There is a common belief that setting a goal and mentally committing to it is enough to generate the ability to reach that goal. However, a quick look at the long-term sustainability of New Year’s resolutions is a clear indicator of how setting lofty and significant goals alone is simply not enough.
In studies by various organizations, including Science Daily, University of Alabama, The Lancet, and the CDC, the rate of people who feel they achieve their goal or resolution is only about 9%. Two of the biggest reasons people reported a failure with these resolutions were setting unrealistic goals and failing to focus on the goal.
Professional goals are similar in nature. By changing the way we set professional goals, we can build on accumulating success, gain confidence, and push ourselves to greater success.
Why Big Goals Without Milestone Goals are Destined to Fail
Setting a big goal may create a lot of passion and energy in the first few weeks, but then life sets in and takes over. You have issues that need your immediate attention and time. It is easy to justify pushing back on working towards your goal since (you rationalize) there is lots of time in the future when things settle down.
In reality, things will never settle down. There will always be issues and decisions that require your immediate attention. Personal and professional challenges and opportunities come up that are more timely and relevant, so the big goal gets pushed even further back on the priority list. Within a few weeks or months, the big goal is lost. Even worse, you feel guilty and disappointed in yourself when it surfaces again.
Setting Milestone Goals
Setting mini goals or milestone goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) helps to keep on track. Rather than trying that achieve the big goal position, you can set out a map of milestones that are achievable on a weekly or monthly basis. These are smaller in scope but are marching you forward to meet or exceed the big goal.
Continuous achievement of those mini goals on a weekly or monthly basis builds up confidence, self-assurance, and motivation to keep challenging ourselves. As we see progress, we feel positive about our growth. This is very different from looking back at the week and feeling a lack of accomplishment or, even worse, a lack of being productive and focused.
Setting weekly goals is a great place to start. Keep them specific, measurable, and achievable within your given scope of work. Then, chart your progress and plan to celebrate your weekly milestone to maintain motivation in moving forward to your big goal.