It was two years ago at a dinner where the gentleman sitting next to me, turned towards me and said, "Kym, did you know that only 4% of the world population sets goals?" I recall being shocked. Didn't everybody set goals?
Naively I took this behaviour for granted, and now see that goal setting is the exception rather than the rule. This is something that I would like to change.
As a person that has always set goals, it is with interest when I reflect on my goal-setting journey so-to-speak. When I first started setting goals, there wasn't structure or understanding why I was setting a goal. I just did what I believed most people did: sit and make a list of what I want to achieve for the year; which mostly coincided with the new year. All I knew, at the time, was that once I had written down the goals, come 12 months later most of them would have been achieved.
So are you a cardholding member of the population's 4% that set goals? If not, let's fix that!
You probably have dreams and ambitions that you want to materialise in this lifetime. Some of these ambitions, if you put thought and effort into them, are goals that you can turn into a reality. These goals, once achieved, can give you a sense of fulfilment and can result in greater things in your life. I'd love to share with you some of the tools, structures and frameworks that help me systemically achieve my goals at an accelerated rate.
Once I started applying these tools and frameworks, I started seeing a shift in myself. It's an incredibly powerful feeling knowing that I am the captain of my own ship and that I can steer the ship in any direction that I choose. And not only that, but I can also steer it with intention and I can get to my destination a lot faster.
Step 1: Have vision and clarity for what your ideal life will be like in 10 years
A dear friend of mine, Steve McLeod, Non-Executive Chairman and Owner of Fire & Safety Australia, author of Courage for Profit: Using Courageous Decisions to Drive Business Success and Director of Courage for Profit, was instrumental in teaching me that I need to ask the right questions, which are essential to goal-setting.
The first time I was asked what my 10-year-goals were, I was taken back. In fact, I started laughing and sheepishly muttered, "I don't know what I'm doing in 4 hours let alone 10 years." I recall thinking at that time, "10 years is an awfully long time away. A lot can happen in 10 years. How on earth do you plan for 10 years? 10 years ago I was watching Power Rangers."
But I kept an open mind and listened. Perhaps there was something more here that warranted further enquiry. This simple question sparked a process of osmosis for me, as I absorbed the behaviours and questions that were considered the norm with the people that surrounded me.
What I have learned is that when one has clarity and vision of what their 10-year-goals are, the person that they want to be and the life that they want to live, and if they break down that process into 5 years, 3 years and 1 year, the achievement of 10 years occurs in 5, the achievement of 5 years occurs in 3, the achievement of 3 years occurs in 1 and so forth. This accelerated rate of goal achievement is powerful. In other words, it becomes possible to systematically achieve goals at an incredibly accelerated rate. This concept completely blew my mind.
I applied it to myself and I found how effective the method is. That is why I am sharing this with you, so that you, too, can 10x your life.
- Pen and paper
- The right questions!
NB: I personally avoid using a computer during this step as I find that there is something more powerful when I use pen and paper.
Step 1: Find a quiet place outside your normal office and home environment. For me, this place is on a beach, by the ocean, or in a park or garden where the skies are expanse. This takes me out of my normal day-to-day, forces me to change my habitual thinking patterns, and allows my mind to be free and wander.
Step 2: Write at the top of the page - In 10 years, it will be 20xx and I will be x-years-old. What things that must have happened in my life for me to say that the past 10 years have been the best 10 years of my life?
NB: I find inserting a year and age a bit confronting as it highlights my own mortality. Time is shorter than we think.
NB 2: To find out if a certain goal is a correct goal, I use a litmus test: If I achieve this goal, will it make me want to jump up on a table and start dancing? This emotional barometer has proved helpful for me to ascertain whether or not a goal is important to me.
Questions to answer:
- What does my home look like?
- What are the sounds do I hear around me?
- What can I smell?
- Who are the people that surround me?
- How do I spend my time?
- What do my family and friends say about me when I am not in the room?
- What must I have achieved in 10 years, for me to jump up on the table and dance?
- If I have a business: What does the press say about me?
- If I have a business: What do the employees talk about when they're around the water cooler?
Once you have completed this exercise, read through your answers and pick out the patterns to discover what is most important to you. Then consider your current actions and see if they take you closer or further away from your 10-year vision.
Important: Put this away and revisit it again in 1 week or 1 month. Do your answers change? What things jump out at you?
Optional: After I completed this exercise, I sent my 10-year goals to an artist so that they could draw up my vision of where I want to be in 10 years. This artwork is now framed and mounted on my bedroom wall, and I see it every night before I go to bed and every morning when I wake up.
Important note 1: Use the 10-year vision as your internal compass.
Decision making in your day-to-day will reference this compass and help you say yes/no to opportunities.
Once I had clarity in what my 10-year-vision was, I found that it made my day-to-day decision-making very simple. As a person that loves saying yes to everything, I found that this tool helped me say no and understand why I was saying yes/no.
The simple question I ask whenever an opportunity arises is: Does this take me closer or further away from my 10-year-goals? If it takes me closer, then yes. If it takes me further away, then no.
