Posts Tagged ‘goal setting’

Stuck in a rut? Lifestyle changes #3: Where are you going?

July 31, 2014

Goal setting

So far in this mini series I’ve invited you to consider ‘Where are you now?’ and ‘Why are you here?’

This final part asks the apparently simple question ‘where are you going’. I say ‘apparently’ simple, because often the question, if given careful thought, is anything but.

Here are three things to think about…REALLY think about, regarding your life’s direction.


Are you REALLY going where you think you’re going?

My UK readers will remember the character of Del Trotter from the sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’. One of his catchphrases was ‘this time next year….we’ll be millionaires!’ usually preceding some hair brained, barely legal money making scheme which would always end in disaster.

It’s easy enough to talk yourself up and tell yourself that you’re destined for great things. Whilst maintaining a positive attitude IS important, there’s no point deluding yourself: talk is cheap – it’s your ACTIONS that will define where you go.

More than that – it’s your actions, based on decisions you’ve made, that have got you to where you are now.

So here’s the question. What trajectory are you on at the moment? Is it the one you want to be on? …and what are you actually DOING to get yourself there?

On the premise that you’re reading this because you’ve not yet arrived where you want to be in life, it’s important to consider the fact that continuing to do the same things as you’ve always done will bring about the same results that you’ve always got.

That’s fine if you’re happy with it. If not – something will have to change.

It could be you.


So, where do you WANT to go?

I’ve coached people who have forged on in their careers, have made a lot of money and have ‘arrived’ in the eyes of the world…but who realise in themselves that this was not the destination that they had wanted to get to. Please don’t find yourself in that boat. Invest the time in really considering where you want to go.

Some people are clear from pretty early on in their lives where they want to go and what they want to do – if this is you – that’s great.

If it’s NOT you, and you’re still a bit clueless about your life goals, my e-book Goal Setting For Success (free to download from will help. Here’s the link:

It’s obvious really: no-one goes to the station with twenty pounds and asks the man in the ticket office for a ticket for twenty pounds. They specify a destination.

And so must you.


And the next step is….

It’s only when you’ve figured out where you want to go that you can start to devise some sort of life plan to get there. I don’t mean some sort of regimented, mirthless plan that is devoid of spontaneity or flexibility, but the sort of plan that breaks big life goals into day to day tasks, and working consistently through these tasks will move you forward towards your goals.

But don’t leap to the ‘how’ too quickly. Establish your direction. Fix your destination first before setting off. Make sure you are actually heading to where you want to go.


For more on  goal setting, my e-book Goal Setting for Success is free to download here:


Stuck in a rut? Lifestyle changes #2: Why are you here?

July 16, 2014

choose your path

A few weeks ago I began this ‘In a rut’ mini series with a few questions around where you are now: that is, where are you actually, as opposed where do you like to tell people you are (or even pretend to yourself that you are).

In this second part of my blog mini series, I’m looking at three factors which play a part in WHY you are here.


1) You’ve made (or not made) decisions that have got you here

A while ago I read a book by Larry Winget called ‘Shut up, Stop Whining and Get a Life’ – if that’s not a challenging title, I don’t know what is. One of the key themes that Winget writes about is the fact that we are where we are because of things that we’ve done and decisions that we’ve made.

This might make uncomfortable reading. I read Winget’s book at a difficult point in my life and believe me, I didn’t want to take any accountability for where I was at that point: I wanted to blame anyone and everyone for putting me there.

Before I go on, let me say that I’m NOT saying (and nor is Winget) that anyone is responsible for being the victim of crime or abuse. Clearly that is NOT the case.

What I WOULD say, though, is that we have a choice as to how we respond to our circumstances in order to create better circumstances (or not, as the case may be).

Maya Angelou, the poet, philosopher, activist and generally remarkable human being who died earlier this year overcame the abuse and racism of her difficult childhood to become one of the most influential and respected women of our time.

Model Katie Piper, whose ex-boyfriend disfigured her for life in an acid attack, overcame the physical pain and emotional trauma of what had happened to her and is now a TV personality and a spokesperson for burns victims.

I could go on. The point is that both of them could have given in to misfortune, accepted that their lot in life was not a happy one, and settled into a rut of blaming others for their situation.

Others may have been responsible for these women’s situations…but they took accountability for their lives and chose to move on.

So. What decisions have you made – or shied away from – that have led to you being where you are?

What would you do differently if you could turn the clock back…and what can you do NOW?


2) You get something from being where you are

Dr Phil McGraw writes extensively on strategies for life. I was reading one of his books recently and was challenged by the idea that, if you’re not changing a situation that you’re unhappy with, there must be something about that situation that you ARE happy with, and that does something for you in some way.

Like the statement in my first point, this can be hugely challenging, and, if you’re in that situation it can be difficult to figure out what ‘the thing’ is.

By way of example, I used to work with someone who was always complaining that a pet project of his never got the support of the organisation we were working for, never received funding and therefore had never got off the ground.

