Creating effective goals

With the new year fast approaching, it’s a common experience to have friends, acquaintances, and family posting on social media about all the new goals they will be conquering in 2018.

Every January, the familiar goals pop up: lose a stone, go to the gym three times a week, eat healthier, be better.

But by February appears (or even by the end of January!), we are back to the old ways and name ourselves a “failure”.

  • “I should have more willpower”
  • “I should be better”
  • “I need to get my life together”

Goal setting seems to be ingrained into Western society. Even at work, we are set goals and success is based on how well you meet those targets. It becomes a normal part of everyday life and a tool many people use to determine their success.

I’ve set so many goals in my life. Some I’ve failed at, some are ongoing, some I’ve achieved. Yet throughout them all, there is a low-level hum of anxiety around them. What if I don’t meet my expectations?

I explored a little more around the psychology of goal setting…

Problem 1: potential Lack of flexibility

Ineffective goals are inflexible. Sometimes the common practise of S.M.A.R.T. goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound – can become too specific. Examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

  • “I want to lose one stone in two months.”
  • “I want to earn an extra £2,000 in income in six months.”
  • “I need to drop one dress size by my brother’s wedding in April.”

Although this is one possible goal structure, it also misses the bigger picture. Via Afford Anything, I found the example of Ford Motor Company.

They started to notice in the 1960’s that smaller and less expensive cars had started growing in popularity, and wanted to follow suit.

The CEO created the ambitious goal of producing a vehicle “under 2,000 pounds and under $2,000” ($12,559 in today’s dollars) by 1970.

This goal soon started to make progress and by September 1970, the Ford Pinto had been put into production.

However, by being really specific on two factors, this goal overlooked things like quality and safety. The company’s management overlooked a huge design flaw in the positioning of the fuel tank. This meant that the Pinto could burst into flames on impact.

At least 53 people died as a result of these fires. In 1977, Ford recalled the car from the market. Management had blinkered the goal in and had missed the larger picture.

However, it’s not all bad for a S.M.A.R.T. goal! They have the huge benefit of having  a clear ending and a deadline.

Without deadlines and restrictions I just tend to become preoccupied with other things. — Val Kilmer

 

Problem 2: Fear

It’s a great feeling setting a goal that makes you really excited. Maybe you want to be fluent in Spanish in six months, learn how to ski, or start a business on something that you are really passionate in.

As you start, it’s great, wonderful, exciting: you are making real steps towards achieving your goal!

Then procrastination sets in.

I’ve just managed to set up an Instagram account for Become Moneywise, something that took me two months. In that time, I could have learnt to tango like a pro or become a sushi expert.

In all honesty, behind the procrastination was fear.

  • What if I set up the account and my friends find out?
  • What if no one follows me?
  • What if I can’t deal with having to look after another ‘responsibility’?

The fear gets in the way of the goal. You stop, become stuck.

As Hara Estroff Marano writes in Psychology Today:

Achieving lasting change, and getting what you reallywant in life, takes a sustained vision of the future. That vision serves not just as an ongoing source of motivation to get there, it helps you identify and tackle the obstacles that have held you back until now.

These include fear of failure, such as doubts about your own worthiness for success […] And if you’re like most people, they also involve fear of achieving the very things you want.

Goals trigger fear, which then gets in the way of achieving your goals.

Take my example:

  • I created a goal: reach a new audience via Instagram
  • I developed a fear around any possible outcome: what if it’s not very good/I can’t manage it/it is not loved
  • Procrastination is borne out of the fear
  • And it takes 2 months to do something that took 10 minutes.

However, if I had focused on the incredible benefits – reaching and interacting with new people, being able to express my views in photos – the fear would be less of an issue.

_____

I’m a fan of goals and it’s very interesting exploring ideas around why ineffective goals can be counterproductive. How do we go from the objections above and create better alternatives? I’ve done some research and…

 

Alternative 1: Make small steps a part of your life

It’s on every self-help website: make your goals part a habit and you’ll be soaring!

The challenge comes in the process of the habits forming. Once the habits are there, it takes no effort to keep them going! Taking small steps to build them up and putting processes into place to keep the habit going supports you when the motivation decreases.

For example, at the beginning of 2017, I decided that I wanted to drink more water. 2 litres minimum a day. To make sure I integrated this goal into my life, I bought a 2 litre water bottle to work. At the beginning of the day, I fill it up. Throughout the day, I top up a glass and sip from it.