Important note 2: Once you know what it is you want, your subconscious will start looking for those opportunities
I previously did not understand why once written, my goals would be achieved. In fact, I thought it was some mystical force at play, and often had difficulty explaining this phenomenon to others. Now, I believe it to be the power of the subconscious; that when we write down our goals by using pen and paper, we commit to the achievement of those goals, and then as we go about our day-to-day lives, our subconscious starts looking for those opportunities to achieve those goals. In other words, I find that the act of writing down goals frees up the subconscious to help us in achieving those goals.
Step 2: Make SMART goals
Smart goals are.
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Attainable
- R – Relevant
- T – Time-bound
Examples of non-SMART goals:
- I want to be fitter this year
- I want to lose weight
- I want to be better to my friends and my family
These are goals but they are not SMART goals. Think of your goals in terms of metrics. Making your goals as metrics-driven as possible makes it binary. And when it is binary, it is easy to track your progress and know if you have achieved or failed to achieve the goal. Rather than saying “I want to be fitter this year”, make it into “I will work out 3x each week”. Putting a number on it makes it very powerful and very specific, which I think is important in setting goals.
Using the SMART goals framework, reframing the above can turn into something like the goals below:
- I want to run 15KM without stopping by July 1 this year.
- I want to go from 95KG to 85KG by December 1 this year.
- I want to have at least one one-on-one conversation with a family member or friend every month.
Example 1: One of my goals is to be more engaged with life. But to make it a SMART goal, I reframed it as this: Every month, have one moment with a friend or family member that takes my breath away.
Example 2: For my business, one of my goals is to "grow my company by x". In order to do this, I need to remove myself operationally. To do this, I need to systematize the teams I oversee and as part of this, I need to either promote from within and appoint team managers and coach them so that they can manage the teams themselves and I don't need to be there anymore or hire someone external.
Step 3: Work backwards from 10 years, 5 years, 3 years, and 1 year to ensure a focused and aligned strategy
In the past, I fell into the trap of having lots of goals without a clear strategy as to why I did them. Read: I achieved a lot of things, but the dials that mattered didn't move or "busy without a significant outcome".
The learning from this is that every goal that you set must intentionally get you closer to where you want to be in 10 years. When you have that over-arching goal – your long-term goal – break it down into smaller goals that must contribute to that bigger picture. That's the key, that's how you put strategy behind goal-setting.
- Goal #1
- Goal #2
- Goal #3
- Goal #4
- Goal #5
- Goal #1: What must I achieve in 5 years, that will make my 10-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #2: What must I achieve in 5 years, that will make my 10-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #3: What must I achieve in 5 years, that will make my 10-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #4: What must I achieve in 5 years, that will make my 10-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #5: What must I achieve in 5 years, that will make my 10-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #1: What must I achieve in 3 years, that will make my 5-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #2: What must I achieve in 3 years, that will make my 5-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #3: What must I achieve in 3 years, that will make my 5-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #4: What must I achieve in 3 years, that will make my 5-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #5: What must I achieve in 3 years, that will make my 5-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #1: What must I achieve in 1 years, that will make my 3-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #2: What must I achieve in 1 years, that will make my 3-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #3: What must I achieve in 1 years, that will make my 3-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #4: What must I achieve in 1 years, that will make my 3-year-goal achievable?
- Goal #5: What must I achieve in 1 years, that will make my 3-year-goal achievable?
NB: This is where a spreadsheet helps. I have a spreadsheet that tracks my progress on each of the above, and I use a traffic light system (red not achieved, yellow in progress, green achieved). This spreadsheet is reviewed monthly.
Step 4: Against each of your goals, outline the next 3 actionable items that you can take, that will take you closer to achieving that goal
Outlining what you want is half the battle, but the next half is the execution or getting the ball rolling. What most people do is that they set where they want to be, but they are not good at setting the methodology how to get there.
To ensure that I get there, I like making things tactical, so I use the phrase "plan of attack". But let's make it easy-to-do, so we can similarly use the phrase "next actionable item". With my Team Managers, I ask, “What is your plan of attack to achieve that?”
I have a client and one of her goals is to move over to Los Angeles in California, USA to pursue her acting. She had this goal in mind but no clarity how to achieve this. What we did was, we put together a plan of attack through short-term goals. I asked her to:
- Talk to 3 of her friends who made the move, in order to understand the process and difficulties.
- Do some research, such as property or rental prices, so she can better prepare herself financially.
- Talk to her Australian representative to give her introductions to people there and set her for meetings that she can do once she gets there.
- Make a decision on the date to fly over there.
If you take a look at the examples above, notice how each action point will take her to her long-term goal. Apply this to your own goal-setting exercise. Once you have broken down your bigger goal into smaller and specific goals, it becomes palatable.
Step 5: Execute
Now that you have your next steps, all you need to do is execute.
I like to set monthly reviews to see how I am tracking. If I fall behind, I make sure the next month has added effort to catch up again. If I am on track, I ask myself how I can further accelerate for the coming month.