He was taken aback when one of my team managed to get him the funding he needed, to the extent that he almost tried to talk himself out of the project: it was too late, there still wasn’t enough funding, and so on.

The point was, he seemed to ENJOY being able to moan about not having the funding. It’d be a fantastic project…but THEY wouldn’t let it happen. He could have achieved something…but THEY wouldn’t let him.

With the funding in place, he had lost the ‘they’ he liked to blame.

On a another note, I had a friend who often found herself being asked at work to deliver high profile projects to very tight deadlines. She was great at her job and always delivered.

However, what started to happen more and more often was that other people who hadn’t managed their time properly would turn to her for help at the last minute.

She was becoming stressed and exhausted to the point of making herself ill. And yet…..part of her really liked to be the caped crusader who could fly in at the last minute and save the day.

Think carefully: if you’re not happy about a situation but haven’t don’t anything about it, what is that situation doing for you? 

Are you prepared to lose that ‘thing’ in order to create a better situation?


3) You don’t realise you have a choice

This is always a tough one – so many people don’t realise that they have a choice.

OK, so sometimes in life that choice is between a rock and a hard place, but there almost always is a choice, even if that choice is just about deciding on your attitude in response to a situation that’s not of your making.

‘I’ve got no choice’. It’s the voice of defeat. Of dejection. Of giving up.

We’ve all been there and heard that voice from ourselves at some point…but it’s a voice that lies. We have choices. If we’re brave enough to make them.

Where in the past (or even now) are you telling yourself that ‘you have no choice?’

Look again. They are there somewhere. Ask yourself: if you did have choices … what choices would those be?


Next time I’ll be looking at ‘what’s your destination’…. join me then!!

Ideas + guts + action = success

September 3, 2012

Last week I attended a networking event, held at the Anta showroom on George Street in Edinburgh.

For those not in the know, Anta sells the most beautifully designed, covetable things handcrafted in the Highlands of Scotland (have a look for yourself at and you’ll see what I mean. And order their catalogue – it’s got some fabulous recipes in it!)

One of the most inspiring things about the entire evening was the story of how Anta came about, as told by its founder, Annie Stewart.

Here are three key things that I took from her story:



Whilst many people start out with a clear vision of what they want to achieve, this isn’t always the case.

Far from having a lightbulb ‘eureka moment’ that was to shape the rest of her life, Annie speaks of leaving Edinburgh Art School with a degree in Fine Art, and having an ‘”oh sh*t” moment, when it dawned on her that she’d have to do something to make a living.

Capitalising on knowledge that she’d developed from her course, she approached a weaver of Scottish tartan and asked him if he’d weave a small bolt of cloth in a traditional pattern, but using pink and lime green wool.

Whilst the weaver wasn’t entirely delighted with what he’d produced, Annie set about making ties and other accessories with the resulting cloth.

Sometimes necessity really IS the mother of invention: sometimes you have to be in an uncomfortable place in order to feel the need to do something different.

The challenge is, what knowledge do YOU have (even if other people also have that knowledge) that could, with a twist here and there, be turned into something new and unique? And are you, in fact, too comfortable with the status quo to really bother doing anything with those ideas?



With a small range of accessories made of her lime-green-and-pink tartan tucked into a suitcase, Annie set off to visit a friend in New York.

While she was there, she telephoned round a few designers and department stores: note, we’re not just talking one or two small boutiques here, we’re talking Jasper Conran, Bergdorf Goodman – the highest end of the fashion market.

In short, she managed to blag her way in to see some of the biggest names in fashion at the time, and to begin to sell her accessories in prestigious locations.

Often, success requires us to be brave and step out and do something, even though we might be taking a personal or emotional risk. Success takes guts. It means taking a risk that someone will laugh at you, shut the door in your face, or just say “No”.

On the other hand … they just might say “Yes”.

So here’s the question: what are you afraid of? Is it just time to feel the fear and do it anyway?



Success in the States and recognition from major-league fashion houses brought its own challenges in the early days: the almost accidental design of tartan ceramics led to a commission from Vogue for corporate gifts for its advertisers, which in turn led to one of those advertisers placing an order for a large number of ceramics which they wanted delivered in a very short space of time.

Annie and her team of designers and craftsmen back in the Highlands of Scotland took the commission and, despite time pressures, delivered.

And here’s another lesson that often gets missed: once you’ve set yourself up as something, you have to follow through on it. This is about more than delivering on your promises – it’s about psychologically stepping up to the plate and becoming the person you aspire to be. It’s about not being afraid of success.

It would have been easier to take a step back and say “sorry – we can’t fulfil that size of order in the time” and take a step back. But that’s not the choice that Annie made.

And the challenge for the rest of us? To be brutally honest, most of the time, it’s just ‘easier not to’. But success requires you to get off your butt, rise to the challenge and DO something when most people don’t.


Now, some 25 years on, Anta is a thriving business providing a valuable outlet for the handiwork of dozens of skilled designers, craftsmen and women.