It’s now surprisingly easy how much water I can drink without fully realising! It’s a part of my day and my body now expects to be drinking that much water.

 

Let’s take the example of adding something into a morning routine, such as five minutes of meditation. How can you integrate this into your day?

You could start off by deciding when you want to do it: when you first wake up? After dressing? Cleaning your teeth? Once decided, start small. Really small. Set your timer for one minute and do that for a week. Then increase it to two minutes and so on.

Building it into your routine also means that the step before triggers the next move.

For example: wake up – go to the toilet – make up – get dressed – meditate – breakfast

Your body and mind soon expect you to take a couple of minutes out to meditate after getting dressed. The goal becomes easier and easier to achieve. Before you know it, you are meditating for five minutes no problem, and can even do more if you decided to!

 

Alternative 2: Changing the factors you can influence

There are some things we can change, and some that we  can’t. Some actions you personally can do to reach certain goals (such as eating healthier) and some that you have less influence over (like world peace).

Getting worked up over factors you can’t influence can reduce the chances of you meeting your goal as you are focusing on the wrong things.

This is quite nicely explained by the circle of concern and influence (thanks to Paula Pant for the inspiration!).

Circle of Concern

This is the level of time and focus we have on concerns on things we have no control over: the weather. Everything you put within this circle is a concern and matters to you. Everything outside the circle is of little concern to you.

Some of the things inside your circle you can influence, and some are outside your control. For example, you may be concerned about the health of a friend, but what can you actually do about it?

This is why it is good  to identify the Circle of Influence within your Circle of Concern:

Circle of Influence

These are the things you are concerned about that you can influence. By focusing on what you can do something about, the more proactive you can become. In turn, this increases your circle of influence.

When setting goals, it may be helpful to identify what you can and can’t influence. Especially when looking at the steps needed to reach the goal. You can then change your perspective or actions to focus on what you can change.

So in conclusion…

Goals can be a very powerful tool if used effectively. How can we set more effective goals?

You could replace: My goal is to meditate everyday.
With: As part of my morning routine, I take 10 minutes out before breakfast to reflect on the day ahead.

You could replace: My goal is to write a blog post every week.
With: Every Tuesday evening from 8-10pm, I will read and write about topics that interest me.

You now just need to act on them! How are you going to action your goals to live the life you want?

A Perfect Day

Last week I was lucky enough to experience what I would consider a perfect weekend.

It started off Friday evening when I went for Halloween fun with my friends. Saturday was spent meeting two amazingly inspirational people (one of whom was Alex Swallow, The Influence Expert – definitely worth checking out). Saturday evening and Sunday I was with family.

It included all the aspects I so often think of when I visualise my perfect day. A wealthy life.

  • Having fun with friends
  • Meeting up with people who inspire and motivate me
  • Spending time with family

I finished the weekend on a high and that motivation has carried on, even three days later!

Visualisation

Sometimes referred to as a crutch for self-help experts, visualisation is about imagining where you want to be, what you want to do, and all the details in between.

“If you want to reach a goal you must “see the reaching” in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.” — Zig Ziglar

It has an astoundingly positive effect on the sports community.  Seasoned athletes, like Muhammed Ali, run through actions in their heads before practising in real life. Our brain gets trained for the actual performance by visualising it first.

Emily Cook, an American aerialist, used visualisation to get back into competing after injury:

…such mental work helped her return to the sport a better jumper and that she also had used imagery to break the cycle of negativity. Whenever fear surfaced, she would picture herself pricking a big red balloon with a pin. (New York Times)

Visualisation works because when we think about what we want to achieve, the neurons in our brains that transmit information, interpret this imagery as an action happening in real life. Our brain then produces a message that tells the neurons to put the movement into practise. This creates new neural pathways (cells that create memories or learned behaviours) that encourage our bodies to act in ways that are consistent to what we imagined. All of this without actually performing the action!

 

visualisation and you

Using it as a performance improvement method, supported by lots of scientific evidence and practised by successful people worldwide, visualisation can be an influential tool.

putting it into practise

To visualise effectively, you need to have goals in your life that excite and inspire you.

