The ability to set and achieve goals is instrumental in building a life you love, both professionally and personally. Numerous studies link goal-setting with behaviour change, highlighting the importance of being intentional in every decision you make.
As a health practitioner, you help clients to set and reach their goals every day. But when it comes to your own life, have you made an effort to develop personal or professional growth goals, or does it feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark?
Maybe you’ve been too busy to wrap your head around goals for your practice. Or maybe, you’re discouraged because goal setting hasn’t worked for you in the past.
Whichever camp you find yourself in, there’s hope. It may be that you just need a different approach.
So, how do you set yourself up for success and make the effort of setting goals worthwhile?
That’s what we’re here to solve.
This article is based on a webinar presented by Damien Adler, registered psychologist and co-founder of Power Diary, and Fiona Harrington, Head of Strategy, Marketing & Growth. Both Damien and Fiona know a thing or two about setting big goals and taking steps to make them happen.
Damien’s career began with early success, as he rose to senior management positions in public mental health at a young age. Nowadays, he is not only the co-founder of Power Diary, but he also built and recently sold a successful psychology private practice. He’s also well-known for his regular guest segments on ABC Radio. Additionally, Damien is a sought-after public speaker, corporate trainer, and TV, radio, and print media contributor.
Fiona brings a wealth of business acumen to the conversation, including creating and building Word of Mouth Online, Australia’s largest business review site. Beyond her professional achievements, Fiona has also accomplished a significant personal feat as the third Australian woman to summit Mount Everest.
How to Set Yourself up for Failure
Before we get into the right way to do things, a few things will ensure your goal-setting is doomed from the get-go.
Common mistakes include:
- Failing to set goals
- Setting too many goals
- Forgetting about your goals
- Failing to create an action plan to achieve your goals
- Focusing on the outcome rather than the process
- Failing to connect emotionally with your goal
If these are the (many) ways to fail, the opposite must be true of success, right? Right. But, as always, the devil is in the details.
Strategies to Set Goals & Reach Them Every Time!
Goal-setting means doing things you don’t usually do or haven’t done before. So you have to be intentional about taking action, and it might feel uncomfortable, at least initially. Without goals, people typically put the things that seem most urgent or important first. But, if you have goals in place, working towards them can add value to your life and those around you.
1. Clarify Your Goals
Choose a time of day when you’re less likely to be interrupted and can focus on getting your goals written down. Take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind when considering what you’d like to change in your personal and professional life.
Why is this so important? According to a study by the Dominican University of California, regularly writing down goals makes you 42% more likely to achieve them.
2. Focus On 1 or 2 Goals at a Time
This is the concept of “goal competition”. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains that “one of the greatest barriers to achieving your goals is the other goals you have.” Once you know your goals, pick the most important and impactful ones.
What would they be if you could only do one or two things? Choose only a couple of goals to work on at once because you only have so much time, energy and resources to dedicate to achieving them.
3. Visualise Your Goals & Generate Emotional Motivation
Visualisation is a powerful tool because it stimulates your brain in the same way performing the action does. That means visualisation can help program you to reach your goal, and help you notice when you’re doing things that get in the way of achieving it.
Set aside time daily or weekly to visualise your goals. It’s a simple exercise: just close your eyes and picture two things. First, see the process you’ll go through to reach your goal; second, see the moment you reach your goal. Visualise the challenging parts of the process you’ll go through, and imagine the feelings you’ll experience along the way. Create the final event or scene where you achieve your goal, and imagine how you’ll feel when you’re finally there.
Creating a picture of your success can be challenging because you may not have a frame of reference for what it will be like. But make an effort, even if you can only visualise parts of the goal in your mind. For example, you could imagine yourself interviewing potential new team members, marketing your business, or doing other kinds of business development work like updating your website.
Ultimately, do what works for you. Sometimes it’s not enough just to imagine the positive emotions you’ll have when you reach your goal. It can help to think about what you’ll feel like if you don’t reach it. For instance, what will happen if you’re scheduled to make a speech but don’t prepare well? Thoughts like these might be all you need to get you moving forward.
4. Use Affirmations
Although negative emotions can motivate us, the difference between success and failure to reach a bigger goal could lie in choosing to speak positively about yourself and the process you’re going through. Studies suggest that positive affirmations have beneficial effects that will serve you well when you hit a bump in the road.
