The best way to predict your future, whether in business or in your personal life, is to create it.  By setting clearly defined, written goals, you are on the first step to achieving the future you desire.  People and organizations who have written, measurable goals are much more likely to achieve success in the areas that are important to them.  Research in the area of goals and success states that only 10% of people have specific, written goals, and seven out of those ten achieve their goals only about half the time.  So how can you increase your odds of success?

Here are some steps to setting and achieving your goals:

  1. Start from your purpose, mission and vision.  Think about what is most important to your organization or yourself.  What is your core purpose?  What mission do you wish to fulfill this year?  As you define this “big picture,” make sure the goals you set align with it.
  2. Create the ideal future.  What will your future look like once you’ve achieved the goals you’ve set?  Create a picture in your imagination of what you will feel like, what you will be doing, what others around you will be doing, and how your life will be once this goal is achieved.  Step into that imagined picture in your mind, and really be there!  Include sounds, smells, tastes, tactile experiences to make it even more real.  This helps your subconscious start working with you to achieve your goal.
  3. Make your goals SMART.  Well-written goals have the following components:

Specific: Clearly define what you are going to do.  What, why, and how the goal will be accomplished.

Measurable: Set a way to measure whether the goal is complete or not.  You and anyone else should be able to look at the criteria and state whether the goal was met.

Attainable: Choose goals that stretch you, but that are still realistic.  You want to be truly committed to the goal, not set something so out of reach that you will give up.

Relevant: Is this a goal that is important to you?  Your goals should be something you really get behind and are committed to, not what someone else says you should do.

Time-bound: Set a timeframe for the accomplishment of your goal.  You need to have a deadline to aim for.  Remember that the goal itself is the important part, and the deadline can shift as you learn more along the way.

  1. Plan ahead for obstacles.  We all have weaknesses that come up as we pursue goals, such as fear, procrastination, lack of knowledge or skill, etc.  Think ahead about what may be an obstacle in the achievement of your goal, and come up with some solutions that can help you overcome the obstacles.
  2. Chunk it down.  Sometimes our really big goals can seem overwhelming and we can’t even get started on them.  Try breaking the goal down into chunks that are more manageable.  For example, if you have a big research report, think about the various components that need to happen along the way, and set sub-goals for each.  Within those sub-goals, look at the actions you need to accomplish and chunk it down even further.
  3. Start now.  Just do it, as Nike says.  Don’t put off work toward your goals—if you do, you’ll find it is this time next year and nothing has happened.  Even if you don’t know where to start, pick something you can take action on.  Once you begin, you gain momentum that can take you through to completion.
  4. Take consistent action.  They say that if you want to cut down a huge tree, and you go out every day and take five swings with your axe, eventually the tree will come down.  Take some kind of action daily toward your goals.  If you take action, eventually you will achieve the goal!

Now, you’ve set the course for your future.  And just like on any journey, unseen obstacles may arise that require you to be flexible and adapt to changing environments.  Be willing to go for the ride, and know that you will be able to handle everything that comes your way.  Stay focused on your goals and the end vision, and make course corrections to keep you on track.  Above all, stay motivated and never give up!