Our brains are hard-wired to focus on getting what we want and doing whatever it takes to make it happen. Yet many times we find ourselves at an impasse. We have great goals, but we don’t know how to move forward. We need a plan and accountability to help us get there.
The key is to create a detailed action plan to ensure you know how to move forward and stay focused. We never have a shortage of ideas but ideas are cheap and execution yields result. The key is to write it down.
I recommend to start with a 90-day plan as it is more controllable in terms of time, resources and energy.
- Start by picking one goal which is the most important to you. It’s extremely hard to narrow down from the 3 goals you identified in step 1 but you must win that battle. Pick one goal that is going to make a difference for your business or company.
- Write down all the tasks you need to do to accomplish your goal: research, establish, determine, start, evaluate, contact, try, identify, define, clarify, and decide. Lastly, add “get help” to this list. The task “Get help” is very useful in this stage to combat any fear that may arise during this step. Fear is a very powerful deterrent but you can squash it with “but I will get help”.
- Add 3 milestones for what needs to get done by when. I would recommend 1 for the next 30 days, 1 for the next 60 days and 1 for 90 days. These are reasonable chunks of time that are not too short to make you feel overwhelmed and not too long to make you relaxed and forget to do it.
- Lastly, and most importantly, think about how you will reward yourself and/or your team when you achieve your goal. This is a huge motivator as the reward module of your brain kicks in and everything all of a sudden looks doable.
Step three: Establish a Support System
Once you have written your plan, it’s time to move to the hardest part – execution.
It’s easy to get derailed. To increase your chances of success, you must prepare by establishing a strong support system. Unless you do things like: reinforce positive behaviors, hold yourself accountable and motivate yourself with rewards, your goals might end up where they started — just words on paper.
It’s important to note the difference between “Goal Setting” and “Goal Striving”. Once your goal is set, now you must strive to accomplish it. Goal-striving is also a boost to your well-being. When you work toward a goal, you feel good about yourself, reinforcing an enduring sense of self such as: “I’m resilient.” “I’m determined.” “I’m an achiever.”
If you’re ready to amp up your goal-striving, here are a few things to try:
- Make your goal “sticky”
- Come up with a short and catchy name for your goal to help you remember it.
- Find an assistant to help yourself accountable
- Reward yourself
“Think of ways to pat yourself on the back when you reach important milestones toward your goal. When we reward ourselves, we flood our brain with positive hormones such as dopamine. This encourages us to repeat the behavior that resulted in the reward, which in turn creates new wiring in our brains and helps embed new habits into our regular routine.
Habits can become automatic when we repeat the behavior/reward cycle enough times, which is the key to making new behaviors sustainable over time.”
Prepare for a stumble
No matter how hard we try, we’re bound to stumble every now and then. Anticipate when you might be tempted to stray from your goal and plan what you will do to prevent that.
Develop a simple if-then statement. For example, “If I am tempted to become angry in certain situations, I will take a deep breath and remind myself that I make better decisions and am a more effective leader when I keep my cool under pressure.”
Accomplishing goals – for ourselves and with others – is one of the most satisfying aspects of leadership. As you practice these three steps to increase your chances of goal-setting and goal-striving success – setting “brain-friendly” goals, creating a 90-day action plan, and establishing a support system – remember to enjoy the journey, as well.
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