keep you alive. It does not focus on losing anything. It focuses on keeping things and it is very good at that. It has a great deal of practice of keeping things and you should speak to your unconscious in the language it understands.
Plus, when you are mastering the goal setting strategy you already know you have to be specific. You have two options when writing your weight loss goal into your notebook. Option 1 – I want to lose 35 pounds. Option 2 – I want to weigh 155 pounds.
Option 1 is not a good choice. Think about it. Firstly you are focussing on a negative involving loss. Secondly, once you lose your first pound your goal is out of date and confusing to your unconscious. Do you still want to lose 35 pounds? No you don’t. Now you want to lose 34 pounds. Now you need to re-programme your unconscious every time you lose a pound or even an ounce of weight.
Setting your goal at the specific, “I want to weigh 155 pounds” means that from first ounce to last ounce you have had the same goal. Less confusion for your unconscious and hourly reinforcement of the goal every time you think the thought.
- Break your ultimate goal into mini goals. These have to be just as specific and positive as the main goal and involve common sense as far as the achievable progress. For a dietary goal you are unlikely to achieve the same results at week 20 as at week one and your goal should reflect that.
Reducing your weight by 30 pounds might be a daunting prospect. Reducing your weight by 30 pounds over 20 weeks equates to a linear 1.5 pounds per week and is less daunting. Unfortunately the last pound is harder than the first pound. When you weigh 200 pounds you have to consume a higher number of calories simply to MAINTAIN that weight you do when you weigh 171 pounds.
Your goal setting strategy needs to reflect this fact. Your plan might involve reducing your weight by 3 pounds per week each week for the first 2 weeks and then 2.5 pounds per week for the next 2 weeks. That is 11 pounds in 4 weeks and leaves you with 9 pounds in the next 16 weeks. Much easier to focus on and allows some leeway.
You might hit a plateau during weeks 8 to 10 and if your weight reduction programme centred on 1.5 pounds per week and you make no progress at the mid-stage you are piling the pressure on towards the end of the programme when it is actually harder to progress.
For a financial goal the opposite is true. Compounding interest starts to have an effect. You might decide to have 100,000 in the bank in 100 months time. For a linear goal this means putting 1000 a month in the bank.
When you do not have that capital available in month 1 the goal is non-viable. You might start off by finding a way to put 100 away each month for the first 6 months, then 200, then 400, then 500, etc.
A simple maths example. You want 1,000,000 using a simple doubling strategy and you start with 1.
Month 1 – your 1 doubles to 2
Month 2 – your 2 doubles to 4 etc
Do you know how many months this would take you to achieve the million? The answer is actually 20.
At month 10 you would have 1000. At month 15 you still only have 16000, but at month 19 you have 500,000.
Obviously it is unlikely that you will double your money month in month out but the above gives you an example of how to plan a financial goal. Towards the end of the programme you have a stash of money that working for you and earning more money towards your goal.
- Reward yourself for achieving the mini goals. And these rewards will form part of your goal setting strategy and should also be written in your notebook.
When I have achieved X by Y date I will reward myself with Z. For example, when I have reduced my weight by ten pounds on the 30th of next month I will treat myself to a spa day.
You must ensure that the rewards are congruent to your goal. When I have reduced my weight by ten pounds I will treat myself to an enormous bar of chocolate does not quite work. When I have reduced my weight by ten pounds I will buy myself a new pair of trousers is not quite grasping the concept because your plan would mean that the trousers should not fit you by next month because they will be too big for you.
When I have put 1000 in the bank I will buy that 42″ plasma TV I have always wanted sort of defeats the object, unless the plan was to save enough money to buy the TV in the first place.
- One goal at a time until you become more skilled at goal setting strategies.
- Commit your goal to paper and include the reward plan. At an advanced level I will talk about publicising your goals but at this stage committing the goal to paper is enough.
- Carry them around with you. You might also consider pinning them to your shaving mirror, your fridge, your car dashboard, your briefcase, your laptop.
Anywhere that you will stare or glance during the day. The more you think about them the more your unconscious will understand their importance to you as you reinforce them.
- Write them in the positive.
- Mini goals to form the ultimate goal – being as specific and as SMARTER at each stage as the main goal.
- Build in your own personal reward programme
I hope the post gives you a better insight into goal setting strategy and look forward to hearing your comments and feedback, especially about your progress.