Friday, August 30, 2013

Goal Setting Part 6: The "How" and "When" of Goal Setting

©2013 Jupiterimages Corporation
Last time I focused on the importance of visualizing the impact that reaching your goal will have on your life.  When you buy into the end result before you even begin your steps towards it, you’re more likely to stay focused along your journey to attain it. That helps when you run into rough patches along the way.   Visualization alone, however, won’t get you where you’re headed.   Just like you might plan a trip, plotting how you’ll get there and accounting for the time the entire trip will take, you must plan how and by when you want to reach your goal.

Planning the “how” in goal setting means that you are looking not only at necessary steps you may need to take, but also the order in which those steps need to be taken. At this point, you are mapping how to get from your current situation to the desired situation of successfully completing your goal. While you’re planning, you may run across a step that is new to you.  Perhaps you’ve never done anything like it in the past. It’s at this point that you may need to add additional steps, listed prior to that one, that detail how you will go about acquiring the necessary information, money, or resource you need, or possibly even a skill set that you don’t yet have.  Whatever it is that you need but don’t have, proper planning will more than likely bring it into focus.  There’s nothing more frustrating than jumping into action head first, only to realize you don’t have all the things you need to finish the endeavor successfully.  Begin with the end in mind during the visualization step, and then work backwards in your planning to map out the “how.” 

Once you’re comfortable with the planning steps you just enumerated, you will have the information that you need to establish the “when” of your goal.  The “when” relates to the date you have successfully reached your goal. When you look over your “how” planning steps, you may realize that your goal can be accomplished in less time than you originally anticipated.  It may be that you originally underestimated how long it would take.  Be realistic when you set your target “due” date for reaching your goal.  No matter what, though, you must set a target date.  When we don’t set a date on our calendar for something we want to achieve, it doesn’t usually become a reality. If it by some miracle does, it’s much later than we would have liked it to happen.  Having a target due date allows us to work towards something.  It keeps us on track.  Without it, there is one less accountability push.  With it, we run the race with our eyes fixed on the finish line!

-Stephanie Baker
Life in Abundance

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Goal Setting Part 5: The Benefits of Achieving Your Goals

©2013 Jupiterimages Corporation

Last time, I talked about understanding the “WHY” of a goal. I examined the importance of understanding why you feel a particular goal is important to achieve.  I concluded with the concept that if the goal you’re working towards doesn’t really belong to you (i.e., if it’s being imposed on you by someone else, or you’re doing it to please someone else), then you probably won’t experience sustainability with it even if you do reach it momentarily.  Sustainability is what you’re after when you work towards a goal that brings a desired change.

In order to have sustainability, you need to fully embrace and consider how successfully attaining your goal will affect your life.  It’s important to visualize your life as you imagine it will be once you’ve attained the goal.  When you allow yourself to experience what successfully reaching the goal will feel like, you are giving yourself an upfront taste of the change it brings.  Consider what aspects of your life will be different – better – after you’ve realized this goal.  How will you feel?  What are the emotions that come with this?  What will be different about you – what will others see that is different?  How will your life be improved by realizing this goal?  Will you be healthier?  Will you be wealthier?  Will you be happier?  Will you weigh less?  Will you look different?  Will you be more professionally fulfilled? Sometimes a goal you are working towards will impact other people.  If this is the case for your goal, imagine how those other people will feel as well.  What will be different in your relationship with them?  How will their lives be enriched?

When you allow yourself to develop the image and visualize how your life will be after you successfully reach your goal, then you not only have an image but a feeling to carry with you during your journey to get there. You are beginning – as Stephen Covey says – with the “end” in mind.  You are drawing a picture of the end result to put in your pocket and keep with you on your travels to get there. It serves as a constant reminder to you of what you are working towards and why.

So many times, we allow ourselves to get pulled off the road to achieving a goal.  At the first sign of turbulence on the journey, we forget why we wanted to take the trip in the first place.  This happens because we haven’t really bought into the end result before we ever took the first step towards it.  If we can allow ourselves to concentrate on how victory will feel and what it will mean in our lives and possibly the lives of others, then we are more apt to “stay the course” when the road to it gets bumpy. 

by Stephanie Baker  Life in Abundance

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Goal Setting Part 4: Thinking Through Our Goals

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Thinking through our goals
Many of us don’t do what I call a “360” when we goal plan.  Doing a “360” means that you examine the goal from all possible angles.  You think through the entire process of the goal you want to achieve.  In essence, you walk all the way around the goal, examining every aspect of it.

