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Setting Clear, Attainable Objectives for Success

Posted on the 22 September 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

We’re here again, oh, how it has come around quickly again, the holiday season is upon us as the year has sped by at breakneck pace and we’ll soon be thinking out those New Year resolutions – again.How many did you set on 31st December 2009?How many did you pursue past 2nd January 2009?Only you know the answer to these questions, and you may be getting ready to rake them out again. Now what was it? Give up smoking? Lose weight? Go to the gym? Eat healthier?Those are personal resolutions that we have all made at some time or other and ones, which have generally been set at the strategic time-slot of the eve of a new year, out with the old and in with the new, or something like that.It’s something of a tradition, so too is the breaking of these resolutions later on in the year for whatever reason, it’s all a bit of fun, isn’t it? Or is it?How do you feel when you promise yourself to do something and then don’t follow it through? Not so good, huh?OK, let’s look at some of the possible reasons that resolutions are sometimes hard to stick with; no let’s change that for “Objectives”.You may find that the fun aspect of making and breaking resolutions is not only reserved for the “losing a few pounds before going to the beach” syndrome but is, in fact, something that happens in other spheres of your life.That in itself can be slightly more disconcerting, as we attempt to set our self targets that we don’t reach, be it professionally or personally – if is always possible make a difference here.Some of the reasons we don’t achieve that what we set out to achieve is often due to the way that we fix our goals, objectives or aims. Now those are quite interesting terms that are sometimes used erroneously and often interchangeable.There is a general consensus in academia about the usage of the terminology, although there are as many exceptions to the perceived rule as there are to the rules.I’m going to leave this open to individual interpretation but will give my own, personal understanding of the three terms.An Aim is a general will to do, or not to do something. For example I aim to work in a field I enjoy by the end of the year, or back to 31st December, I am to lose some excess Kilos in 2010. An aim can be quite vague, at least to the casual bystander.A goal is a more precise expression of where I want to be. For example my goal is to work in a University. Or my goal is to lose 5 Kilos, and I may even say when – by May 2010.An objective is a breakdown of how I am going to achieve this, a checklist that I can tick-off when I achieve what I set out to do. It is more detailed that the goal or the aim and also tells of HOW and WHEN I will do whatever I am aiming at.There we go again, the word “aim” has crept in almost imperceptibly.It may seem that using three words to express something with such similarity, is in fact, just another case of splitting hairs, and that may be the case but I will try to justify the reasons, and the reasons so many of us fail with our Objectives, Goals and Aims – for the sake of ease I will use the word objectives to talk about the three, although we can see there are clear lines of demarcation between the three.One of the reasons that so many of us fail with the objectives that we establish is that they are not SMART enough, SMART in terms of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time specific, Google the term and you will find other meanings of the mnemonic plus two others to make them SMART-ER (Evaluated and Revisited).This is one of those buzz terms that we are all aware of but when broken down from their management-speak high ground, do actually have a lot of sense.Objectives must be specific, it is no good saying that I want to get a better job without planning the What / How / When or even the Why steps clearly.What job do you want?How are you going to go about it? What steps are you going to take?When are you aiming for? By saying mid-year is too vague, even mid-June is too vague, there has to be a clear cut-off date in order for a reassessment and a readjustment of the plan to be carried out, if you are ever going to achieve it – 17th June is more precise and will help build the planning phases.Why do you want the job, will help you examine both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation you have for securing a new job, and may even help you to realize that this is not, indeed what you need, but more a re-evaluation of your current job.An objective of “losing a few kilos before the summer” is very hard to achieve as there are no specifics, “How many kilos”? “In what time frame precisely”?  Which often leads to the why.Another trap that is open for anyone trying to set out their objectives is the “Away from” or “Towards” objective setting scenario.An “Away from objective” is a form of behavioural objective that we want to avoid. Take a simple example of someone trying to quit smoking.An away from objective would be, “I don’t want to smoke”. A “Towards” objective in this example would be “I want to stop smoking” – as lame as it may sound.The problem with the away-from-objective is that the brain has difficulties dealing with negation, and often subconsciously disregards the negation, which results in a deeper underpinning of the undesired behavior.It’s almost like saying to one’s subconscious, that I want to continue smoking as a form of autosuggestion.We sometimes disregard the power of suggestion on the subconscious mind and often go all out to prove the point.Imagine a child carrying a full glass of milk – how often do parents unintentionally help the child to spill the glass by the power of suggestion?The suggestion is innocently uttered in phrases such as, “Be careful, you’re going to spill it”. Or “be careful, you don’t want to spill it”. And what does the child do? Well, usually they comply and spill it.This is the exact same phenomena as an away-from objective – saying what you don’t want to do often results in actually doing it.So another clear point with objective setting is saying exactly what you want to do and then going all-out to do it.Another point with objectives is that the objective must be desired and fully owned by the person wanting to achieve them – objectives set by proxy have a good chance of failure. If an objective is set by a manager for an employee but not shared or owned by the employ it will usually be achieved on the face of it but not in any deeper sense.Visualisation is a great tool that can help to fully appreciate what can be achieved in a pseudo-concrete sense, but which can also help to see exactly where we are at any given time with a more complex objective, and more importantly what remains to be done in order to achieve what we set out to achieve.Ask yourself the following questions with regard to your objectives:”What will it look like when I get my new job” and actually feel the emotions and senses that you can experience.”How will I know that I have achieved x objective” – this can help accentuate the mind towards the full or partial realisation of the objective and help in the review process at a later date.Furthermore, we don’t always exploit our attempts at setting ourselves objectives as a learning event, and it is such a huge learning opportunity that can so easily be let go and disregarded and this is where the “ER” of SMART+ER objectives really gives a powerful boost to learning.There are few things in life more soul-destroying than fixing objectives and failing – because that is often the way that we evaluate the non-achievement of objectives, as a negative failure and it doesn’t have to be like this.Try to look for the positive as well as what needs to be improved and set-out a clear path for the achievement of your objectives. We often have a tendency to look at what we didn’t do rather than what we actually achieved, this is where objectivity is important and can help with the clear mapping of steps that are needed to be taken.Go back over the reasons that you didn’t achieve your objectives and try to be ‘objective’ in your exploration of the reasons you didn’t achieve what you set out to do.Quite often there is a clear realisation that the objectives that were set, were not, in fact, good objectives from the outset.Combine this with a lack of motivation for the objective, it is easy to see why we sometimes ‘fail’ and as long as we are able to clearly see, ‘Why’, then we are fairly well-armed to establish the objectives we want to achieve with a fair to excellent chance of success.I have seen on the Internet other acronyms for objectives setting such as, DUMB Objective – Decisive, Unique, Measurable and Bold – and why not?In summary, objectives are essential in order to get things done and to change things or oneself.However, an essential facet for achieving objectives is in the planning and reviewing process – Planning, to ensure that we are really aiming at what we need and want to be aiming for and reviewing to see how far down the line we are to nearing towards our own, personal objectives.There are two important points here, NEED and WANT, if we don’t address what we WANT as well as what we NEED then the objective will never be achieved at 100% as it is very difficult to maintain objectives towards needs if the desire to achieve them just is not there.Good luck with your New Year resolutions and your objective setting – You CAN do it!© Active Consultants 2009. 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