Thursday, 15 March 2012

Quick Achievements to boost confidence

Sometimes our goal-setting muscles are so out of use we lose faith in our own ability to achieve them. If you've pursued a goal such as "learn to play the guitar", "get a science degree in maths" or "Learn to program a new (but very boring) computer language" you may find that two hours of slog a day for 6 months to a couple of years mad achieving the goal really tough.

Often we fall by the wayside when pursuing these types of goals when the effort of pursuing the goal becomes clear and the perceived reward of achieving the goal diminishes in the far distance. One thing I like to do to remind myself of the effectiveness of setting goals, is to look at a couple of things that I really don't want to do but should; things that are quick and easy like a phone-call to HMRC or a utilities company; and set a goal to do it on the same day. Then during the day, just do it. It's a nice easy way of flexing my goal-setting muscles and getting a quick win. A reminder that I can achieve things easily.

Some goals take a long time to achieve, like learning to play a new instrument. I find it is far more effective to look at these long term goals and break them down into sub-goals. Achieving sub-goals should be rewarded: we should celebrate out achievements to remind ourselves that we are on the right path and will, in time, achieve our main goal.

When you first start learning something new, you often don't know what you don't know, so setting sub-goals may be difficult when you set out to achieve something new. This should not be a deterrent: rather once you know more about the subject, you are better positioned to break down the main goal into smaller goals that you can achieve on a daily or weekly basis (depending on how often you need to celebrate :) )then go for those sub goals.

Be flexible: I have found that setting goals like "spend 2 hours learning to program the android, 2 hours playing my bass, 2 hours studying core java, 2 hours at gym and 2 hours learning WPF" leaves no time in my day for social life, emergencies, contingencies or children. Sometimes I need to make choices about which goals are more important (though this can change with time and circumstance) and focus on them. Learning to program the android is not a life-long endeavour and can be set as a goal, worked on and completed. During this time I'm spending less time playing my bass. Being an uber-bassist is a life-time goal so I can do less every day as long as I do some every day, and all is good.

When I've set goals that are demanding in time and require most of my day to be spent on doing something, I've failed miserably. Life just gets in the way. Try to avoid scheduling too much time in your week to a set of activities and be flexible in when you spend time doing things and what your goals are: i.e. Learn to play the bass part to Enter sandman rather than spend two hours practising every day. One of the major drawbacks to "spend this much time a day on something" type goals is that you never really celebrate them as they often do not engender a sense of achievement. While "learn to do this" or "finish that" type of goals can be celebrated as they come along with something having being done.

I guess the bottom-line of this post is: "Don't mistake time-management for goal setting." So get out there and set some achievement-style goals.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The value of goals

One of the luxuries I have at the moment is a lot of time to think about goals by virtue of being engaged in the development of my own goal management software. I've read many books, been to seminars and done several courses on goal setting, time management, personal power and so forth and what I've noticed is that most goal-setting courses focus on an aspect of goal management and have a system for setting and managing goals that is somewhat rigid.

That is, goals may be qualified in terms of how they relate to your vision, how one should focus ones time on the important rather than the trivial, how goals are related to who you want to be and so forth. As my life circumstances have changed from bad to good and back again, I've grown to believe that there are different reasons for setting goals at different times in our lives, and that the manner in which we approach goal-setting and management should be guided in a way that is sympathetic with where we are in our lives.

For example, when a person finds themselves at the peak of their career, all their personal goals achieved, but for some reason feels hollow, empty and wonders what it's all about; an approach that involves some analysis of what you want your life to mean, and what your vision for your life is would be appropriate.

When that same person is on the ropes, down and out and hanging to their sanity by a thread, an approach that allows them to foster some hope based on the goals that can be achieved would be appropriate. I'be been on the ropes before and goals gave me something to look forward to, to focus on and to drive me forward in such a way that I was able to get myself out of the problems that I was in. I've also been in a place where I had achieved many of my goals and was still not happy: the achievement of goals does not make you happy if you have the wrong goals. Setting goals can have great value to get our minds into a more positive frame of mind. When our needs are already met and we are moderately successful, goals should have meaning attached to them so that the achievement of the goals can be truly celebrated.

Books don't generally offer this type of flexibility of guidance: they tend to be algorithmic in their approach. Indeed, even most religions seem somewhat algorithmic: "keep this commandment and God will bless you with this blessing" as if God was some sort of genie who blesses on command. Perhaps books are not the best way to get the inspiration that you need depending on your circumstances. I hope to address this problem with my goal-setting software.