To successfully achieve a goal, it’s important that we understand these things:
WHY (Why do we want change/improvement in this particular area?)
BENEFITS (In what way will my life change when I realize this goal? Is there anyone else who will be affected by my achievement – if so, how?)
HOW and by WHEN (How and by When do we plan to accomplish this change/improvement?)
WHAT (What resources – people, equipment, etc- will we need to accomplish this change/improvement?)
WHICH (Which obstacles might we be faced with while we’re working towards our goal?)
WHAT IF (What will we do IF we are faced with one of the obstacles we defined)
HOW WILL I KNOW (How will I know if I’ve attained my goal?  What are the measurements by which I’ll know it’s been reached?)
RELEVANCE and REWARD (How important to me is this goal and How will I reward myself once I’ve successfully reached it?)

This week, let’s focus on the “WHY” we want to achieve a goal.  When you focus on the “WHY,” you have to find out from where the desire to change or improve is coming.   When it’s a desire that comes from outside sources or is imposed on us, we tend to fail in our attempts to reach the goal (or change the behavior).  If we do succeed initially with the goal or change in behavior, we lack sustainability.  Sometimes we may even resent the very thing we’ve changed. 

Moreover, embracing a goal because it’s what others think should be our goal can actually keep us from focusing on things that would produce positive change/growth in our lives.  In other words, things like losing weight or quitting smoking (or exercising, or eating healthier – etc,…) can be useful and helpful things to do, but unless we each perceive the value in those things as it relates to our individual lives and our personal desires, our results will not be lasting.   

When we examine the “WHY,” we may need to modify the original goal or even discard it entirely.  That’s not all bad.  That’s how we drill down and focus on the goals that are truly important to us – the ones that WILL change our lives for the better and the ones that will have LASTING positive impact.

Let me speak for a moment from experience.  While I was growing up, our home was spotless.  In fact, it looked like it could be in a magazine.  Everything was always in its place and our home was in pristine condition just in case anyone stopped by unannounced to visit.  This meant that my mother, bless her heart, was constantly cleaning, dusting and vacuuming.  I mean every single day those things were done.  At times, I’m sure you could even have eaten off the floor and been fine (no 5 second rule needed). 

Now, let’s fast forward to my adulthood.  While working unbelievable work week hours at the peak of my corporate career, I carried with me the goal that I had to have my own home as spotless as my parent’s home was when I was growing up.  In order to reach that goal, that meant I would have to spend my weekend – Saturday to be exact – cleaning my home.   My home, you see, was really a 1000 square foot apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  To clean it the way I felt was required to hit my “goal” meant that I would need to spend 4 hours cleaning every Saturday.  Needless to say, I was exhausted when Sunday rolled around.  That didn’t leave much time for “fun” on the weekend, much less time to rest before my grueling work week started over again. 

The other notable factor was that while my home place was indeed clean, I was not progressing forward in building a gratifying social life.  When I met my husband, I realized that I wanted to spend time on the weekend with him instead of with my head stuck in a toilet or tub.  Granted, the clean toilet and tub were rewarding, but not nearly in the same way as having a mutually gratifying relationship with another human being. 

Jokes aside, I had to think about why I willingly embraced a goal that was actually holding me hostage.  I realized, after pondering the WHY for awhile, that the goal belonged to my mother and not me.  That was HER goal, not mine.  I had accidentally packed it when I left home and I needed to return it as soon as possible.  So I did.  What a freeing experience it was to rethink that goal.  Cleanliness was and is important to me, but to make it workable in my world in the form of a personal goal, I needed to realize its relevancy.  How important was that goal to ME? 

Once I decided that, then I could set a new goal with parameters that worked for me.  I redefined what level of “clean” was acceptable for me.  Then I redefined what “filth” meant in my world.  With that done,  I was free to put into forward motion some time management practices that allowed me to work on a far more important goal – spending time with the man that I love and building a lasting relationship.  That goal was more important than the dust on my coffee table that had accumulated during the work week.  After all, I felt like the dust would wait on me. 

Next Time: The benefits of achieving your goal.

by Stephanie Baker Life in Abundance

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Goal Setting Part 3: Lack of Follow Through

Image: ©2013 Jupiterimages Corporation
Over the last few weeks, this series has been focusing on what works against us when we try to set and achieve goals.  I’ve been discussing some helpful information found in Ken Blanchard’s book, Know Can Do!.  Previously, I’ve discussed the negative effects of information overload and negative filtering.

This week, I’m taking a look at the concept of “lack of follow-up.”  Most people, after being exposed to new information or new material don’t have any kind of follow up plan.  Because of that, many of us revert back to our old routines.  Sound familiar? We need to put our newly learned knowledge or ideas or know-how into action.  We have to have a follow up plan. In goal setting, just as in learning and applying newly learned material, we need structure, support, and accountability.

