Achieving your lifelong goals

How many times have you verbalized a cherished goal, even written it down, only to find that a year later, you’re no closer to attaining it? You are not alone. Many people lose steam or get discouraged when trying to achieve a goal, but a little careful planning and consistent action can make your dream come true.

“A goal is an organizing guidepost for how you ought to be spending your energy,” says Val Williams, an executive coach and co-author of Executive Think Time (Shadowbrook Publishing; $14.95). “Sometimes achieving a goal is not about being smart, it’s about focus.” In her eight years as a career coach, Williams has held more than 4,000 coaching sessions and says that clients who set concrete goals and stay true to their passions usually do achieve them. “Things happen in life when you put your attention on them and if you’re not clear about what you’re focused on, nothing will happen.”

Goals that are achievable must follow the SMART model — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, according to Olivet Jones, managing director of consulting firm The Felicity Group Ltd. in Chicago. For example, to say that you want to be rich is vague. An effective goal-setting sentence would be “I would like to accumulate $5 million by Dec. 31, 2010.”

“If you’re not willing to act on your goal then it’s a fantasy,” says Jones. Write down your goal and tape it someplace where you’re sure to see it. Break down the goal into tiny tasks if necessary. “Review, revisit, and refine your goals every month,” she says. Doing so will help to build confidence. So if your goal is to enter a new career, perhaps your first mini goal should be to seek guidance from a colleague, sign up for a career management course, or start reading a book about the topic.

After you’ve written down your goal and resolved to take small steps each day toward it, do not be discouraged if you run into roadblocks. If you hit a roadblock in pursuit of your professional goal, seek out people in your field and ask them how they would deal with the challenge.

“It is completely possible to be very successful doing exactly what you want to do,” says Williams. That means blocking out those who don’t believe in or understand your passion — that includes silencing the naysayer within yourself. “Sometimes we have an invisible negative judgment about the goals,” says Williams. “If we pursue that goal then there’s gonna be a price to pay.” Blocking out those falsehoods will help you stay on track. Read The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy (Bantam; $7.99) and What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press; $17.95).

Questions for Goal Setters
To clearly identify your goals,ask yourself the following:

  • What do I care about?
  • What does winning look like?
  • What usually stops me?
  • Who