Who knows: but for an idea, some guts and some serious action, it might never have happened.

Goal Setting and Mountain Climbing – 5 key lessons

May 7, 2012

Sometimes, achieving your goals can seem like climbing a mountain. Well, funnily enough … it is!

I’m fortunate to have some wonderful friends – a few days ago we decided to climb Goat Fell, the mountain on the Isle of Arran just off the west coast of Scotland … and we all took our sons with us.

Climbing a mountain really does hold several great lessons for goal setting and success. Here are five of them:

1. From a distance …

From the mainland, our goal (the highest point on the island) looks very distant indeed.

It’s actually difficult to get a true sense of it from across the water: sometimes it’s too misty to actually SEE the mountain from the mainland. Sometimes the top is shrouded in cloud whilst the rest of the island is visible.

Perhaps more to the point is that I see this view – weather permitting – almost every day. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said to myself, “I really must climb that thing …”

And isn’t that the thing with life goals sometimes? The bigger they are, the more distant they seem, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of saying, “Ah yes! One day …” rather than actually making plans to get there.

2. As you get closer …

As the ferry gets closer to Arran, Goat Fell starts to look alarmingly large and steep, especially to a novice hill walker like me. The dreamy image of an island across the water in the sunset gives way to a towering hill of rocks … and a challenging summit with a rocky outcrop.

When you focus on your goals and move them from the status of a wish or a pipe-dream to something you actually intend to do something about, the enormity of the task can seem daunting … to the point of actually putting you off.

It’s important at this stage, though, to look at the challenge in front of you, and make a decision to go for it.

Once you’ve determined to set out, the route to the top turns out to be pretty straightforward: you prepare and plan as much as you can for your journey … and then you put one foot in front of the other and keep going until you get there.

3. As you journey up the hill towards your goal …

It does get tiring climbing up the hill. Your focus is often on where you’re putting your feet, so that you can avoid stumbling on a loose rock or slipping on the scree. However, you’d be missing the point if you didn’t stop from time to time to look up and make sure you’re still on the right path to the top … and to look back and admire the view.

In terms of goal achievement, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, one-step-at-a-time tasks that are taking you to the top. These are, of course, extremely important.

It’s also vital, though, to pause from time to time and check that you’re still on the right path, and if not make adjustments and realign your direction … and to look back see how far you’ve come.

Getting to the top is important … but so is enjoying the journey.

4. The path becomes apparent

From the bottom of Goat Fell, it’s not easy to see exactly how you‘ll get to the top: the last stretch of the climb looks like a challenging heap of large rocks with no immediately obvious path.

As you get closer to those rocks at the top, though, a path becomes obvious. Bizarrely, the rocks have formed a sort of natural stairway to the top of the mountain.

Sometimes when you set off towards your goal, the path to the top ISN’T obvious. Sometimes that can put people off. But as you carry on purposefully towards your goal, a path will open up in front of you (I’m not being trite here … it really does!)

5. At the top … the next peak is on the horizon

Yards from the top, walkers on their way back down encouraged us to keep going, that it would only take another 10 minutes or so, and that the view from the top was spectacular.

They were right – on a clear day, the view from the top of Goat Fell is stunning, and absolutely worth the effort of climbing to the top.

Celebrate your successes and your goals as you achieve them.

And in exactly the same way that, once you get to the top of one mountain, you can see the peak of the next one, your next goal will already be on the horizon.

Whose permission do you need to succeed anyway?

February 7, 2012

Whilst this might seem like a strange question, it’s a vital one to consider. Too many people seem to be waiting for someone or something else to give them the go ahead in life … when in fact what they really need to do is give themselves permission to succeed.

Let’s face it, we spend our early years asking permission from parents and teachers to do almost anything (and as a parent, I’ll add “rightly so!”) – where to go, what to do, what to eat … even going to the toilet!

However, if constant permission-seeking creeps into adult life in an inappropriate way, it can stifle personal development and stop you achieving your goals: it’s one thing as a teenager saying to those around you “I can’t come out tonight, my mum won’t let me” – quite another to be complaining that “I’ll never get a promotion because my boss just won’t put me forward”.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times when permission to do something MUST be sought. What I’m talking about here is when we actually give up responsibility for our own actions and potentially give up on our goals and aspirations.


SO … whose permission are YOU asking for … and why?


1) The Government’s?
If you’re waiting for the economic tide to turn before you start a business / sell your house / plan for the future … you might as well lie down and die right now. DO NOT leave critical decisions about your personal future to a bunch of numpties at Westminster (substitute your own seat of government here!).

As a surveyor friend of mine put it recently, we have to work on the basis that this is the ‘new normal’. We live in an uncertain world. We must make bold decisions anyway. We must raise our aspirations anyway. We must move forward anyway.


2) Your boss’s or client’s?
I was working with someone a while ago who had felt that her career had run into the buffers because her boss wouldn’t let her attend a training course that was necessary for her to progress, because they felt she wasn’t ready for it. She’d been inspired by something she heard in a song on the radio: Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’. The words that caught her attention were, “When they insist we’re just not good enough … just look then in the eyes and say I’m going to do it anyway”. Without her boss’s consent, she funded the course herself, and was able to move forward in her career.