Lack of Follow Up
Without immediate follow up after learning something new or deciding to implement a new behavior within our daily schedule, we will typically revert back to our old ways and habits.  The quicker we pull the trigger on using this new knowledge or implementing this new behavior, the greater the chance that we’ll be successful in our attempts to create sustainability.  Sometimes, we need help in getting the desired results in our lives.  Here’s where a coaching relationship can help provide you with structure, support, and accountability where goal setting and achievement is concerned. 

Structure:  Working with a coach will help a client focus on a limited number of areas where changes/improvements are desired.  With the assistance of a coach, the client defines a specific goal(s) and then maps out an effective strategy to move from where he/she currently is to where he/she wants to be in relation to that specific goal. 

Support: A coach will encourage a client to think differently about situations, opportunities and perceived obstacles. Additionally, a coach will guide a client in reframing an existing approach to reaching a goal in order to achieve the goal faster and easier. 

Accountability:  If you are committed to the coaching process, a coach can help you stay focused on your goal and why it’s important to you.  The coaching relationship helps you maintain the motivation and commitment you need to achieve your goals. Studies show that when you tell someone else about your goal and have a regularly scheduled time to meet with an “accountability partner,” you have a greatly increased chance of completing the goal successfully.  In fact, The American Society of Training and Development conducted a research project into the probability of completing a goal based on the actions a person takes related to that goal.  Information from that research suggests that the probability of completing a goal jumps to 95% if we have a specific accountability appointment with another person related to the implementation of our action plan to reach our goal.

Getting the Results We Want
For many people it is far more successful to have a professional coach, rather than a friend or family member, help them through the process of goal setting and accountability.  A professional coach is trained to walk a client through a structured type of questioning to help that person understand why the goal has priority his/her life.  Sometimes, when that first piece of the pie is examined, a goal can be restructured or thrown out entirely.  Because a coach has only the success of the client in mind, there are no hidden agendas. As much as we love friends and family, we cannot say the same of them. 

While our friends and family members may outwardly claim to want only the best for us, they may unintentionally hinder us from desired achievement due to their own negative filtering.  There are also other reasons this happens with people close to us.  In his book, Emotions Revealed, author Paul Ekman discusses the concept of emotional triggers being universal and individual.  Individual emotional triggers may be affected by the activity of each person’s own “auto-appraisers.”  He suggests that we have built in “appraising” mechanisms that are continually scanning the world around us in order to detect when something important to our survival or welfare is happening.  The auto appraisers to which he refers are our senses, simply put.  The conflict arises because everyone’s senses may react differently to the same situation. What one person’s auto-appraisers may tell him/her is scary, another’s may acknowledge differently. 

Because a coach doesn’t give “advice” or try to sway a client one way or another in choices, the client makes the decisions about which directions to ultimately take or avoid.  The very nature of coaching acknowledges that the answers are already within the client, but that the coach is needed to ask the right questions.  A great coach will be able to ask unbiased questions that provoke true and open responses from a client.  A close family member or friend might have a much tougher time handling biases from their own emotions, which in turn, would affect the truthfulness and openness of the responses from the same person (client). 

When I look back through my early life, my parents always attempted to provide structure and accountability.  The amount of support I received, however, was in direct correlation to whether the course of my action (whatever that was) met with their personal approval. That approval/disapproval was most likely influenced by their personal auto-appraisers. But whichever of those was offered to me, be assured that it peppered my own experience with one of two things: either additional confidence to move forward, or doubt about my chance for success.  

Later, as an adult, I can list more than one occasion where one parent’s fear regarding my suggested courses of actions could easily have kept me from taking necessary steps towards personal and professional achievement.  Although that parent’s love for me is unquestionable, fear drove the motivation for said parent. Although I understood where the fear originated, I refused to personally embrace it and ultimately allow it to stall my personal/professional growth.  Had I allowed the influence of fear to stop me in that situation, I would not have met my husband.  What a shame that would have been!

The follow up of implementing newly learned material or desired changes in behavior needs to be driven through structure, support, and accountability.  If you are someone who routinely has trouble reaching your goals or someone who feels stuck, realize that what you’ve been doing isn’t working.  First, examine whether the proper structure, support, and accountability exists for you on any level. Secondly, if it does exist, you may need to make changes relating to where you find it.  In other words, who influences your follow through and follow up?