  1. Relax!
  2. Think about a very specific goal that you really want to achieve, such as buying a house to rent out
  3. Imagine the future: you have already achieved your goal. Create a mental picture of it as if you were there right at that moment
  4. Imagine it in as much detail as possibe
    1. Go through each of the 5 senses and how each of them would be reacting to your goal
      1. What can you hear? Smell? Taste?
      2. What colours can you see?
      3. Are you touching anything?
    2. Who are you with?
    3. What are you feeling?
  5. Write it down
  6. Repeat, ideally daily but as often as you feel works for you.

According to Aristotle, 2000 years ago:

“First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” (Huffington Post)

The trouble is, most of us get stuck on the goals section and can’t/don’t go any further. If this is something that happens to you and you really want to achieve your targets, feel free to contact me here.


 

It’s definitely worth giving a go and seeing if visualisation works for you. If it does, you have a tool you can use to push yourself forward to achieve goals. If it doesn’t, great! You’ve ticked something off the list and can look for the next strategy.

Have you used visualisation before? Was it helpful?

3 Ways To Rediscover Your Motivation

Recently I’ve been lacking motivation which is very frustrating when I want to get lots done! After giving myself a bit of a break, I decided to actively find out why my motivation had decreased and do something about it.

I hope if you ever feel in a similar state, the actions I  tried help you too!

Mixing up media consumption

I’ve never been a huge fan of watching YouTube videos as I prefer reading long-form articles. However, this seemed to be getting stale, so I decided to mix it up and watch some videos.

I started off with Ramit Sethi’s channel. Most of the information was what he writes about on his website, but by consuming it in a different way, I was able to get a different perspective on things. Also, watching videos that have been edited into small chunks of 3 – 5 minutes kept my attention and the time flew by!

Having received some great information from the first video, it was an easy decision to let YouTube’s autoplay roll on and before I knew it, I was watching loads of different entrepreneurs discuss everything from SEO to strategies on meeting famous people.

 

envisioning the future

I love the internet. I started off by watching some random dude video himself about how to grow your email subscribers, which led me to different blogs, eventually landing on some other random guy’s website reading about dreamlining.

Dreamlining is “the systematic process of outlining your ideal lifestyle and making a plan to realize your dreams.” It is a concept created by Tim Ferris in the book, The Four Hour Work Week.

Actually writing down what you want to achieve makes it very real… and hopefully achievable!

I like how it is set out in this blog from Tynan (a blogger, life nomad, and programmer):

Think about where you want your life to be in three to five years. Imagine it clearly, so that it feels like you’re actually there. How do you spend your time? Who is around you? Where are you? What are your plans for the week? … Once you have an idea of what it will look like, write it down.

Next, think about how you have been spending your time. Who have you been spending it with? What are your hobbies? What’s your work? What do you do in the spare hour or two between obligations?

As you think about these actions, evaluate whether or not they’re getting you closer to your imagined future. If they aren’t, then ask yourself if you got the future wrong or if you’re getting your actions wrong. It could easily be either one. The goal is to create alignment.

(Bold formatting is my own).

I sat down with some music on and wrote out what was going on in my life right now. Underneath, I put down what I could feasibly achieve, and where I wanted to be, in five years.

I then compared the two paragraphs.

It was actually a really great feeling! I noticed strong efforts in some places, like saving/investing a high percentage while still having fun, and areas where I could make some slight adjustments to reach my goals.

Seeing where I am now and how I am making consistent baby steps to where I want to be was a great motivator.

 

finding your evil twin

After getting excited about my future, I stumbled across an article which appealed to my competitive side.

The idea is to imagine you have a twin who has exactly the same goals as you. If you want to start a successful low-input business, so do they. If you want to graduate from university in the top 5%, so do they (or even in the top 4, 3, 2, or 1%).

However, only one of you can achieve the goal. If your twin completes the goal before you, you don’t get to even attempt it. Tynan also states that the “one difference between you and your evil twin are your methods. You have a plan, and he has a different one.”

So, how are you going to achieve your goal before your evil twin?

If you’re both trying to start your own business on life coaching, are you frightened of the twin who spends his time reading article after article on life coaching online, or are you scared of the twin who arranges interviews with 10 different people to discover their goals, fears, and dreams?

And, as mentioned in the article, this situation could be real! (usually without the “twin” part). For instance, every person hoping to graduate in the top 5% of their class, there are two more who want to do the same.

How do you beat them?

You become the evil twin. You do what your competition is most scared of. What that usually boils down to is: do it NOW, be hardcore, and never forget that you’re not the only one in the race. (Tynan)

After processing this information, I immediate wrote down a couple of things I could do to “beat” my evil twin. The actions scared the life out of me, but if my evil twin would be willing to do it… so would I.