I faced a challenge recently where I’d devised some life skills workshops for teenagers, and was literally seeking permission to run them in a school somewhere … with little success. As soon as I decided NOT to seek permission and to run them myself anyway, I was able to move forward.

At the end of the day, the decision to progress is an individual one.


3) Your family’s and friends’?

Usually your friends and family have your best interests at heart. They don’t want to see you get hurt. They don’t want to see you fail. They don’t want to see you make a fool of yourself. And, sometimes, they can unwittingly put the kibosh on your plans and aspirations.

Marconi’s friends tried to have him committed because, according to them, he must have been mad to try to get sound to travel through ‘thin air’ via radio waves. Enough said, really.


Challenge yourself:  are you asking the wrong people for permission, and if so, WHY?  To my mind, there are 3 key reasons … all of which can be fixed.


1) Fear.  Fear of getting it wrong, fear of what people might say, fear of looking like an idiot.

Asking someone else’s permission (whoever that might be) can indicate that you’re looking for reassurance. Which is fine … but what if you don’t get it?

Do you have the courage of your convictions to just get on with it anyway? Is it really a confidence thing that’s holding you back?

2) Procrastinating. Asking for permission allows you to delay decision making and put off taking action. The ball is in someone else’s court. You can’t move forward until they get back to you, or until they give you the go ahead.

Is this really the case … or can you move ahead anyway? Is this more about your motivation levels than anything else?

3) Lack of personal accountability. Asking someone else’s permission absolves you of responsibility for the outcomes, and provides you with plenty of excuses why failure wasn’t your fault.

Is it really fair to blame someone or something else … or is it more about YOU?

So whose permission DO you need to succeed? It’s a question you really need to ask yourself.

Self Coaching in 7 steps

September 29, 2011

I was delivering a workshop on coaching recently, and one of the participants said, “but you can’t coach yourself can you?!”

As a coach myself, I’m tempted to say, “no, of course not”!  However, whilst a business coach (or life coach) can be worth their weight in gold in terms of helping you to clarify direction, purpose and actions, investment in a coach can seem like a luxury to
many small businesses.

The truth is, if you allow yourself the time and space to think in a structured way, you can go some way towards coaching yourself.

This article (and the 37 page e-book ‘Take Yourself to Success’ that’s FREE to download at ) focuses on 7 steps that will help you to self coach your way to setting and achieving your goals.

1) Know what you want to achieve

It sounds like a statement of the blindingly obvious, but you wouldn’t BELIEVE how many people find it incredibly difficult to focus for any length of time on what they actually want. Left to their own devices, they’d spend the entire coaching conversation talking about the current problems and situations that they face, rather than what they want to achieve.

Crucial to self coaching is to REALLY know what you want to achieve, not just what you want to avoid. So think carefully – what is it that you really want to achieve? What will success look like when you get there?

2) Tighten up your goals and aspirations

Many people think that they have goals, but these aren’t real goals at all – they’re aspirations.

There’s a big difference between thinking “I want to be rich and famous” (or whatever), which is a rather vague aspiration, and being clear about how you might become rich and famous (by becoming a Hollywood star? A successful business person? A
criminal?!)  or indeed understanding WHY you want to be so.

Consider any vague aspirations that you might have for the future, and distil them into clear goals.  What EXACTLY do you want?

3) Pin down some real actions

Many people have goals and aspirations, think about them often … but don’t actually do the spadework required to make something happen.  Consider your goals carefully, and work out what you actually need to DO to make them happen, and when you need to do it.

Be aware that most people will stop right here … they know what they want to achieve and they have a reasonably clear idea what they need to do. They just don’t do it.

If this is you, revisit and clarify your goal and the reasons why you want to achieve it, so that it becomes an inspiration to you.

There is almost always more than one way to the top, so how might you achieve your goals? What are you going to actually DO?

4) Build the confidence to achieve

This is one of the reasons that many people don’t achieve their goals, whatever they are: they simply don’t believe that they can, or (crucially) that they deserve to.

Have confidence in yourself and your goals. If anyone can, YOU can.

Do you believe in yourself? What do you have to do to become the person who will achieve those goals? What’s holding you back?

5) Assess your abilities; learn new skills

As evidenced by many fairly ordinary individuals who have risen to the top of their fields, inability in a given area needn’t put the kybosh on your endeavours, because you can either:

a) LEARN to do something new, in order to achieve your goal, or

b) get someone else to do it.

Let’s imagine that you want to set up in business as an interior designer. You’re great at interior design… but are you good at managing money, or promoting yourself – crucial areas if you are to succeed in business?

You could either learn to do this yourself (and you WILL have to learn a minimal amount at least) … or pay a book-keeper or marketer to do it for you.