For affirmations to be effective, word them so that your brain doesn’t dismiss them out of hand. For instance, if you’re a solo practitioner, your goal might be to expand and appoint a receptionist and several other practitioners. An affirmation that’s hard to accept might sound like this: “I’ve got a thriving practice with 10 team members”. However, you’ll probably be more likely to accept and be motivated by: “I’m taking steps every day to grow my practice”.
Ultimately, you can use any affirmation if you believe what you’re saying. For some, that might mean they affirm the result; for others, it might mean they affirm the next two or three steps that move them toward the goal.
5. Redefine Your Goals as Inputs
When you evaluate your goals, you’ll notice that some aspects of achieving them are outside your control. You can’t force clients to book your services, and no amount of effort is a 100% guarantee that someone will click the link on your advertisement.
A better approach is to define your goals around doing things that are likely to achieve the desired outcome. For instance, you can set goals like reaching out to a certain number of referrals or investing half a day per week in marketing. This process is rewarding because it allows you to reach short-term goals that motivate you to keep going.
6. Embrace the Struggle
Struggling is a part of reaching goals, so the goals you set for yourself must be worth it; otherwise, you’ll be more likely to give up when roadblocks arise. Not everything will go as planned, so choose to succeed and be ready for the tough times!
7. Create an Action Plan
Goals become a reality when they’re broken down into actionable steps. And here, the secret sauce is to make those actionable steps as small as possible. Aiming high and covering too much ground with a single step isn’t sustainable; it’ll cause you to procrastinate and erode your commitment to take consistent action.
For instance, if you want to write a book, challenge yourself to write only a paragraph daily. A year from now, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve achieved – probably much more than you anticipated. If your goal is to update your website, challenge yourself to write the first version of your About Page or jot down a list of the services you want to cover. All these actions add up over time if you’re consistent. Usually, performing the first small action makes it much easier to keep going.
There are a few extra things you can do to help yourself stick to the plan:
- Commit the time – Make space in your daily schedule to take the steps that can lead to achieving your goals. Try to pick an ideal time to help you be consistent with this.
- Remove distractions – This isn’t new advice, but it works. Put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode while working, and remove all other distractions to stay focused. It’s especially important when you’re doing something you’d rather avoid.
- Set a reward or restriction – For instance, once you’ve spent 30 minutes on a task, get up and stretch your legs for five minutes or call a friend. Or, commit to not getting a coffee before you’ve finished a particular task.
- Don’t start with high standards – If your standard is to get things right the first time you do it, you’re less likely to want to even try. Instead, give yourself the freedom to fail, and make a start, even if it’s terrible.
- Define the Minimum Viable Product – Ask yourself what the most barebones version of the task or the bigger goal looks like while still being functional. Starting there will make it much easier to get going, and you can build on that!
8. Track Your Progress & Stay On Track!
Set regular check-in times to measure how far you’ve come. For instance, you may choose to count how many times a week you make time to research the best location for your expanding practice. Measuring progress with small metrics like these will ensure you notice where you’re progressing and where you’re stuck.
To stay on track with your goals, keep them top-of-mind and be open to re-evaluating them regularly. You can also use reminders or tokens like a mug with a motivational quote to help keep your goals in mind.
Top Tips to Help You Reach Your Goals
We want you to succeed in setting and achieving your goals! So here are our final tips to help you do that:
- Know yourself – Think about times when you’ve succeeded and what helped you do it. Harness those things to help you in the future.
- Know what derails you – Be aware of what contributed to your past failures, such as perfectionism, that caused you to overthink or prevented you from taking final steps. Make an effort to avoid falling into the same traps.
- Don’t let lapses become relapses – Nobody’s perfect. There will be times when you don’t get things right. Don’t let this cause you to give up on your goals.
- Get an accountability partner – If you’re the type of person who stays motivated when someone’s in the loop on your plans, don’t hesitate to find someone you can meet with weekly or monthly for a check-in.
Ready for Success?
We hope you’re up for setting and achieving goals now that you have the right strategies and our top tips! Remember, you’re looking for progress, not perfection. If you start today, your practice and life could look radically different a year from now.