In the first post, we discussed the process by which SMART goals can be established to set one’s self up for success. This second post in the series focuses on the process of working through the challenges that come with trying to attain success. We will touch on structural protocols that allow goal setters to evaluate their success and document progress; however, much more emphasis will be put on how these metrics elicit the need to work through challenges and develop the grit required to do something great!
As a memorium to the late Dr. Stephen Hawking, it seems fitting to use one of his famous quotations, “...remember to spend your time looking up at the stars and not down at your feet...” The sense of this musing encourages us to dream larger than our situation and not be satisfied with what we have done in the past. This echos the thoughts at the root of this series, that setting goals allows us to move beyond our current self.
As we dream beyond what we currently are, it is necessary that we determine how we want to get there. Just setting a goal is only step one in the process to self-improvement, it is necessary to also consider the steps that we will climb to reach our success.
Consideration #1: Structure and Progress through Mini-Goals
Even though you have a goal, does not mean that you have everything that you need to achieve it. While you may not be an expert going in, the goal is to be an expert coming out. With this in mind, one must consider how he/she plans to make progress toward a goal. Mini-goals are a common practice that allow you to section out the larger task into more manageable sections. This is a great idea, however it is important to think just as critically about the minigoals as you did about your overall goal.
Creating mini-goals or progress goals allow you to take on smaller bits of challenge in order to be more focused and prevent the likelihood of becoming overwelmed. Personally, I like to think of mini-goals as a means of demonstrating the acquisition of a new skill. Instead of just a time based metric, having to perform something at a level of mastery not only allows me to feel accomplished, but creates a very specific moment of success. It is very clear when I have reached my mini-goal. This also plays into managing progress that will be discussed in the next section.
When considering the construction of mini-goals, you want to think about the objective steps and skills that you will need to accomplish in order. Often I will create a flow chart that will help me think about what needs to happen in what order. For example, if my goal was to build an app, I would need to develop my idea before I pick a programming language or platform. This decision prevents me from investing time learning a program that will not meet end goal. Sometimes it is difficult to think about how you build up to a goal, so it may be helpful to follow retroactive design and think backwards from your goal. Perhaps you consider your final result and then think about what you would need to do before that happens, and what needs to happen before that. This process may be easier, or it may not be; nonetheless you need to think about each skill you need to acquire AND in what order. These should become more mini-goals.
Consideration #2: Accountability in Skill and Time
Now that you have created your overall goal and your mini-goals, it is important to keep yourself moving. This is where GRIT really comes into play. It is my hope that you have selected a goal that you are passionate about AND will move you forward in some capacity of your life. This aspect of a self-driven goal will motivate you to do your best to achieve it. However, it won’t always be sunshine and roses along the way. Any goal worth working toward is going to challenge you to become a better version of yourself, either socially, emotionally, or academically. Personal growth can be challenging as you are often fighting the fight on your own. This means that you are accountable to yourself and at times that can be difficult.
The two areas that always seem to be the most problematic are time and skill. Time is the rate at which you are progressing toward your goal. Too fast and you may feel that you are not gaining a full understanding and too slow and you feel like you are not making any progress. Whereas skill can also be a hindrance as if you are struggling with a skill, you may become discouraged with your abilities and the potential to reach your goal.
Both of these aspects can be rectified by mindset. That is not to say that this alleviates the challenge, but it will put you in the mode to feel capable regardless of the obstacles you face.
In my experience, thinking about accountability of time and skill separately has made my efforts more challenging. Some skills take more time than anticipated and even though it was a self imposed timeline, it can be demeaning. The first mistake I made was assuming each mini-goal would take the same time to complete. Just as with a video game, the first challenges are easier and take less time, whereas the later challenges are more robust and require much more time investment. This of this the same when when designing your mini-goal skill timeline. The closer you get to your overall goal, the more likely it will be that the mini-goals take more time. To echo my previous example, selecting the idea of your app will take much less time than researching and picking a program or language, which will also take much less time than learning the program or language. Assuming each of these goals will be equal in time is a recipe for disaster.
A key element of the resilient mindset is to be forgiving. You are accountable to only yourself. While I’m not encouraging you to be overly lax on deadlines and goals, but if you miscalculated the time required for a task, reevaluate and reset the goal timeline. To the same regard if you are struggling with a skill, it is okay! Just keep working along and reevaluate when the time presents itself.
The name of the game is a combination of forgiveness and grit. If you don’t hit your mark, forgive yourself; but also make sure you get back on track and persevere toward your goal. There is no reason to give up, you are on this journey as an independent warrior. No folly should derail your goals. Grit will keep you working toward the gold medal of your overall goal!
In the last post of this series, I will discuss the value in celebrating our victories. More often than not, individual endeavors are not celebrated. We need to take the time to appreciate all of the hard work we did and stand proud on top of the podium!