Focus also on the skills, abilities, attitudes and values that have worked well for you in the past. How will these carry you forward? What do you need to change? What do you need to do differently? What will you need to learn?

6) Maintain momentum and motivation

I hardly need say that goals aren’t achieved overnight – it can take perseverance. Look back at your past at times when you’ve thrown in the towel (maybe a little too soon?) What can you learn from this experience? What (or who) causes you to
lose motivation?

Recognising what de-rails you is an important step in self awareness – if you KNOW what’s likely to pull you off track, you can take pre-emptive steps to ensure that it doesn’t do so in the future.

7) Start now!

You don’t have to wait until there’s a fair wind, conditions are perfect or YOU are perfect before you take your first steps towards your goal.  Once you’ve established your goals and decided on a clear course of action, just get on and do it.

Take action. Doing something – almost anything – is far better than doing nothing at all.

After all, what’s stopping you??

The  e-book ‘Take Yourself to Success’ is available to download free at

Goal Setting Success Factor # 5 – Maintaining momentum and developing resilience

April 18, 2011

 Well, here we are at the final part of Yara’s Goal Setting Mini Series. Hundreds of you have read the series (thank you to you all!) and I’m shortly going to be formatting the series as an e-book, which will be downloadable FREE from the Yara website at

Anyway, let’s get on with it!

A critical part of achieving your goals is the ability to maintain momentum and motivation, and to build resilience in the face of challenges.

Here are 5 key factors that will make a difference to your ability to keep going until you’ve achieved your goals.

1. Retain focus

Last year, a group of friends and I climbed Goat Fell, the mountain on the Isle of Arran, just off the coast of the West of Scotland. Living in Ayrshire, we can see the top of this mountain every day from the mainland … as long as it’s not cloudy.

We took the ferry across to the island … at which point our goal was no longer the romantic, cloud-swathed view on the horizon … it was much nearer, and looked a lot bigger, steeper and rockier close up than it did from across the water. Some goals can be like that: scarier up close.

If you don’t have a strong reason for carrying on, you probably won’t.

As we started to climb, it was a case of watching the ground close to our feet to make sure we didn’t stumble over rocks and vegetation. However, we stopped often to look at the top of the mountain, and to check that we were on the right path. If we HADN’T checked where we were against our destination, we might have been so focussed on the ground beneath our feet that we could have wandered into the ferns, left the path and got a bit lost.

Whilst you’re working away on the tasks you need to undertake to get to your goals, look up to ensure that you’re still heading in the right direction … and that the goal hasn’t moved. Re-align wherever necessary, and keep moving forward.

2. Enjoy your journey

On that climb up Goat Fell, though, we didn’t tromp relentlessly straight to the top of the mountain. At various points we stopped for breath, looked back at the view, and marvelled at how far we’d come.

As you continue your way, it is VITAL that you pause from time to time, and allow yourself to reflect on your journey so far, on what you have learned, how you might need to re-align yourself on your way to the top, and to take from your past experience things that will carry you forward.

It’s also important, having achieved some of the ‘sub-goals’ along your way, to take the time to congratulate yourself on the fact that you are taking positive and deliberate strides in the right direction.

Depending on the goal that you’ve set yourself, you might be working towards it for some time … so even though you might have to undertake some tasks that aren’t your favourite thing (tax returns spring to mind), make sure your overall journey is one that you are happy to be on.

3. Know what derails you …

Self-awareness is a key area that comes into play here (about which, more in my series next month on 7 Leadership Skills EVERYONE must develop!)

Think back on your past experience, and consider carefully the times when you had been enthusiastically working towards a goal, and something or someone had thrown you off course. What WAS that something or someone?

Frequent responses to this are:

· Other people’s negativity

· Lack of confidence that you can (or deserve to) achieve

 · Frustration that things aren’t moving quickly enough

· Insurmountable barriers

Thinking about the things that have derailed you in the past, consider further:

 · If you gave up on something, how strong was your reason why in the first place? Is this really the right goal for you? (Think about this VERY carefully – no excuses!)

 · Were your fears based on fact … or your assumptions? How will you overcome them?

· How far are you prepared to let other people’s negative comments or actions put you off your goal? How will you limit their impact?

· How will you build your confidence and overcome your reservations?

· If you really do come up against a barrier that you cannot overcome, consider carefully the reasons why you had been working towards this goal. It will almost certainly be possible to find an alternative goal that fulfils the same need.

It’s crucial also that you recognise the signs of when you are starting to slump, and bring these from the subconscious to the conscious. If you can catch them early on, you can take action to turn yourself around and get back on track. Do you start talking to yourself in a negative way? Do little things really annoy you? Do you find yourself snapping at other drivers on the road, or at your kids? Do you find yourself faffing around and doing anything BUT the tasks required to meet your goal?

Learn also to pinpoint the causes of these … and take steps to avoid or limit them. This might mean thinking about your conversations with friends and family: if they pull you down when you talk about your goals, steer the conversation onto something else. I’ve known a few people who were so negative that I just started to try to avoid them altogether!

