This might be the most important series of blog posts I ever write. I’m going to go through, in detail: What goals are; why they’re so effective; how to set them; and how to work through them.
I realised a little while ago that almost every post I want to write in the future in some way references or relates back to goals. I felt it was vital to get this series out so that it’s there as a foundation for everything else I want to say.
Setting Goals – Possibly the most important thing in the world
If you are the kind of person who wants to achieve something then it’s important to have goals, set them carefully and manage them closely. In fact it’s more than important. It’s critical, fundamental, essential, crucial, imperative.
Am overselling this? I don’t think so. If you want something, you have two options:
- You can idly wait and hope that you get it through some happy confluence of events.
- You can go out and actively try to get it.
The first of these is just hoping or wishing something will happen. It might happen. But it probably won’t. You have no control.
The second is making it a goal and setting out to achieve it. Hopefully it’s obvious that if you pursue the second path you are much more likely to get what you want.
Goals aren’t for everyone
Straight up, I’m going to tell you something that a lot of the literature on goals doesn’t. Goals aren’t for everyone. They are not a universal panacea (despite what I seem to be saying). They require discipline, organisation, effort, willpower and sacrifice.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to go with the flow, take each day as it comes, chill out, hang around and generally lead a laid back kind of existence then they’re probably not the right thing for you. You’re unlikely to follow them through even if you try. That’s not to say you can’t achieve anything, just that you’ll do it in a different way than I’m going to talk about here.
You have to decide whether goals are right for you. If you like lists and planning and organisation then goals are probably going to give you the best chance of getting what you want. If not then you might want to try a different route, or perhaps adapt the advice I give here to better suit the way you work.
Goals can change
A lot of people feel that if they set a goal then suddenly there’s this looming possibility of ‘failure’. No one wants to fail, so better not to set goals in the first place. (This reminds me of Homer Simpson saying “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”)
That’s the wrong mindset. Goals are there to focus your effort and attention. However, if you find a goal isn’t working for you for whatever reason, then you can change it. Maybe it was harder than you thought. Maybe it’s just not physically possible. Maybe circumstances changed and you got other priorities. That’s fine. Make some new goals. You haven’t failed; you’ve just adjusted to the new circumstances that have come along.
I’m not saying you should change your life’s ambition every week. But if something else comes up that is more important to you then it’s OK to switch your focus to that. In fact it’s good to switch your focus to that. It’s better than persevering with something that doesn’t mean as much to you anymore.
And here’s the best thing – You will have learnt from that old goal. You will have worked harder and achieved more than if you hadn’t had it, even if it’s not your goal any more. Who knows, skills and knowledge you picked up pursuing that old goal might help you out in the new one.
Through my life, at various times, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer, psychiatrist, software engineer, video editor, TV producer, and CEO. Now, making music is more important to me than any of those. I don’t feel I’ve failed at any of them, music just became more important. And there are plenty of things I’ve learnt along the way that are helping with my goals now.
So let’s eliminate the idea of ‘failure’ from this discussion. Goals are tools that help you achieve more in life. Unlike in sport, they are not a way you keep score. If a goal stops being relevant to you, abandon it or change it. Don’t judge yourself for doing so.
Confession Time – My Goal
To give you a concrete example for the coming posts, I’ll share my goal with you. I want to play guitar in the Strictly Come Dancing band. That’s my aim. Stop laughing.
I realise it’s perhaps a slightly strange ambition for a gothic-rock guitarist, but that’s what it is. Every time I watch Strictly I think how much I’d love to play in that band. To turn out such high quality music in so many different styles, live, to 10 million people, week after week. If I could do that I’d feel I’d made it as a top session guitarist.
If you’re wondering why I only have one goal, tune in for the coming instalments. One goal becomes many when you delve in to it, and you can’t devote yourself to too many things or you won’t do any of them well.
Next time – defining precisely what I mean by goals.