Important note 3: Avoid the common goal-setting pitfalls
Now that you know how to set your goals and you have the tools and pointers on how to do it effectively, take note of the common mistakes people make in goal-setting and get it right the first time.
Mistake 1: Vague goals Keep your goals SMART.
Mistake 2: Setting goals that are easy to achieve Only weak people give themselves targets they know they can achieve. It was Michelangelo that said, "What’s worse than having a big dream and not achieving it? There is nothing worse than having a small dream and achieving it."
We grow the most when we're uncomfortable. Rather than saying “I want to lose 5 kilos”, you could say “I want to lose 15 kilos”. You might think, “That goal of 15 kilos scares me. Is it impossible?” Whenever I get an emotional response like that when I list down my goals, it becomes my litmus test whether or not this goal pushes the boundary enough for me. Review your goals if they allow you to move out of your comfort zone. Refine them if you need to.
Mistake 3: Not consistently reviewing progress A lot of people set goals and put it away in the cupboard, and forget about it. The people I'm surrounded with, they print out their goals and they laminate it and they put it in their cars or in front of them every day. Some people incorporated their goals or part of their goals into their daily habits checklist. You can do that, too, with the checklist that we've covered in the previous blog post. Then put your goals where you are able to see them every day.
Sometimes, people tend to do the mañana habit – stalling goal-setting at a later date or doing their plan of attack beyond the time frame they have come up with. If this is something that you think is a challenge for you, like falling off the bandwagon, you can avoid this pitfall through these two methods:
Method 1: Include your goals in your weekly and daily checklist. Make sure that you put your short-term goals or your plan of attack in your Habits.
Method 2: Set a date with yourself every month to review your goals. Personally, I set half an hour every month just on reviewing my goals (I sit at my local cafe, have breakfast and tea, and review my goals). I do not set meetings or other appointments on this schedule so that I can dedicate it to my goal-setting review. Once you get the habit of doing this, you become disciplined at evaluating and measuring the progress of your goals.
(Optional) Step 6: The need for accountability in goal-setting
Listing down your goals and following all the above-mentioned exercises are futile if you do not hold yourself accountable to those goals. People may have different behaviours and approaches when it comes to accountability, and it is helpful that you are able to identify in which group you belong so that you know what works best for you.
There are two types of people when it comes to handling accountability. Each type can take diverse methods for them to ensure they hold themselves accountable and committed to their goals.
The first type is those who are structured and are really good at keeping themselves accountable. The Excel framework I outlined earlier will allow you to keep track of how you are progressing with your goals – is something that this type of goal-setters can use. I review my tool every month and they are colour-coded. Most of the things I put in my spreadsheet have been achieved and those that I don’t, I carry them over to the next month or mark them as no longer valid.
The second type is the people who aren't so good at keeping themselves accountable. They need a little bit of help and they can get this by having an accountability partner. If you fall into this category, have a few close friends know of your need, and then choose a partner you can pair up with to keep both of you accountable to your respective goals. Each month, walk through with your partner and check what is holding you back. Then, focus on the red flags, and verbalize and communicate what it is that's blocking you.
(Optional) Step 7: The power of sharing your goals with others
In the past, I have always been internal about setting goals. I write them on a paper with usually just myself knowing about it. At the end of the year, no one else knows or cares if I have achieved my goals. In 2016, I decided to do something different. I thought, “What if I share this with my family, with my best friend, with my business partners?”
I mustered the courage to do it and I had a few realisations after:
1. Verbalising my goals is different than writing my goals. Doing that, I made my goals become more real.
2. It allowed me to refine and reword my goals. Saying it seems to make sense out of my goals. It gave me the space to rephrase my goals in a way that made it easier for others to understand.
3. The most profound shift occurred when other people understood and then wanted to help me achieve my goals. People brought to the table things and resources that I did not previously consider.
Sharing my goals with my inner circle has a huge impact on my life. My support system helps me see opportunities that could accelerate achieve those goals faster.
Summary + now it’s your turn
- Know what the end goal is (10-year goals) before breaking it down into 10 - 5 - 3 - 1 years. Then create your next steps.
- Consistency is the key. Make a date with yourself, review your progress, and plot the necessary next steps. I do mine monthly.
- Don't underestimate the impact of communicating your goals with people closest to you.
Remember, 4% of the population sets goals. If you set goals, you'll be in the top 4%. But if you set SMART goals, you are in the top portion of that 4%. The ball is in your hands and you hold the key to how you can make your goals happen.
About the Author
This article originally appeared in Kym Huynh on 1 Mar 2018. Kym Huynh is an entrepreneur and a Founder of WeTeachMe; a marketplace for classes and workshops, and home to Australia’s best and most popular classes. In 2016, WeTeachMe officially became the biggest school in Australia, one giant leap towards its fundamental goal of becoming the biggest school in the world. Kym's life goal is to make a lasting and positive contribution to this world by always listening, always learning and helping people reach out and touch and inspire the lives of others from all corners of the globe.