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Goal Setting and Accountability: What's Your Everest?

Posted by Matthew Dunaway on 18/03/22 14:20
Matthew Dunaway
This post explores three top areas to help you with goal setting:
  1. Increasing commitment and motivation
  2. Frame of mind
  3. Accountability

How often do you stop to think about big-picture goal setting? Do you really know what your goals are? Why do you want to achieve them and what might they give you? 

What better time than now to stop and have a think about setting goals and the steps you can take to achieve them?

Practical Steps to Increase Commitment and Motivation
Once you have an idea of what your goals are, take a moment to write them down. A study found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you regularly write them down. In doing this, you’re holding yourself accountable and making a commitment to your future self. The moment your goals are on paper, they transform from an aspiration existing only in your mind into something physical and tangible that you can take steps towards.

A further commitment, which some people find engaging, is to tell someone about your goals.

People don’t want to be viewed as failing at something they have committed to achieve, so tend to be more likely to follow through on commitments that are public. Not only does it give you a sense of increased personal accountability, but it also helps the other people you tell to hold you accountable. If you know that the next time you see someone they're going to ask you how you're getting on with your goals you'll want to report back with good news.

Another common block for people achieving their goals is perceived attainability and how realistic your goal feels to you. A goal that feels too large can be an enormous barrier that prevents you from starting. Break it down into actionable sized steps, especially if it’s a large or long-term goal. Keep making it smaller and smaller and ask yourself, ‘If I did this now, how would I go about taking the first step?’ If you can’t walk away from your computer and immediately identify and take this first step, you need to break it down even more.

For instance –maybe you have always dreamed of climbing Everest, but there are hundreds of steps to take before you can even apply to do it. Maybe you are not in great physical shape right now? Great, an easy first step could be to sign up for a gym membership. OK - write the goal down, close your computer and phone the gym right now and tell your friends to join with you. Break up your goal so that there are attainable, short-term stepping stones along the way. For a lot of people the feeling you get when you achieve these small steps is very motivating. You gain momentum from each chunk you get through, propelling yourself towards your target.

Here's one last quick tip for getting going on a task you’re struggling to pick up. Research has shown that doing anything productive increases productivity and motivation in turn. If you are struggling to get going, start off with something simple and generally productive. It could be organising your desk, or doing the dishes. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it feels productive to you. Once you’ve got your bump in productivity transition to your desired activity. It may sound strange, but for many people it proves an effective way to get going.

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Photo by Ted Bryan on Unsplash

Frame of Mind
Framing is another angle that’s well worth talking about when it comes to goal setting. Over time, it is only natural that our goals will change course. Sometimes, when we don't reach a goal by the deadline we set for it, we can become demotivated or drop the goal entirely. In a practical sense, if you’re not meeting your goal within a predetermined timeline, you need to change it.

This could mean finding closer steps to reach for. Let’s take our Mount Everest example again: for someone who rarely exercises, climbing Mount Everest might feel like an abstract thought… almost unattainable. If a goal is too big it could stop you from attempting it at all. Yet if you choose to climb the tallest mountain in the UK instead you might think, ‘I can see how I would get there!’ Achieving goals has a lot to do with self-belief. If you don’t believe you can get there and can’t see how you would go about it, explore whether it can be broken down, or transform your goal into something else that you can really see yourself doing.

As you make progress towards something you’d like to achieve, notice that reaching your goal isn’t black and white. Success is a frame of mind. See every step that you take towards your goal as a win. Think again of the person who rarely exercises. They dreamed of conquering Mount Everest but haven’t done so. Yet they’ve progressed so much along the way that they’ve climbed the tallest mountain in the UK. They could tell themselves that they’ve failed and give up entirely. Or they could frame their progress as an incredible leap forward and significant achievement in itself.

Remember, too, that you aren’t going to be productive 24/7. Progress doesn’t always go in a straight line. Life gets in the way, and most things are a process that require constant course readjustment; a shifting of goals. This could be frustrating, but it could also be very motivating if you frame your mentality around each small step being worthy of celebration. It could also be worth asking yourself why you have set that timeline, is it really an indication of failure if you don't meet it?

Accountability
A lot of people don’t think about how to hold themselves accountable. If you have an awareness that you aren't great at this, take action. Find someone to help you with it. Perhaps a friend, or a coach. Think about your goals as something that has to be done; it’s a point in the future that’s coming, so you need to make that first move. If you find accountability very hard, do what you need to to get things rolling and build some momentum.

Accountability, just like motivation, is going to be very different for different people. Some people might need to tell someone about a goal to get going, whereas for others, writing things down might be enough. Ultimately, exploring what works for you personally will be key to success.

Goal setting acts as a guide towards a future we'd like to reach. Towards gaining new skills, having new experiences, growing more into the person that we would like to be. If we can openly and honestly explore our relationship with motivation, frame of mind and accountability, we can pave an easier path for ourselves as we go.

Topics: Personal Development, Success, Personal Growth, Self Improvement, Motivation, Growth, Leadership Development, Development, Goals, Resolutions, Accountability

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