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The Fear of Goal Setting and how to Overcome it

» Introduction
Abraham Lincoln once said that ďa goal properly set is halfway reached.Ē Itís sad that for most of us, goal setting seems to come somewhere between taking the dog to get his nails clipped and having an annual physical on our to-do list. Itís something we know we really should do, but somehow we just never seem to quite get around to it. Why is that?
» Step 1

The main reason is probably because the idea of goal setting seems such an enormously daunting and fear filled task. If the thought of setting goals intimidates you, why not try looking a little deeper to see why?

Could it be itís because once you put pen to paper and actually list your goal, you feel more committed to achieving it? Thatís a good thing though! The whole point of goal setting is to create a vision in your mind of where you want to be in the future and how youíll achieve it.

The good news for those that feel a bit nervous about the process is goals donít need to be huge. In fact, huge ones that seem totally unrealistic can even make you feel discouraged if thatís all you have.

Instead, try seeing it as a journey towards a destination. Set yourself one main goal then a series of smaller goals that will be stepping stones towards the large one. Once you can see progress being made on the smaller ones, it whets your appetite to continue.

For example, letís say your main goal is ďI want to be happyĒ. Whoa there! Isnít that a bit of a broad statement?

The more precise your goal, the easier it is to achieve. The clearer you can imagine it, the simpler it is to see how to get there. This is no time for day dreamy half-baked thoughts! Allow yourself plenty of distraction free time to do this. Goal setting needs clear thinking.

Narrow your goal down more and set a time frame. Remember, thereís no reason not to set more than one goal at a time but you might want to address one area of your life then another.

For example, if youíre stuck in a job you hate and think changing that situation will go a long way towards helping you be happy, then tackle that first. Create a goal within your overall ďI want to be happyĒ goal.

Something like Ē By April 2009, Iíll be happy in my work because Iíll be doing something I love.Ē Now thatíd be a step in the right direction but you still need to fine tune this goal a little more. Be more specific.

What do you love? Think about it and donít rush this part. If there were no barriers, what career would have you leaping out of bed full of the joys in the morning? Mull it over a while to yourself before answering.
» Step 2

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Letís say you play guitar and would love to be in a band, but youíre not very good at the moment and are on the verge of dismissing that thought as a possible career. Hold on a moment!

Why not set yourself a detailed mini-goal of improving your guitar playing in the next six months instead? Decide how youíll achieve that. Do you need lessons or more practice time? New strings before you start?

Ask yourself what you need to do to make these things happen and do them. Book the lessons. Schedule yourself a set amount of practice time every day. Go buy the replacement strings.

Simple steps but all actions that will improve your chances of attaining your new mini-goal. Seeing your smaller goals within larger ones come to fruition is a great motivator.

You also need to be able to measure your success in achieving your goals. Weíll stick with our guitar hero example here.

How exactly will you know when youíre improved enough? Only you can decide that. Include it in your mini-goal statement. Does playing Cavatina like John Williams count for you? Then thatíll do fine.

Your mini goal now says Ē By October 2008, Iíll be able to play Cavatina as well as John Williams - or better!Ē. It does no harm to aim just that little bit further than you think you can achieve.

Keep your goal to the forefront of your mind as best you can. Thereís lots of ways to do this. Read it every day. Repeat it to yourself silently. Put a sticky note on your fridge. Add it in scrolling text to your screen saver. Shave it into your leg hair.

Okay, maybe not the last one. Just do whatever you need to remind you of it with a gentle nudge on a regular basis.
» Step 3

One thing thatís worth keeping in mind regarding goal setting is this. Circumstances change and sometimes we need to reassess and review our goals. Often itís when some big life event happens like a breakup of a long term relationship or redundancy. Our goals should be just as malleable as our thoughts are, so donít just give them up in a moment of perceived crisis. Take advantage of the opportunity to cast a fresh eye over them and reset them if necessary once the dust settles.

With any goal, large or small, these things are key :
# Visualize it with clarity
# Set a time frame
# Keep them realistic
# Find some way to track progress
# Think about them regularly and
# Be open to change if needed

Youíll be surprised how the small ones suddenly set the wheels turning towards attaining the larger ones. Youíll also feel better about yourself for taking action instead of just accepting your lot in life with a sigh.

When youíre finally in that spotlight, youíll barely remember what life was like before goal setting and why you procrastinated so long. Before you know it, youíll be setting yourself a new one and even enjoying the process.

Whatever your goals are, I wish you the best of luck with them. The biggest step you can take towards achieving them is simply to begin.

Claude M. Bristol once said "The person with a fixed goal, a clear picture of his desire, or an ideal always before him, causes it, through repetition, to be buried deeply in his subconscious mind and is thus enabled, thanks to its generative and sustaining power, to realize his goal in a minimum of time and with a minimum of physical effort. Just pursue the thought unceasingly. Step by step you will achieve realization, for all your faculties and powers become directed to that end."

I love that quote. Why not make today the day you go for it!

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