Remember back in January when you had that new year motivation and fresh start attitude? You had all of this pent up passion for making something change this year. You had the idea that something was going to be different this year from your previous rut.
Once you identified the “what” you wanted to change, your next step was to set some goals for yourself. For most of us, we set goals for working in the office, traveling, or God forbid, maybe even working out at the gym. Do you even remember your goals from the beginning of the year? Do you remember where you posted them? Are they still posted in legible form or has the Post-It Note you wrote them on started to curl around the edges with its spotlight position on the refrigerator now covered by last month's grocery list? Have you made any progress on the goals you set?
You might even have named your goal: BHOG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), Key Results Area, Performance Management Objective, Personal Development Plan, or some other colloquial term that you or your organization or discipline uses.
It is now July, and it is time to go back and check in on what was important to you at the beginning of the year. Ask yourself, "Have I accomplished my goals or did I get off track?
It can be quite common for people to not to want to review the goals the set earlier in the year, especially if they know they have not made the progress they hoped. The feeling of discouragement can become overwhelming when we see a lack of progress and know we aren't where we had hoped to be by now when the goal was originally set.
Stay In the Game
Discouragement can be devastating when it comes to goals. In my experience, it can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Look, the goal had meaning and significance to you 6 months ago, so it's time to start asking yourself some questions as to why you are not making progress. You HAVE NOT failed! You have likely learned a lot in 6 months about the goal and your progress if you just stop and think about it.
An analogy came to me the other day as I was teaching a class of doctoral students at Indiana Wesleyan University that may have some application.
In January, you set your goal. Let's say you wanted to exercise three days a week for an hour. Think of this goal as getting on an airplane. You are all buckled in your seat and ready for take-off. You know the goal. It is written down and it actually feels comfortable.
The plane starts down the runway, shakes, and surges as it gains speed. All of a sudden, it is February. You likely have taken a couple of steps toward goal attainment. You are gaining speed and you can feel the inertia of the plane starting to lift off. In regard to your goal, maybe you called around to see what gym would best fit your needs. You went out and bought new exercise clothes and maybe some shoes. The feeling and speed of the change feels good.
Then comes March. The plane reaches 30,000 feet, the seat belt sign comes off, the plane levels out. And the exercise doldrums set in. You no longer feel the rush of take-off. You no longer can sense the speed of the plane. This is when goal attainment becomes difficult. When it feels like you are not making any progress at all.
The Feeling Is Not Real
The interesting thing to me is the lie our emotions give us in this context. While the positive “dopamine” feeling of starting may be gone, the important thing to realize is that the plane is still going 450 miles an hour even when you can’t feel it. You are still moving. You are still experiencing progress. Even though Q2 is gone and we have said goodbye to April, May, and June, YOU are still flying. Realize your plane is in the air. You have not crashed. YOU HAVE NOT FAILED!
Instead of assuming that you're way off track and that you've already failed, step back and look at your goal objectively. Think about when you set the goal, were they SMART goals? Most likely you've heard this acronym, and even used them when setting goals, but it is helpful to use to check up on your goals or even get back on track.
- Was it Specific? When getting specific with your goal, don't just consider what your goal is, but why and how you want to achieve it. Perhaps you want to work on developing young leaders. Your why might be because your want to prepare them for more responsibility in the future and your how will be through professional development workshops or one-on-one mentoring sessions.
- Was it Measurable? Are you able to see where you are right now and where you'll end up? If you are not able to track the progress of obtaining the goal along the way, you'll have a hard time seeing if you succeeded in the end or stay motivated along the way.
- Was it Achievable and Realistic? I feel the A and R in our acronym go hand in hand in some ways. When you figure out your goal, how to do it, and when to accomplish it by, you have to think about the parameters and circumstances that you are working in that will make it possible. This isn't to discourage you from setting the goal, but rather encourage you to think about how you will make sure you complete the goal, and ensure that it's not completely out of reach or asking too much from your team. At this point, something may have come up in the last 6 months that have changed your circumstance and deterred your goal. That's okay. Life happens. Instead of seeing it as a failure or no longer attainable, just think about what changes need to be made to your goal, the plan, or the timeline. Don't be tempted to start from scratch, instead, make less work for yourself by simply re-evaluating and tweaking what's already in progress and steer it back on track.
- Was it Time-bound? Some of you may have set goals that you've already completed, others might feel the pressure of the time ticking away. Use the time as positive pressure to get the work done, not to stress you out. If you feel constrained, give yourself a break and allow yourself more time. If it's a project with a deadline, reach out to your team or manager and see how you can work together to get it completed. Also, consider how you are using your time and what could be distracting you from focusing on your goal. What limits do you need to implement personally to give yourself time and focus to achieve this goal?
Most importantly, remember the why behind your goal and the reasons that motivated you to set the goal in the first place. Visualize what it will look like for you and your team when that goal is accomplished. Write this down and keep it somewhere you'll see it and can read it often. (Perhaps avoid the refrigerator this time!)
Keep yourself in the air and land that goal safely on the ground.
Take a look at the goal you set at the beginning of the year. Grab a coach, mentor, or trusted advisor and share with them your SMART goal. Listen to any advice they have for you. Be encouraged by the progress you have made (even if it feels like you are flying in circles). Decide with your support system what steps you need to take to land your plane safely. Set up another meeting with them in September for a progress check and December for a celebration of your achievement.