 

In conclusion…

I finished the day feeling significantly more motivated than I had at the beginning.

Consciously digging deeper into my lack of motivation also bought up another ‘ah-ha’ moment. Although it is important to have goals, it is also vital to focus on the current moments of joy that happen everyday. Stuck in traffic for example, yes annoying, but what a chance of uninterrupted time to think over your day and what you want to achieve from it.

Living in the moment seems to provide the most joy, and I also like to combine it with thoughts of how it will feel when it’s done. Think about how it will feel to have completed a project, article, book, and how it will add value to your life. That in turn gives extra motivation!

I hope some of the actions I took help anyone else who is struggling finding motivation, I am sure it will come!

7 Steps To Successful Investing

While investing may seem pretty scary, fear not! There are common mistakes to avoid and general strategies to follow for the savvy investor.

    1.  do your research

      A couple of years ago, when I thought about investing, my mind would automatically go to a scene straight out of “Wolf of Wall Street”. The phones would be going crazy, imaginary money would be flung around, and people would win and/or lose a ton of cash. What a relief that it doesn’t have to be like that!

      As with anything to do with money, making informed decisions is more likely to lead to the desired results. Do your own research – there are so many great financial role models, websites, books, blogs and so on. Finding a spectrum of opinions and advice also allows you to see what has and hasn’t worked, then base your strategy on that.


    2. create clear investment goals

      Recognise that you won’t become rich overnight and have a clear plan that you are aiming towards, such as the figure you want to have to buy a house. For example, my current short-term plan is to have £15,000 invested by the end of this financial year. Now I know most of that will come from me adding money, but some of it will be growth from my investments.

      It is also important to factor in the risks involved with your plan. Unfortunately high returns may not happen every year (my record so far is a 30% (!) return). Have an emergency account to fall back on and know that you are investing for the future with your stocks and shares. Keep the faith that your investments will grow with time.


    3.  shop around – fees matter

      Have a look at the different investment platforms that are available in your country. In the UK, for example, there are a large variety including Hargreaves Lansdown and Legal & General. There’s no need to go with funds that charge you loads of money to deal when there are alternative cheaper options available. Keep an eye on the Total Expense Ratio for each investment as this encapsulates any costs you may have missed.

      I think it’s also important as a first time investor to go with a broker that has really good customer service so if you need a question answered quickly, your mind can be put at ease. Live chat is a great function and long opening hours on the phone/email service.


    4. diversify your portfolio

      By spreading your investments over a diverse portfolio, you are reducing the risk of losing lots of money. If one of your investments goes down, it’s okay if your money is spread and the others keep it afloat.

      Something I recently learnt from Mustard Seed Money is that the reason why there is such a high turnover on the Forbes Richest People List is that a lot of them have a large amount invested in their company. If the stock price changes, their fortunes rise or fall depending on the market. This highlights the importance of not putting all your eggs in one basket!


    5.  Think long term

      It is nearly impossible to perfectly and consistently time the market. Even Warren Buffett himself said there was not much to gain from doing it! With a long term strategy, you can avoid stressing over the peaks and troughs of as the real power of the stock market shows itself in the continual growth investors make in building wealth.

      It also means that you can leave your emotions out of investing, reducing your chances of reacting to the media (such as worries over North Korea). You can focus your energies into things better deserving of them.

      “Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.” – Warren Buffett


    6.  automate

      I think I mention this in a lot of blog posts but automation is such a great investing technique. By setting up direct debits or standing orders to take money straight out of your account (or even, if you are in the US, straight out of your paycheck before it reaches your bank account), you don’t need to worry about remembering to do it.

      Make use of systems to simplify your life and reduce decision fatigue (the declining quality of decisions made after a long session of decision making) allowing you to focus on what you love and…


    7. go out and live!

      Don’t  obsess over reviewing your investments’ performance! A great way of stopping yourself doing this is from the automation mentioned in the step before. I usually check how it’s going every month or so, and if one investment is consistently doing badly, then I will review it and potentially make changes.

      Every 6 months, give your investments a spring or autumnal clean and see if you can be adding any more to them! Or open another one? Invest in something new? But between the little checks every month and the bigger one biannually, make sure you are getting out there and living your life!

Do you have any investment tips that I have missed? Let me know in the comments!