Get Real About Goal Setting

Last night I was complaining to a friend about how I need to get on track with a few things I’m trying to accomplish.  My friend’s response was totally annoying and perfect: “Then do something about it and stop bitching.” I loved it.

So therefore, I’m reviewing goal setting today. As much for myself as for every other moody, aggressive and ambitious woman who has good intentions yet gets off track.

In my opinion, goal setting is a lot like dieting: easy to talk about; fun to get caught up in, but rarely effective or long-term in nature. But overall, in order to achieve your goal (whatever it is) there are a few crucial rules to follow.

1. Your goal must be measurable (and you may not like it anymore once you put it in measurable terms). Here are examples which are NOT goals in my world: “I want to lose some weight.” “It would be nice to get a new job.” Or “I need to make some more money.” No.

A measurable goal is: “I want to lose 15 pounds by August 1, 2009.” Why is this more effective? Because you can say: I have 3 months to do it, and that means I need to lose 5 pounds per month, or at least 1 pound per week to achieve my goal. In order to loose 1 pound per week, I need to burn at least 3500 extra calories per week, or 500 extra calories per day. In order to eliminate 500 calories per day, I will have to cut out my daily Grande Vanilla Late (250 calories) and run 2.5 miles a day (or do something) to burn the other 250.

Do you still want to lose 15 pounds? Because most people would say “NO!” after putting the goal into measurable terms because they have to face the reality of what it will take to achieve that goal.

2. Your goal must be attainable and not contradictory. I think you are smart enough to know what an attainable, non-contradictory goal is, but in case you ever get a BIT carried away like I do, I will review it anyways. Here is an example: “I want to be as skinny as Eva Longoria, eat out and drink as much as I want, while making six figures, buying a condo and spending way too much money on beauty services and clothes.”

Get real. You are never going to be as skinny as Eva Longoria (especially if you are drinking like a fish and dining out 5 days a week). And you will never save a DIME for that condo if you spend all of your cash on bar tabs, highlights and Nordstrom purchases. And you will definitely not have time to go out and shop like a fiend if you have a 6-figure earning job in your early twenties. Sorry friends. (But we can dream, right?!)

If you really want to save for something, then don’t spend all of your money on something else. If you really want to start earning money freelancing, then why are you spending all of your nights and weekends at the bar or hung-over? If you really want a new job, why haven’t you sent your resume out to anyone?

3. Your goal must be written down and reviewed daily. Because talk is cheap and actions speak (I rhymed- neat). Remind yourself of what you are working towards so that the fabulous new dress in the window of Bebe (and that “ONE LAST cocktail- I mean it this time!”) doesn’t carry you away from your goals. It’s sort of like the law of attraction, lady-style. Get obsessed with your goal by seeing it and reading it and thinking about it all the time, I promise you will achieve it faster that way.

4. Set deadlines, aka “mini-victories” and celebrate them. Whoever made up the term “mini-victories” is one of my heroes, because I lean heavily on mini-victories every day to keep me going in life.

If you are nearly as moody as I am, you know how easy it is to get discouraged or off track when it comes to goals. Breaking goals and setting deadlines makes big achievements much less daunting. And then the fun part is celebrating the mini-victories! Mini-victories also serve as major mood boosters when you are having a shitty day. And if you are having one of those days, just do SOMETHING- anything- to get one step closer to your goal.

What goals are the hardest for you to stick to? Career goals, entrepreneurship goals, fitness goals?

Obviously my biggest goal-distracters are going out and shopping, what are your biggest goal-distracters?

Please share!

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.