Sometimes setting goals can be an exercise in discouragement. Halfway through the year and looking back at several abandoned new year’s resolutions, I think many of us can attest to this truth.
When it comes to personal leadership, which is the leadership of self, setting goals and a trajectory for your life, and moving in that direction with clarity, purpose, and consistency, there’s an essential nature to goal-setting. The quest for self-improvement never really seems to end.
But how many of us start our year-long journeys only to give up two months in, try to change our bad habits only to get discouraged when we fail, and work so hard to reach an essential goal only to come up short in the end, and come up feeling like inadequate failures.
Maybe you’re there now. Maybe you’ve been there before.
Regardless of where you are with your journey of personal leadership, I think it’s high time we started to rethink how to set and achieve our personal goals. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to achievement. We don’t learn the same way. We don’t think, act, or solve problems the same way. We’re psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually unique.
So why do we all try to take the same approach in accomplishing our personal and professional goals?
Here are four different ways to approach goal-setting.
4 Alternatives to Goal-Setting in Your Personal Leadership Journey
1) Optimize your strengths.
As entrepreneurs or anyone in a position of personal leadership, you’re likely more than a little self-critical. You know what your flaws are and you know that you have more than a little room for improvement. When it comes to setting goals and making resolutions, we tend to exclusively target our weaknesses. We zero in on what we perceive to be a glaring flaw and try to eliminate it from scratch without recognizing that it may be more strategic to maximize existing strengths.
In many ways, it’s more about flipping your mindset. Rather than looking for what’s wrong in your life or wrong with you, it’s about approaching your goals from the point of view of “how can I improve my life and myself?”
This positive thinking starts from an encouraging, positive place versus an inherently negative one.
2) Shrink your scope.
Ambition can be a stumbling block for many of us. While there’s nothing wrong with setting your standards and your sights high, sometimes, in order to reach your goals, your sights must be set a little lower. Instead of planning to achieve something in a year’s time, plan for a month, or three. Switch your thinking for smaller plans in a smaller scope. Scale back.
While you may have overarching long-term goals, have those shorter-term goals that you can meet that will help you stay on track and encouraged along the way. They will also help you as life inevitably throws a wrench into your plans. As circumstances change, you may find that goals you may have set months ago just don’t quite apply like they once did.
3) Solidify your goals after you’ve started.
Sometimes we need some experience before we can really solidify a goal we have in mind. When you’re dealing with huge, life-changing goals that can take years to come to fruition, you don’t always know what it will really take to accomplish them when the rubber meets the road. If you start on your path and then realize you’re in over your head, treating this as a failure can be devastating.
Allow yourself to be adaptable. When you have a huge goal in mind, start moving towards it and then, as you go along, set smaller goals when you have a clearer picture of the scope of the project in mind. This way you can be more realistic with yourself, your time, and your circumstances. It allows your overarching goal to be less intimidating and more manageable.
4) Make room for change in stages.
Lastly, allow your goals to be made and met incrementally. You may not transform your life, yourself, or your career in a month, a year, or even five years. Just because you aren’t able to accomplish these things all at once doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Progress in the right direction is still progress, even if you are not where you would like to be.
Part of personal leadership is pushing yourself forward, but doing so in a way that is productive and positive: not driven by shame or a desire to run away from yourself or your circumstances. You should be driven by the desire to be the best version of yourself. Doing that takes time. If we are to do that, we should be content in knowing that it is a process that may come with setbacks, delays, and stages.
As long as you are striving to move forward, you are doing something right.
What goal-setting strategy is most effective for you? Share your tactics in the comments.