Bear in mind also, that your darkest hour is 60 minutes long…it’s not for ever, so take heart.

4 … and how to motivate yourself

So what motivates you? What cheers you up when you’re feeling low? Make a list and keep it to hand.

As soon as you feel your motivation levels drop, don’t wallow or try to soldier on regardless – refer to your list (if you need to) and DO SOMETHING to pick yourself up: go for a run, play the piano, play with your kids, walk the dog, phone a friend – or whatever.

It’s important that, while you are in a positive frame of mind, you begin to develop strategies to help you through tough times. When you’re IN the tough times, you might not be in the frame of mind to be able to help yourself.

A significant amount of academic research has been done on the impact of music on motivation and mood. Choose some motivating and uplifting pieces of music and have a playlist on your iPod: My favourites include Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’, the ‘Indiana Jones’ theme tune and Van Halen’s ‘Jump!’.

Pick whatever gives you a lift, and put your playlist together when you are in a positive frame of mind.

At times when you’re feeling flat, discipline yourself to focus on past times when you have achieved something, or been particularly successful. Doing so will awaken similar positive feelings to the ones you felt at the time.

Some of this might take a bit of effort: often we quite like having a bit of a moan or wallowing in self pity (I’ve been there, just the same as everyone else!). It’s important though, that you refocus to a positive frame of mind quickly, and keep going.

5. Look after yourself

This might sound really obvious, but no one wants to get to their goal a burnt-out wreck working 18 hours a day on the verge of a breakdown. What kind of success is that?! For goodness’ sake look after yourself.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of work-related ill-health. Take time out to reflect on what you’re doing, what you’ve learned so far and where you’re going. Make sure you take time to relax

 “But Anna,” I hear you say, “I‘m so busy that I don’t have time to relax!”. Make time. Your health is important.

If you’re NOT looking after yourself, you’re not functioning as effectively as you might, and you’re not doing anyone any favours – least of all yourself.

AND FINALLY … When you have reached your goal, and are rewarding yourself and allow yourself to celebrate your success, remember to ‘put something back’. Donate to a charity. Mentor, coach or just help someone. Volunteer for something. Why? Because it’s a good thing to do … and sometimes that’s reason enough.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 4 – Plan it and DO something!

April 9, 2011

Actually managing your goals… and managing yourself to achieve those goals is likely to take a bit of time and a bit of self discipline. Yes, it would be great if we could just daydream, visualise and focus on our future and it would all magically fall into place, but actually, we need to get off our butts and DO something in order for anything to happen at all.

If you’ve given consideration to my Goal Setting Success Factors 1 – 3, you’ll already have a strong reason why you want to achieve your goals, and you’ll have a clear understanding of the skills you have and the skills that you need to do it. 

These are very strong foundations as you consider what exactly you’re going to need to DO in order to achieve your goals.

Here are my top 5 tips and factors to consider as you start to take action towards your goals.
Tip # 1 – be prepared to be patient
We live in an instant, push-button, get-it-now society. EVERYTHING happens fast – hey, if we’re kept for more than 2 minutes in the queue at MacDonalds we start to get fidgety and cross.

Achieving your goals is not like selecting a chocolate bar in a vending machine, putting in your money, pressing a button and ‘voila!’ there it is.  If your goal is really what you want, it’s worth making a bit of effort.

In his book Principle Centred Leadership, Steven Covey talks about the ‘law of the farm’. You plant something, you tend it, and in its season it’ll bear fruit. You DON’T plant a seed and expect to find a tree there the next day.

Challenge yourself to take action towards your goals. Don’t lose heart if it doesn’t happen for you overnight, though: remember that perseverance is part of achievement.
Tip# 2 – learn how to plan

It’s important that you plan how you’re going to approach your goal – even if you’re naturally a bit disorganised (like me) it’s important that you do this, and don’t just dive on in… and potentially miss out something vital.

First, you’ll need to break your goal down into smaller chunks (the ‘journey of the thousand miles beginning with the first step’, as it were). To define these smaller ‘sub-goals’, it’s usually easier to work backwards from your main goal than to try to guess at what the first step should be.

For example, if your goal is to be a published author, what else will you need to consider on your way to that goal? Is  your work formatted in a way that editors want? Have you had it proof read? Will you need to find a literary agent? How will you approach and promote yourself to publishers?

From here, you might say that one of your sub-goals is to find a literary agent. So now, you need to consider how you might do that. Perhaps the one of the first tasks you need to get your teeth into is researching literary agents, and working out how to make your pitch.

When you’ve decided what these smaller steps will be, you need to turn them into SMART goals… yes, THIS is where that whole SMART thing comes into its own, and not before!

·         The goal needs to be Specific (e.g. “I need to find a literary agent in the USA, who deals with children’s authors)
·         It needs to be measurable (e.g. “I only need the one agent, thanks… but I might need another one if I want to be published in Europe”)
·         Aligned with your overall goal (“Is getting an agent aligned with my goal of getting published? Yep”)
·         Realistic (“It’s a challenge, but can I do it?”)
·         Time bound (“WHEN will I do this?”)