Next Time:  Thinking through our goals

by Stephanie Baker

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Goal Setting Part 2: The "Which" of Goal Setting

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The Which of Goal Setting

Last week I talked about planning to acquire resources you need to complete your goal.  Equally important is discussing which obstacles that you may run into along the way to successful achievement of said goal.

When you try anything new, the biggest obstacle to your own achievement is ….well…uhm…er…YOU.  Let’s start there.  You are the person trying to integrate a new behavior change into your routine.  Your own brain, however, is wired against your attempts to change anything.  When we do something repeatedly, it becomes a habit (like eating whatever you want whenever you want and not caring about the choice involved). Over time, your brain develops a “memory” of that behavior habit and when you try to change it or alter it in any way, your brain fights that.  You may be successful a time or two, but then the old habit starts winning over the new one and you’re right back where you started. 

To break an old habit, you need to repeat the new pattern many times over.  Eventually, the old “memory” that’s associated with that old behavior habit will be overwritten by the new memory that you’ve now associated with the new behavior habit.  It’s a lot more scientific than I’m getting here, but for purposes of this blog – let’s try to keep it simple.  I think it’s important that  I address the fact that this is going on in any attempt to change an existing behavior to something new.  When you address that it’s just “not in your makeup,” you’re not giving yourself an excuse to fail, but rather you’re giving yourself greater power to succeed in spite of that challenge.  As a side note here, exercise actually helps you in this entire process – whatever the new behavior habit is that you’re trying to implement, exercising helps your brain in building the new “memory” that’s associated with it through something called neurogenesis.

There are other obstacles that you may run into along the way to reaching this new goal. It’s important that you look at your past performance to determine if there is anything there to give you a clue to what you may face again that could derail you. What has happened in the past that’s kept you from being successful in reaching goals?  How did you handle it?  Were you effective in dealing with that particular obstacle(s)?  What didn’t work in your effort to overcome it?  How might you approach this obstacle(s) differently this time with a more successful outcome?

It’s always helpful to run the idea of potential obstacles past other people who know you and support your efforts to reach your goals. You might be surprised to hear what others see in and around you that you may have missed.  Once you’ve identified the things that can (and have) pull you off course, work out strategies to deal with them should they happen.  Everyone is better with a plan.  It’s typically the unexpected thing that arises – the thing we didn’t think about and have no plan on how to deal with – that keeps us from staying on the forward track to achieve our goals.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Essentially, this is the process of “risk planning/management,” for the goal seeker.

Next Week:  The “What-If” of Goal Setting

Stephanie is a board-certified Master Christian Life Coach and co-author of Organizing From the Heart. You can visit her site here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goal Setting Part 1: What Keeps Us from Attaining Our Goals?

We're happy to begin a series of weekly posts on the subject of goal setting, by Stephanie Baker over the next five weeks!

© 2013 Jupiterimages Corporation

Because so many of us desire change in one area or another of our lives, but just can’t seem to actually make it happen, I thought it would be helpful to examine the idea of goal setting in greater depth. This is the first in a series of blogs that will post in the coming weeks about what goal setting really involves.  We’ll begin by examining what things work against us in our own mindsets when we try to change or implement newly learned things.  Then, we’ll examine the preliminary planning/thinking steps that are not only required, but also critical in setting and achieving goals. 

What keeps us from attaining our goals?

Why do we solemnly resolve to improve our situations, only to burn out in our attempts a few months (or weeks or days) after we start the process?  Why does this happen, year after year, for some of us?  Simply putwe don’t do the necessary preliminary planning/thinking work it takes before we attempt to change/improve something about ourselves or in our lives.  When we don’t do the necessary preliminary work, goals can become a moving target and so can our own accountability for achieving them.  If we aren’t clear about our goals, much less the decisions we need to make surrounding them, how can we be held accountable for achieving them?  That’s the trap we gravitate towards – that’s the trap that makes it easy to be pulled off course. Even worse, it creates the situation we use to let our efforts to reach our goals fade off into the sunset. 

Not doing the preplanning is only a part of the problem we face in goal setting.  I think another huge reason we don’t successfully achieve when we goal set is that we don’t fully understand what works against us in our own minds and personalities before we even begin the process.  When we want to change one of our behaviors, we have to begin with what’s in our hearts and our minds.  Once our hearts and minds are changed, then the desired behaviors will follow.  So what is working against us?  What do we need to acknowledge before we begin to work towards our goals? 

Ken Blanchard’s book, ‘Know Can Do!’ gives us a good indication of what goes on in our own head when it comes to processing new information or thinking about implementing something new in our lives.  It examines the ideas of information overload, negative filtering, and lack of follow up as reasons that keep us from implementing new information that we learn (example: courses, seminars, and workshops).  Those three reasons are not just reasons working against us to learn new information and apply it in our lives.  They are also things working against us when we try to implement the changes that goal setting brings into our lives.

