comfortzonecomicsmWelcome to the second of three blog articles on effective goaling. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about setting goals the SMART way. You know where you want to go, you're feeling good about it, you're motivated, and you're aware of what you are truly pursuing. Now let's get to the beef, the juice, the action! Let's start by having a look at that Time-box again: you have answered the questions of when you want the goal accomplished and when you want to make your first step. Can you be sure that you are able to begin your journey right now, or are there any inner or outer obstacles that you need to get rid of first? One way of finding out is simply starting and then dealing with obstacles as they arise. This is particularly advisable if you're prone to procrastination, so don't give yourself any excuses, get on with it!

The questions I invite you to work through this week are designed to help you figure out how to break down your goal into manageable steps. Few things in life can be accomplished from one moment to the next. Goals are complex, they have to do with change, they challenge the status quo, and they may even alter your personal relationships. What does the road to your goal look like? For example, if your goal is to learn a language, you may want to give yourself some time to figure out whether you'd prefer going to classes or doing a home-study course, you'd be well advised to set aside an hour or so on a daily basis for vocabulary training, grammar exercises, and perhaps invest in additional history and culture lessons to round off the experience. Immersing yourself even further by watching original movies without the subtitles, taking cooking classes of the region, and reading their most famous poetry are also options.

What I would ask you to do in the first instance is to brainstorm ideas of what you would need, who and what could help you reach your goal. As you may know, brainstorming means that you take note of every idea that pops into your head regardless of how wild and crazy it may appear - there is neither judgment nor censoring in brainstorming. I suggest to write the points down so your mind doesn't get a chance to wonder off too far into one direction, although some people have the ability to remember all the ideas they have. Personally, I'm not of them, I have to write things down or they're gone. Ready? Alright then, grab pen and paper, or open a new word-processing document, and start writing. If you get stuck, keep repeating the last thing you wrote down until another idea pops up - you have 8 minutes to find as many ways as possible to reach your goal. Go.

Done? Excellent. Now you take a deep breath and have a glass of water to rehydrate your brain and body. Let's take a look at all the wealth of ideas you came up with, and decide which ones you can realistically make work, and how. To continue with the language example, if you want to take additional classes to your home-study language course, the first step would be to decide which classes you want to take. Say history and culture. Where can you find out about what's on offer? Who can help you? You could ask your friends, or search the internet for educational institutes or evening classes at your city's college, or contact the embassies of the country whose language you're interested in. Maybe they also have a chamber of commerce or expatriate gatherings that you could join. Follow-up question: When are you going to go online / call the chamber / sign-up / send the necessary cheque? On a personal side-note, once you've learned the basics I recommend to try and find someone native to practice the language with, because you won't always learn how people actually speak through a book. Hey, if you have the resources - take a vacation! Travel! Broaden your horizon, even better. :-)

Once you figured out what the in-between steps for reaching your end-goal are, plan for them, think how long each step might take, which order they should come in, and add in some buffer times so you don't get stressed in case one bit or another takes longer than expected. Depending on how comfortable you are with detailed planning, you might want to get your organizer out (or calendar, or hand-held device, or blackberry, etc) and schedule certain time slots for your activities. Mondays 5.30 to 6.00 pm - vocabulary. Tuesdays 7.30 - 8.00 pm - grammar. Wednesdays 7.00 - 9.00 pm - meeting Jean-Luis and Françoise at La Madeleine for conversation. Thursday - night off! Going like this you could have the basics down in three to six months. Too long? Back to the brainstorming! More ideas, filtered out according to workability, put in order, and allot time. How about: buy audio CDs (next Saturday) to listen to in the car on the commute from work, subscribe to blogs or magazines (Sunday), and read for an additional hour every day. Is that realistic, or would "every other day" be more manageable?

This is probably where I've lost the more creative and free-spirited minds who don't like to be bogged down by conventional time-tables, who are used to working when they're inspired, be that last-minute-panic or simply less structured. I understand completely, so here are some questions that are useful to look at when trying to overcome any kind of obstacle:

  • Which resources do I need to work through the smaller as well as the bigger steps towards my goal?
  • Am I already using those resources, or similar variations, in other areas of my life?
  • Is this the first time I've encountered this problem?
  • How was I able to overcome similar obstacles in the past?
  • Do I know anyone who is successful in what I'm trying to accomplish?
  • How can I get in touch with them? WHEN will I do that?
  • Which support can my family and friends give me? WHEN will I ask for it?
  • What would I need to learn to deal with the steps and reach my goal? WHEN will I go out and buy that book?
  • How am I limiting myself, how am I standing in my own way?

Come back next week for more tips on how to reach your goals and make 2009 the best year yet. If you have any questions about goaling, find yourself stuck, or think there's another aspect I should have mentioned, please leave a comment and do not hesitate to contact me.

Til next time!

Thank you Mike for the cartoon!

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