That last one – Time Bound – is the biggest challenge.  If you don’t have some sort of timescale, there’s a danger that nothing will actually get done, so push yourself to set some deadlines.
Tip # 3 – be prepared to be focused
If your goals are worth it, they deserve to be kept in focus. Broadly speaking, stick to your plan, and work fairly methodically through it.

Don’t work slavishly through it, though – remember that the journey is, for many people, as important as the destination.

Opportunities that you hadn’t considered might present themselves along your way, and it’s important that you’re able to make the most of these. However… beware of ‘bright shiny objects’ that might appear to be opportunities, but can actually be distractions, taking you away from your main goal.

When these things present themselves, weigh up carefully whether or not they are actually helping your towards your goal (in which case, make the most of them) or whether they are taking you away from your goal… in which case, leave them alone.

When I started out in training and development, I was offered a PR contract (something I used to do in the past). The fee would have been good, and I’d have been able to do the job, and at first it seemed like easy money. However, my goal was to build my training and development business! How was doing someone else’s PR going to help towards that goal? It wasn’t! I politely withdrew from the contract.

The strange thing was, while I was briefly working on that PR job, I felt really uneasy and frustrated because I wasn’t working on my own goals. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for listening to your gut: if it feels wrong, it probably is.
Tip # 4 – learn to prioritise and do the right things
Once you’ve broken your goals down into sub-goals, you’ll begin to arrive at something that looks like a to-do list.
Just a quick question – how do you prioritise the tasks on your list? Really??

Most people will head straight for the tasks that they like doing, that are quick to finish, that someone else has told them they ought to do, etc., etc. Prioritising in this haphazard way, though, can lead to the sort of day when you’ve been busy for hours… but achieved nothing.

According to Steven Covey (and I’d agree!) the only two factors on which we should prioritise are the urgency and the importance of the task.  I have a to-do list that’s split into four sections:

A. Urgent and important
B. Important, but not urgent
C. Urgent but not important
D. Not urgent and not important

The A section containts things that I really need to get done this week. If I don’t do them, I’m going to set my ‘goal plan’ back.

The B section is for longer-term projects: writing an e-book, developing a new training course, that sort of thing. They’re important, but I don’t need to do them right now. I DO, though, break these into sub-goals, which are on my A list… I don’t want that vital B list to drift on and not get done because I’m fire-fighting in the A section!

The C tasks are less important to ME, but might be important to someone else. In the UK, we had to fill out a census recently: if we didn’t complete it on time, we risked a £1000 fine!  Things on your C list can be time wasters if you spend too long on them. If they are urgent, get them over with and move on as quickly as you can.

The D section contains tasks that really don’t matter. I might want to download a few MP3 clips, for example, or buy a couple of things on Ebay. The question is… should these things be on my to-do list at all? In some cases (like my purchases here) I still want to do them BUT I’m not going to waste time on these tasks when the A and B tasks are waiting in my in-tray.

Give this a try – my productivity increased significantly when I split up my to-do list like this.  Another thing worth doing is getting hold of Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ , which is great on making the most of your time.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into this trap “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia”.
Tip #5 – just get on with it!
Many people, sadly, will get as far as Goal Setting Success Factor #3 and stop. Why? Because it’s fun to daydream about our successful futures, to think about building our confidence and making an impact, and to think about the skills that we have… skills that could take us to the top.

When it comes to taking action, however, many people bottle out. PLEASE don’t let that be you. Take your aspirations, dreams and goals, your skills and your growing confidence and TAKE ACTION.

About 500 years BC, the founder of Buddhism wrote “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.”

Step out bravely. Do something.  Just make a start.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 3: Develop an Enquiring Mind

April 5, 2011

Achieving your goal is going to involve you building on your existing strengths, learning new skills and growing in new directions. If it doesn’t, you’ve probably set your sights too low.

This might mean many things: maybe it’s a question of developing your confidence; perhaps you have all the skills you need to achieve your goal … your problem is developing the self discipline to apply yourself, plan your route forward and get on with it! For someone else, wanting to achieve a lifetime’s ambition of running a marathon, say, it could be the challenge of doing MORE – pushing oneself to run further and further each week until the goal is reached.

Organisations need to also bear in mind that strategies for growth MUST involve developing individuals across the organisation and giving them a strong reason ‘why’ (our Goal Setting Success Factor #1) … but that’s a subject for another post.

So – what do you need to learn? And how? Here are 5 key areas:

1. Develop a positive mindset to learning, as part of your journey.

This is vital. As you journey towards your goal, you’ll constantly discover new things that need to be learned, new skills, behaviours and attitudes that need to be acquired. Learning is positive. It is the road to development and growth. It is NOT a remedial measure to correct some sort of personal defect.

It’s absolutely CRITICAL that you develop this attitude towards learning – otherwise you could fall into the trap of being overwhelmed by what you think you DON’T know, rather than actively looking to learn and develop the skills you NEED.

