4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Step 1: Assess and Clarify


Everyone who makes goals has an innate understanding that you can’t get different results doing the same thing you’ve always done. This leads to goal setting and the beginnings of new changes, but sometimes the goals never get done and the changes don’t stick.

Over the next month, I’ll be posting a series about the goal achievement process that I use to accomplish many things throughout the year. I’ll also highlight stories from people who’ve accomplished big goals in their life or business. This is one series you won’t want to miss!

Today is Step 1: Assess and Clarify. We’ll go through some questions to figure out if you’re ready and willing to start a new goal, project, or change. I’ll also show you a technique for creating your goal in a way that best sets you up for success. Keep reading to learn more and then come back next Tuesday (Jan 17) to read Step 2: Plan and Take Action.

The four steps each also have worksheets that help you walk through this process. If you want them, be sure to answer Yes!! on that section on the Insiders signup form (if you’re already signed up, you can update your profile by using the same email you used before).

Step 1: Assess and Clarify

Assess the situation

You have things you want to do, projects to complete, and goals to achieve. But are you actually ready and willing to do them? If you’re not ready or willing to put in the work to do something, it doesn’t matter how much you say you want to do it, you won’t get it done.

(Think about a time when someone else told you to do something you’re not ready or willing to do. Even if you’re the person telling yourself to do it, if you don’t commit, it won’t happen.)

Still, even when you do commit, how do you know if you’re ready?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when assessing your situation. If you need ideas on how to answer the questions, ask someone. Many times, other people have more distance from a situation and can give valuable perspective.

What is the goal that you want to work on? / Is this some kind of problem that can be changed? Is it in your control to change it?

What are your reasons for this goal? / Why do you want to make this change?
For a great Ted talk on this topic, check out Simon Sinek’s “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” video (his “Start With Why” speech)

What are some reasons not to make this change or start this project?
If you’re having trouble thinking of some reasons not to change, ask yourself if it’s as simple as staying in the predictable “known”, no matter how undesirable it is. The Great Unknown can be scary.

Are the benefits of changing greater than the benefits of staying the same? If not, is there an alternate change you need to consider?

On a scale of 0-10, how willing are you to do the work to achieve this goal or change your situation?

What do you think might happen if you don’t do this? Do you have any worries or fears (both about doing it and not doing it)?

Is this the right/wisest time to do this project or make this change? Do you have the time to dedicate to this goal?
If you’re already swamped and overwhelmed, and you’re considering adding another project, the answer may be no. Take it from a chronic overcommitter: no matter how excited you are about this, there is such thing as good idea, bad timing.
On the other hand, if you think you can rearrange your schedule to free up enough time to see this through from beginning to end, the timing’s probably pretty good.

While some times are better than others, there’s no magic moment. You’ll never be 100% sure.

Once you’re convinced the benefits of changing outweigh the benefits of staying where you are, and if you’re actually ready to make that change in the next 30 days, let’s begin to clarify your goal.

Clarify your goal

Some goals are so vague that you can’t tell where to start or even when you’ve accomplished them. To avoid this, you can use the popular SMART goal technique, which helps create goals that set you up for success.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Specific: Add enough details to give you a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. It may be helpful to go through these questions: What do you want to do? What will it look like when you do this (this question will help you figure out what you really  want from this goal)? Why do you want it? Who is or will be involved or affected by this goal? Where will you do this (if it’s something that needs a location)?

Measurable: How will you track your progress? Vagueness makes it easy to think that you’re doing something when you’re not. Phrase the goal in a way that you can easily tell when you’ve accomplished it.

Achievable/Actionable: This has two parts: control and action steps.

Is this something you can control or affect? Sometimes goals don’t really have anything to do with you. You can make a goal that you want a reporter to write an article about you (true story: it’s on my list, thanks to my 8th grade self) but you can’t force the reporter to write it. You can, however, do things that make it more likely to happen (doing something that is story-worthy, being able to communicate your story in a way that is appealing to the reporter so they want to learn more and write about it, etc)

How big is your goal? If this is a very big goal it needs to be broken down into smaller, more realistic action steps. Make a goal that you have the ability and resources to achieve (or, be willing to work to get the skills and resources you will need, and make it an action step for this goal). Write your goal so that you don’t have to be a miracle-worker to achieve it. Focus on small changes, one at a time. It’s okay to have big, broad goals, but each active goal should be made of smaller action steps broken down from that broader goal.

Relevant: How does this align with your priorities and other goals/commitments? The closer it is to your priorities, the more likely you’ll be to want to achieve it. Make sure the goal obviously fits in with your priorities.

Time-bound: How often do you want to do this goal? By what date do you plan to accomplish it? Include a deadline and/or timeline for your goal (and each of the action steps) so you know when to evaluate your progress.

Get started!

Within next 30 days, we’re going to take action. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be in the direction of your goal.

This week I want you to think of something (one thing) you want to change, or a goal you want to accomplish.

Go through the assessment questions above, and make a list of pros and cons for both starting on your goal and for doing the same thing you’re doing right now (no goal). Write down any fears or worries you have.

When you’ve done that, clarify your goal using the SMART technique above. When you have your finalized goal, put it on a sticky note and place it somewhere you’ll see it over the next week. Refine it until it’s something you really want to do, and then come back next Tuesday (Jan 17) to read Step 2: Plan and Take Action.

Want the worksheet to help you through this process? Sign up for the Insiders list and answer Yes!! on that section of the signup form to let me know to email it to you.
(If you’re already signed up, you can update your profile by using the same email you used before).


7 thoughts on “4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Step 1: Assess and Clarify

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  2. Pingback: 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Adam Luff’s Story: “Have Friends on Similar Paths” | The Goal List

  3. Pingback: 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Step 4: Reflect and Celebrate | The Goal List

  4. Pingback: 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Taylor Jacobson’s Story: “Appropriately Scary Goals” | The Goal List

  5. Pingback: 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Step 3: Break Barriers and Collect Small Success | The Goal List

  6. Pingback: 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals – Step 2: Plan and Take Action | The Goal List

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