Setting goals and achieving them

It’s the beginning of the year, and almost everyone would have a set of goals that they would like to achieve this year, but how many will actually succeed in making sure they achieve what they set out to do ? I would say very few.

Setting goals are much easier than seeing them through. We all have wish lists, the most popular among them is loosing weight. Everyone wants to lose weight and get fit, but when it comes to getting into a daily workout routine and eating right people falter. Most of us will be armed with the motivation to push it for a few days, some for weeks and some even longer, but then the motivation starts to fizzle away, other priorities starts kicking in and then its business as usual until the next new years day arrives.

I was one among those who used to struggle with personal goal’s until last year, when I actually managed to tick off all the goals that I set for 2016. So what changed ? These are the things that helped me to ensure that I achieve what I set as a goal.

Stay away from spontaneous goal setting without much thought

Most of the time our resolutions or goals are purely based on emotional choice at the time. People choose to quit drinking when they are still recovering from a bad hangover, they are just upset about the hangover and makes the decision that they will never drink again. These kind of resolutions or goals are less likely to succeed as there is not much thinking behind it. It’s purely situational and the person is likely to go back to drinking again as soon as he is recovered from the hangover. Spontaneous ideas are good, but before you convert that into a resolution or a goal make sure you put some thinking behind it. There is a whole science of how goal should be set and how it needs to meet the SMART criteria, I don’t want to go into those, what I would say is put some thought behind your goal setting criteria.

‘What’ matters to you and ‘Why’

When I set my goals for 2016 what I asked myself is what matters to me, and why it matters. It brings in a lot of clarity to the thought process. As with many out there, one of my goal was to get fit, but there was a real reason why it matters this time, which was much more solid than ever before. I have had full health check up done and the results were not very encouraging. cholesterol was high and liver functioning has started to shown the need to improve on my lifestyle. So getting fit  was now a high priority item for me, I didn’t want the situation to get any worse, I rather wanted to reverse the damage as soon as possible. I was prescribed some medication but I agreed with my doctor that I would do it through the natural way, rather than depending on medication.

So why does it matter so much to me, because I wanted to live a healthier life, I havent even reached my middle age yet (well that’s up for debate) so being unhealthy is not an option I would like to choose. So here I ticked off the boxes on both ‘What’ matters and ‘Why’, and I had a compelling argument for both.

Have a detailed plan – Intention

Having a goal and motivation alone wont help you to achieve them. A great example on this was the study conducted by the British journal of Health Psychology. As part of the study they created three groups and encouraged people in each of the group to track their exercise pattern. The first group named ‘Control’ was told what needs to be done. The second group ‘motivation’  was told what needs to be done and was also given the reason or motivation for doing the exercise.  And the third group ‘Intention’ was provided with both control and motivation, but were also asked to state their intention on how they planned to do the activity, i.e. they were asked to provide statement or plan as to when and where they plan to exercise. Two weeks later the results shown that 91% of the Intention group managed to exercise at least once a week, whereas only 35% – 38% of the other groups managed to do the same .

exercise-intention

This shows that having motivation is as good as having a goal, but having a clear plan that can be followed through is something that actually sustains the motivation and drives us towards achieving the goal.

One of my goals for 2016 other than health was related to personal finance, I had a target in mind on how much I wanted to grow my personal wealth by end of the year. More than the target, I had a very detailed month by month plan on how to get there, starting from which method of investment I should use to the minute details of how much I should spend each month and on what. It made it easy to follow through, it made it achievable, and looking at it at least twice a month helped me to keep at it even after I reached my target.

Regularly brush up your plan

The initial plan does not need to be precise or accurate to the last number, it will never be.  My detailed plan was not that detailed when I started off, it got better with time. All you have to do is to put on paper ‘what you plan to do and how’ based on what comes to your mind. As you go along, keep reviewing your plan, and keep updating it whenever you come up with better way of getting to the target. Revisiting your plan every now and then will keep you focused on the goal, because you are feeding your subconscious mind time and again to focus on what needs to be delivered. Once your subconcious mind is clear on what is it that you want, then all your actions will be directed towards achieving it.

Jump right in

Once you have set the goal and the initial plan, jump right in. Dont leave it for later, ‘tomorrow never comes’ . If its health you are after take that first step immediately, start looking for the right program to enrol in, or set up the workout space at your home, read about the most effective way to lose weight or fat, read about the best meal plan to follow. The key is to jump right in, what needs to be done today needs to be done today, never leave it for tomorrow.

Take one step at a time

If you are setting a stretched goal which you ought to achieve in a certain period of time, then don’t expect it to happen tomorrow. Change is a long and tedious process, it takes time and you have to work with it patiently. The key to not losing the motivation is to focus on what can be done today rather than focusing on how far we need to go.

This is very crucial when it comes to health goals, you cannot expect to see immediate results, and if you are after immediet results then you may not be following the proper plan, or it may not be sustainable. Dont be let down by the feeling that you are not making progress when you see fit people in the gym, they got there after long hours of sweat and blood, you will take your own time to get there.

Similarly when it comes to personal finance dont be let down by the feeling that you are not making progress when you see a guy who is driving a fancy car, he would have taken his own time and hard work to earn what it needs to buy that, so you have to go through the same disciplined approach towards personal finance to get there. Nothing comes quick and dont go after short cuts.

I love to remember the example of the Chinese Bamboo Tree whenever I am down and I feel that I am not making any progress.  Like any plant, growth of the Chinese Bamboo Tree requires nurturing – water, fertile soil and sunshine. In its first year, you will see nothing above the soil, no leaves no signs of growth, it just feels like the seed has gone bad. In the second year, again, no growth above the soil. The third, the fourth, still nothing. Your patience is tested and you begin to wonder if all the efforts (caring, watering, etc.) will ever be rewarded. And finally in the fifth year the miracle happens! You will experience growth. And when it starts to grow it grows so fast as if it is catching up on lost time. The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet in just six weeks!.

Another story I like to remember is that of Warren Buffet’s, he made more than  90% of his wealth after he turned 50, so the amazing growth that propelled him to where he is today came after 30 years of patient investment. so progress will come, the power compounding gets better with time,  so give it time and keep on with it.

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