"When you open your mind to the impossible you uncover the truth"
Much has been written about setting and achieving goals. It’s possibly the most written about topic in the whole area of personal development. While there are many different takes on how to set powerful goals, most are still built on the premise of the S.M.A.R.T process. Nothing wrong with that, we advocate that ourselves. A quick overview for those who aren’t aware. When setting a goal five parameters must be defined. These being that a powerful goal should be:
Specific - the more specific and clearly you can define a goal the better.
Measurable - a goal can’t be soft and squishing, touchy feely. It must be quantifiable. As in “make $x, or lose xkg weight.
Achievable - Can you do it?
Relevant - Does it fit with your overall life plan and who you are as a person. Meaning, does the idea of achieving it juice you up and get you excited?
Time bounded - There must be time limit. “Achieve by xxxx”. It’s ok to not achieve a goal in a specific time. We call that learning. After all who can say exactly how long it takes to lose 10kg for example. But if there’s no time pressure there’s less power to make you stick to a plan.
While all five are important parameters for a powerful goal there is one that is a little more left to our own personal judgement, personality, moods and beliefs. It’s also the one we are most likely to under do and sell ourselves short. That is the ACHIEVABLE parameter.
When it comes to what is “achievable” we tend to put ideas into one of two boxes. Either possible or impossible. At first thought we can either imagine ourselves achieving something or not. Sure, in goal setting there is no room for grey areas of “maybe”. If you want to achieve something, and it’s within the realm of possibility, you do. It’s only the time you may get wrong. However we tend to default to the “impossible” box. Especially the older we get.
Be honest. Think of the last time you had a dream, a goal, or a desire as an adult. Do you remember that feeling of elation, positivity and enthusiasm when it first came to mind as something you’d like to achieve? I’m hoping you didn’t give up on yourself so long ago you now don’t remember. Now, be honest again, do you also remember that deflating feeling as reasons and excuses for why you couldn’t achieve what you wanted to came to mind? That’s the emotional circuitry of our brain kicking in to protect us. That’s what it does, protects us. However as well as protecting us from physical threats it also protects us from emotional threats. It’s not smart enough to know the difference. It wants to protect us from the feeling of failure, disappointment and risk. It also wants to protect our ego. You would be surprised what people will do to protect their ego without even thinking about it.
Having said that, can you start and see why we have a natural tendency to judge a goal’s achievability lower than it realistically is! In a way, we should get a little in touch with our inner child when we consider goals. Remember as a kid when anything was possible? We didn’t think of reasons why we couldn’t do something, we just dreamed. While we can’t be all “child” we need to channel a little of it to allow us to open our minds up to possibilities. There’s time later on where we can add the wisdom and knowledge of maturity but balance is good. Too much “maturity” and we limit our imagination to what’s possible.
So, how do we more accurately assess if a goal is “achievable”. We start when people are actually setting goals. Most people tend to sit down and write goals. I can hear you saying “yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do”. Sure, but what I mean is that people sit down and do it in one sitting, not having given themselves time to think about and ponder the achievability of a goal. For this reason we will always assume a lower level of achievability for a given goal than may be real.
Judging the degree of achievability of a goal takes time and some work on its own. Of course there are some fixed parameters of possibility. For example, it may be a little late for me to be thinking becoming an astronaut is achievable for me. Another personal example. When I was young, and to be honest to this day, I wanted to be a police officer. Life took twists and turns, I made certain choices at certain times in my life, and it never happened. There’s a story there all on its own. To this day I’d love to do it. I feel called to it. However I have to face reality that at my age the achievability factor is low. While I still feel physically able and don’t see that as an obstacle, the process of becoming a police officer precludes me from doing it.
So some parameters are dictated by physical, intellectual, educational, and systemic factors. But if we sit down to work out goals of the top of our head how many times do we logically work through the challenges in our head and work out possible solutions? We don’t. We go on what we think and feel from what we know at that moment, that few seconds in time. Mostly by what we feel.
Therefore, the way to work out the achievability of a goal is to actually do some rudimentary setting of goals. Like just starting float some ideas with yourself. Give yourself permission to ponder and contemplate goals that you may have only thought of as dreams. Live with them for a period of time rolling around inside your head. I don’t mean have them rolling around in your head in a year’s time, but let’s say a week. Write them down, live with them, think about them make notes about them research what’s required. Even start and outline a plan of how and what it would take to achieve them. Once you have done this, the next time you sit down to firm up your goals and commit to them you are in much more powerful and informed position to make intelligent decisions based on facts rather than feelings.
Let’s face it. If you are going to make the effort to set goals and work to achieving them you may as well stretch yourself to your limits rather than achieve lesser goals which were set with a degree of ignorance. A goal that it twice as big doesn’t take twice the effort. Especially if that’s the goal you really wanted in the first place and that’s the one that really excites you.
How many times have you heard people say “you need to be pragmatic” or “can you be realistic”? They usually mean it in a negative context of pulling back and trying to convince you your goals are out of reach. Either because they don’t want to see you achieve more than they believe they can or to protect you from failure. In this case however we need to apply some positive pragmatism.
Get your ideas, goals, dreams and desires down on paper. As a sidebar, I find paper the best medium for mulling over ideas. Easier to cross off, add to, make connections, rearrange, and refer backwards and forwards. Live with them and get factual about what a possible plan to achieve a goal would look like. The thing that defines if a particular goal is achievable or not is not the goal in itself. Is the plan for achieving the goal possible and achievable, taking into account challenges, obstacles, requirements and solutions. Quit often the achievement of a large goal may include sub goals within its process.
Approaching a possible goal in this way will provide you with a much clearer idea as to what is possible and what isn’t for you. Once you start to realistically explore the boundaries of what is truly possible or impossible for you the truth of what you can achieve will reveal itself.
CEO Third Age Man