Truly Accomplishing Goals that Matter

Self-ImprovementGoal Setting

  • Author Andrea Novakowski
  • Published March 17, 2012
  • Word count 621

Matthew, the owner of a computer services company, greeted me at his office door with a big smile. It was the first week of January and he'd completed his 2012 goals worksheet. He was excited to share with me the vision he'd created for himself and his business. But three weeks later, when I asked what actions he'd taken on his goals, Matthew's smile turned to a frown. He'd already run out of gas.

He'd taken a few stabs at the goals, he said, but they all felt too big and distant, and there were competing priorities, and his customers were complaining... the list went on and on. So many distractions!

Did you set big goals for yourself this year? How are you progressing on them so far? If you're like many people, you started out the year with great intentions, but now we're nearing the end of January and reality has set in. Not much has really changed. The same roadblocks you ran up against in 2011 are still here in 2012.

I'll tell you what I told Matthew. It's not enough just to list what you want to accomplish. You also need to examine each of your goals and figure out why it's important to you, how you plan to achieve it, and what you'll do when problems arise.

  1. Before you get to work, look deeper into each of your goals. Ask yourself:

• What is the purpose of this goal? Why do you want to achieve it? How will it make a difference in your life or the lives of others?

• What are the benefits of reaching this goal? Does it honor your values?

• Deep down, do you really believe you can reach this goal? As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right!"

  1. Identify the potential obstacles that might get in the way of accomplishing your goals. Be especially honest with yourself about old habits or beliefs that might otherwise catch you by surprise, such as procrastination, perfectionism, burnout, negative self-talk, lack of know-how, or having too much to do.

  2. Discover your solution. How are you going to overcome each obstacle? For instance, if you're chronically over-scheduled, check out Stephen Covey's Time Management Matrix. Set aside time on your calendar to work on your goals. Recognize which tasks need 100 percent of your effort, and which can be done at an 80 percent level. Delegate or ask for help.

  3. Goals usually take many steps to achieve. Breaking your goals down into these concrete steps - making what's called a "project plan" - will help you visualize exactly what it's going to take to get from point A to point B. Once you've listed these action steps, write the next step on your calendar. That will help keep it in the front of your mind.

  4. Measure backward. Sometimes, when you think about what you're trying to accomplish, it may seem as if you're not getting any closer. Try looking at where you were when you started working toward your goal and measure your progress from that point instead.

  5. Build accountability into your plans. The more people you tell about your goal, the more support you'll receive. Design a follow-up process that works for you. Check in with your supporters on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly).

Matthew nodded throughout our discussion: he realized that while he'd listed some worthy goals on his worksheet, he hadn't considered the steps along the way, nor had he anticipated the obstacles he was likely to encounter. We spent the rest of Matthew's coaching session discussing how he could regain the momentum he'd had at the beginning of January -- and make real progress on the goals he'd set for himself!

Andrea Novakowski is an executive and personal coach who has been helping clients align their professional goals with their personal values since 1997. By tapping into Andrea's knowledge, tools and skills, clients are able to meld career development and personal growth to reach higher productivity and deeper levels of job and personal satisfaction. Learn more at

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