Remember – we never stop learning. Even experts in their field continue to learn, develop and grow.

2. Don’t be modest – consider what you’re good at.

Take stock of yourself – what are your strengths? What do you enjoy doing and what are you good at? There will be plenty of things that spring to mind immediately, but you may need to ask trusted friends for their thoughts too, as they might have recognised some strengths in you that you weren’t aware of.

There WILL be skills which you think of as ordinary and ‘anyone-can-do’ which are in fact unique to you. Find out what these are. Consider how you might leverage them to achieve your goal.

3. ‘Mind the gap’: identify your gaps in knowledge, and areas for development and growth.

This is often easier said than done, and it’s ESSENTIAL (I can’t stress that enough) that you do this in a positive frame of mind and as a step forward towards your goals.

What do you need to learn in order to achieve your goals? Again, some of these things will be fairly straightforward to identify – if I’m going to be a successful photographer, I need to not only be good at taking pictures, but know how to promote and sell my work, how to manage my finances and so on.

Be aware, though, of areas of ‘unconscious incompetence’ – things that you don’t know you don’t know. There are things you can do to try to tease some of these out, but there will always be ‘Doh!’ moments when you become aware of one of these.

Be thankful that this ‘gap’ is now known to you – don’t waste time kicking yourself about not having realised it before.

4. Learn how to learn – a crucial life skill.

Let’s face it – you could waste a fortune on training courses, coaching sessions, internet information products and so on (somewhat ironic that, as a trainer and coach, I’m telling you that).

Once you’ve identified gaps in your knowledge, you’ll need to give some thought as to how you might address these. In terms of thought processes, try to remain positive and ‘solution focused’, i.e. say to yourself, “I’m going to improve my marketing skills” and NOT “I’m rubbish at marketing, so I have to get better.”

Think laterally: who do you know that you could ask? What connections can you make from other industries / walks of life? Where can you find free information?

Consider also – at what point do you leverage the skills of others, and use THEM to fill in your gaps (hiring a book-keeper, for example, or getting someone else to build your website)?

5. Face your fears: in the words of Mr T, “Quit your jibber jabber – get some nuts!”

Learning new things inevitably means pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Just grasp the nettle and get on with it: don’t make excuses or try to talk yourself out of trying something new.

Susan Jeffers’ book ‘Feel the fear and Do It Anyway’ is a classic on this point. At the risk of sounding clichéd … JUST DO IT! And don’t worry if it doesn’t work out perfectly first time – it’s all part of the learning experience.

So there we are – five key aspects of learning and honing the skills you need to achieve your goals. Take a positive approach to learning. Boldly assess your own abilities, and the areas in which you need to develop (some of which may already be strengths).

Be creative in how you learn. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and do something different. Learn. Grow. Fly.

Goal Setting Success Factor #2: Self Awareness and Self Confidence

March 26, 2011

2. Self awareness and self confidence: recognise who you need to become to achieve your goals.

Whether your goals are SMART or not, the stark fact of the matter is that if you don’t believe that you have it in you to achieve your goals…it’s ‘game over’ from the very beginning.

Developing a healthy self confidence (by that, I mean a realistic and positive sense of self, not arrogance or an ego the size of a planet) is crucial to your being able to achieve your goals.

Here are three techniques that will help:

Visualisation is  extremely useful – being able to capture in your imagination what the best-possible-you looks and feels like, the sort of life you lead and the sort of people you associate with.

Anyone who’s come across ‘The Secret’ will know what I mean here – this is more than daydreaming about how you want to be; this is really focussing on the details. In the words of Alfred Montapert,  “To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualise, then plan… believe… act!”
‘Mask of the Role Model’
A second technique is a little like the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. I prefer to think of it as putting on the ‘mask of the role model’.

Let me explain what I mean: the best boss I ever had was a lady called Lesley, whose confidence, approach and way of working with people truly inspired me. For YEARS when I was in a business situation in which I felt out of my depth, I would think to myself “Now, what would Lesley do?” …and take that course of action. By acting the part of a confident individual, I was treated as though I WAS a confident individual by those I met; and gradually, I grew into the part.
Self Talk
It’s often said that we talk to ourselves in a way that we just wouldn’t take from anyone else, and we can sometimes become our own ‘confidence saboteur’.

What do you say when you speak to yourself? Make sure it’s positive and self affirming… which is often easier said than done.

There’s a BIG psychological difference when you make a mistake, say, between thinking to yourself “You stupid idiot! What did you do that for? For goodness sake, how hopeless are you?!”  and saying “OK, how hard can this be? I’ve seen someone else do it, so I’m bound to be able to do it….”  

Learn to talk yourself up, not down.
These three techniques – and other confidence-building methods – are vital to help you achieve your goals. SMART and action-orientated though those goals may be, what’s going on in your HEAD will have a profound impact on what goes on in your life and career.
Watch this space for Goal Setting Success Factor number 3 in the next few days!