Information Overload
Information Overload is where we need to start.  Most of us can’t leave home without our own connection to the Internet. Many of us are joined at the hip to our mobile devices. We never stop checking email, Googling various subjects of interest, or spending time on Facebook.  We are over stimulated all of the time.  We have such easy access to so much information that we find ourselves virtually lost in it.  We study a little about a lot of things. Our areas of focus are skewed.  We tend not to focus on just one or two or three important areas of interest.  Rather than sharpening our knowledge in one or two or three areas, we learn a little about many things.   As a result, we never really become well-versed in any given subject of interest.  There’s never any real significant knowledge gain in any one area.

For example, many people take workshops and classes to learn ways to improve themselves (time management, organization, communication, etc), but those same people never really implement the new material they learn.  Weeks after coming back excited from a workshop, nothing of significant change has happened for the person who learned the new material.  There’s a gap between the newly gained knowledge and any useful implementation of that knowledge.  It’s more fun to learn the new stuff than to actually apply the effort to use it.  Human nature pushes us to do what’s fun, not what’s work. So…we take more classes and workshops on more topics that seem interesting, rather than zeroing in on one area that needs significant improvement.

The same can be true of us when it comes to goal setting.  We sometimes get lost in setting the goals and never even get beyond that process because we are overwhelmed.  There may be so many areas in which we think we need to improve, that we can’t seem to focus on the one or two that are of critical importance to us.  Rather, we have trouble deciding which one of those areas will give us the biggest payoff once the goal is reached. We may list so many goals that it looks like a to-do list to be checked off. 

Another problem is that we have trouble saying to ourselves and others that we’re working on just one thing.  We are a culture of multi-taskers.  We’ve been conditioned to think we have to have many things we’re working on all at the same time.  We’re embarrassed to say we’ve only got one thing on our list of improvements that we’re planning to tackle.  We think somehow we’re not working hard enough or we’re afraid others will think that about us.  As a result, we plug away until we eventually give up because we aren’t seeing significant results from our efforts.  What we are seeing is our efforts strewn about many things and not feeling a sense of accomplishment over one thing due to visible and measurable results.   We tend to look at the overall concept of all that needs to be improved in our lives or ourselves, versus looking at the improvement process one piece at a time.  We have to start to change our paradigm here.  When I teach a class on organizing the home, I start out by having the students identify the one room that each will focus her efforts on through the duration of the class.  We don’t look at the house in its entirety.  We focus on one room at a time.

Next week:  How negative filtering works against us in goal setting. 

Stephanie is a board-certified Master Christian Life Coach and co-author of Organizing From the Heart. You can visit her site here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Back to School Special!

Today through Monday at midnight!

Organizing from the Heart e-book version available FREE!

Click on the box on the right of the blog to order.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Goal Setting Series Coming!

Beginning the week of August 11 and continuing for five weeks, we'll be featuring a 10-part series on goal setting by Organizing From the Heart co-author Stephanie Baker.

Stephanie will also be leading an "Intentional Living" class at Brookwood Church this October. If you are in the upstate area, you may want to check it out!

To learn more about Stephanie prior to the series, visit her site here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Magnetic Strip

Display memos, photos, cards, etc. with Mini Magnetic Strip, a 13-inch strip with 6 super strong magnets. (GH)

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Four Ways to Keep Your Money Organized

©2013 Jupiterimages Corporation

Is your purse full of receipts, coins, cash and cards? Simplify your life with these ideas.

Consider using separate change purses or sections of a wallet as an "envelope system."
 Keep your most used cards in a handy part of the wallet and consolidate lesser used cards into another section or change purse. That way you don't have to sort through a pile of membership/debit/credit/health/library cards to get to the ones you use most.

Have a set place to put your receipts, either in the wallet or in the same section of your purse.
Enough said.

Empty your wallet when you get home. 
Well, not all of it. Just take out the day's receipts and coins and store accordingly. For example, I put receipts in my monthly receipt box and take loose change and put it in a container for myself or the household, depending on how the original cash was spent. (I keep the cash in separate pouches.)

Refill your wallet as necessary. 
I try to live guided by a budget so I have a certain amount of cash for spending each month. I choose not to carry the entire month's cash at once, so I replenish as necessary when cleaning out my wallet.

If you get in the habit of cleaning out your wallet/purse regularly, before long it will be second nature.

*Note: I don't recommend putting money in accessible pockets like the photo above. This image is just to suggest keeping things in set pockets for organizing purposes.

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