Thom and I are traveling this week so I invited one of my blogger friends named Susan Mary Malone to share some of her SMART ideas with all of us. Susan lives near Fort Worth, TX and since I found her blog a couple of years ago I am one of her biggest fans. Not only are her ideas practical and relevant, they are also thought-provoking. Please enjoy Susan’s thoughts on goal setting and why they matter.
I’m starting to hear from a lot of folks who made New Year’s Resolutions, and how they have already gone by the wayside.
Don’t you just hate when that happens?
I’m not into the usual sorts of resolutions. Chiefly because, well, they don’t work. Statistics show that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions. And only 8% are successful in achieving them.
Have you noticed that too? Most of us learned this for ourselves a good while back. I’m thinking the 45% of folks still making them are young.
But goals are different, no? While resolutions tend to be about losing weight, spending less/saving more, quitting some habit, etc., etc., goals get boiled down into something more concrete. And after that, the specific steps to achieve them.
Besides, a resolution is often about something you think you should be doing or not doing, while a goal is about something you want.
I love how Kathy always focuses away from what you’re giving up here on Smart Living 365 and instead on what you really want to happen—even if that means reestablishing priorities.
Yet and still, I hear a lot of folks resisting formulating actual goals. Maybe it feels too much like making those resolutions!
So, why do I think it is important to set goals?
As Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
Talk about banging your head against a wall. But even Rohn’s sentiments don’t get to the heart of it for me.
There is at least one thing you truly want, right? Often more than one thing, but we all have an important goal we truly aspire to, whether it’s writing that novel, climbing a mountain, becoming the best whatever that we can be. And getting there takes more than wanting. More than passion and desire and stick-to-it-ness.
It takes a plan. A detailed one—which keeps you on track.
Because we’ve all set out on journeys that somewhere along the way fizzled out or ended up in Brazil, and usually we can’t even pinpoint where the trail disappeared.
So, what does goal setting do for you?
1) Helps You Plan the Best Route for You
Planning for a goal is like setting your sights on a destination. You put into Waze where you want to go, and you’re presented with several different itineraries. Options include the shortest route, or the one with tolls, the longer but less-trafficked one, etc. Many ways exist to get to your destination.
Maybe you’re a type-A person, and you want the fastest path possible, even if it costs more. Or maybe the scenic route, while taking longer, includes pieces of the puzzle to your goal that you can pick up along the way.
In other words, mapping out your best road helps you to organize your time, efforts, and resources to make the most of your life.
2) But Still Provides Lessons from the Pitfalls of Others
Ever been on a driving trip to somewhere entirely new? When in our youth, a dear friend and I drove to Estes Park, CO every summer. We basically went the same route every year. Then, one time we decided we’d just up’n go to Seattle. We had never been there, and we chose what looked like the shortest track.
And yep, it was the shortest driving distance. But what we didn’t take into consideration was that we would be driving through the badlands of the desert. In the summer. You know, Death Valley and all that.
I mean, we’d never been there. And we were like 20 or so, so thought we knew, oh, pretty much everything.
Thank God we ran into friends who sent us over a far less perilous route!
Even though your road is uniquely yours, others have traveled similar ones. Might as well learn from them.
3) Keeps You Focused
Sometimes you probably take trips where it doesn’t much matter when you get there. You know, those meandering ones, where now and then you take off on a tangent and go see Niagara Falls or another wonder of the world.
Those are fun, aren’t they?
But a lot of time you’re actually heading to a planned event (your goal!), and have to arrive at a certain time, and that detour from Estes Park to Seattle really does take longer than the time you have . . .
By setting clear goals, and the steps within them, you can avoid getting tripped up by the Grand Canyon when you’re supposed to be at your sister’s wedding day after tomorrow. (Not to mention, avoiding the wrath of your mother as well!)
4) Which Leads to Good Decisions
Yep, that detour through Taos sure is enticing. Ah, the Rio Grande Gorge! Taos Mountain! And really, it isn’t that far. See the route that goes directly through there on the way to Colorado? What’s another few days?
Or, perhaps it’s 33 degrees and raining out at 5 AM, and that run you’re supposed to take in order to maintain your pace for the marathon you’re running in 3 months, well . . . We could just pull up the covers and stay in bed.
But if you’ve set a clear goal, the goal itself won’t let you. It’ll slap your hand as you’re trying to steer toward Taos and away from your real destination. And that comforter? Well, even it needles you with guilt.
5) You Can Measure Your Success
Man, we just crossed the border into Colorado! Half a day before schedule. Doesn’t that feel really good?
And more importantly, isn’t the trip starting to look worth it now?
Or, cool! I just cleared the 2 & ½ mark in my 5-year plan! And accomplished x, y, and z.
Setting clear, sharp, definable goals helps us to measure our progress. See where we might be falling a bit and figure ways to bolster those. And most important, gain a sense of pride in where we’ve come. This raises self-confidence, helps us to recognize our own abilities, and feel competence. All of which keeps us forging on, and helps to achieve those goals.
6) Provides Motivation on the Darkest Roads
Face it—some goals are far more difficult to achieve than others. Or at least, take more time. Not that that makes one more important than another, but just that some goals and dreams just, well, take longer, more circuitous routes.
For example, the goal to write a novel can be achieved in well-prescribed steps. There is a map for it (I’ve written many for my editorial clients). We go from our point of embarkation (which varies greatly), to the destined goal.
Writing truly well, however, requires an individually different route. One that is long and winding and depends entirely on the perseverance and fortitude of the person writing. Reaching the first goal—finishing a novel draft—is just another starting point.
I’ve seen many an aspiring writer get from the original point A to point Z. Then again, I’ve seen more become daunted by the Great Divide, and after that first novel is finished, slide off the cliff into oblivion.
You gotta have guts to play in this world.
But if the road is well mapped, you’ve learned from others, kept your eye on the prize, stayed true to your vision, measured your success and felt appreciative of it, those dark and winding roads will be less daunting.
You’ve been on similar ones before, no? And you survived. And even thrived.
So, toss out those resolutions and focus instead on your goals. Plan where you’re going and how to get there. Otherwise you’ll get scolded by the Cheshire Cat as Alice did:
“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
What goals are you committed to and planning?
Susan Mary Malone is the winner of the Ed Mathis Award for fiction, author of the novels, By the Book, and I Just Came here to Dance; co-author of the nonfiction books BodySculpting; Fourth and Long: The Kent Waldrep Story; 5 Keys for Understanding Men; and What’s Wrong with My Family? As well as many published short stories. Her books and blog can be found here.