Here’s how you get sh*t done: You start setting goals.

Hold up. Do I detect some serious eye-rolling here?

Thought so.

Here’s the thing. I really don’t like the word ‘goal setting’ either. It’s so corporate and clunky. I spent many an afternoon in my sales career, stuck in a gloomy conference suite, listening to a ‘motivational’ speaker (think: cheap polyester suit, terrible PowerPoint presentation, perspired brow) drone on about goal setting and projections and increasing year-on-year sales forecasts through strategic thinking. I was always the one at the back, arms crossed, bored to death and wondering what time lunch was.

You know what? It was only through training for my first marathon, and working with a coach, that I truly understood what it meant to set myself a goal – a target – and create quite literally, a step-by-step plan to get there. Before I ran a marathon, I never thought it was possible that I could run one. Fuck, even when I was training for that marathon, there were moments when I still thought it wasn’t possible that I’d complete it. But I kept on pushing anyway.

I got up before a full day at work and I ran. I ran in the rain and the searing heat. I ran when all I wanted to do was sit on the sofa and watch an entire series of Gilmore Girls back-to-back. I ran for 3 hours on a Sunday, completely missing lunch with my friends. I ran because I wanted it. I wanted to run that marathon because I wanted to raise money for charity in memory of my mum.

And that’s the key here, the first step in goal setting.

1. Why do you want this goal?

Often, we think we want things, when really we don’t. We get caught up in some serious ‘shoulding’. “I should get a new job”, “I should run a sub-3 marathon”, “I should be a vegetarian”, “I should go travelling”.

Lets say, for example, that one of your goals is to compete in a triathlon in 2014. You’ve booked the race, bought the kit and just about Googled everything you need to know about training for a triathlon. Oh, and you’ve bought at least 3 books from (I know you do this because I do it too). You’re crystal-clear on what you need to do and yet, shit, you just cannot get your ass out of bed for those 6am swim sessions and your training is in serious limbo.

If you just stop, and ask yourself why you’ve set yourself the goal to complete a triathlon, it might become clear that the reason behind it has more to do with the fact that your friends are amazing triathletes and you’re really inspired by their dedication and commitment and drive. In short, you want some of what they’re having – you want their dedication and commitment and drive and you believe the way to achieve this is to sign up for a triathlon too. But here’s the thing: You can tap into your own dedication and commitment and drive, and you don’t need to go anywhere near the ‘sign up now!’ button on a triathlon website.

Having the right motivation behind your goal is imperative.

My suggestion if you’ve set yourself a goal and you’re seriously not feeling it? Write, write, write. Write down all the reasons why you want this goal. Write some more. If you’ve filled an entire page of A4 paper with lots of reasons why you want the goal, and yet upon reading through them you’re all meh, meh, meh, then scrub that goal. Seriously, just scrub it. Don’t waste your time doing things you think you should do. Spend your time doing things you want to do.

The second step in goal setting:

2. Your goal has got to be big enough.

It’s got to make your palms sweat and your heart race and your mind whir at 2am in the morning. It’s got to be exciting! Why? Because you can’t NOT do the work with a big goal. You have to put the hustle in. If your goal is to leave your boring job in the next year and start your own business, you’re not going to get there by doing nothing. You’re going to have to work your ass off and get really clear on what you need to do and when and how. On the other hand, if you find yourself signing up for an autumn marathon, setting yourself the goal of a 4.30 finish, when your last marathon time was 4.29:30, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re going to go balls-to-the-walls out to get there, right? That’s because your goal is not big enough. It’s not challenging enough. It’s not stretching you enough. It’s not uncomfortable enough.

The pretty Pinterest quotes about stepping out of your comfort zone and dreaming big? Yeah, I know you make that face when you read them, but that’s because they’re the truth and the truth pisses you off. You know when I feel most alive and inspired and motivated and happy? When I’m so way out of my comfort zone, I can’t fucking see it. Your comfort zone might be your sofa, or the more-than-one slice of chocolate cake, or the entire bottle of wine when you only meant to have one glass. It might be the ‘I’ll start my new diet on Monday’ or the fact that you keep telling yourself that the job you’re in, the one you hate, ‘brings in the money’, so you just stay with the company and hope for the best. This is called your comfort zone, and you’re probably very unhappy and frustrated in it.

I believe most of us don’t set goals because we’re scared of the vulnerability that comes with it. We’re scared of messing up, of failing. Of stepping up and saying,”I want this and I’m going to go and get it.” So instead, we choose to stay small, to blend in with the crowd, to not push, and in doing so, we don’t grow and we don’t change. But here’s the thing: We’re supposed to change, it’s hard-wired in in our evolutionary nature to move forward and make progress.

If you want to change, you have to make a change. It’s as simple as that.

My questions to you: What is it that you really want and why? And how are you going to get it?


ps: Here’s a handy and simple goal setting worksheet I made that you can use to start working on your goals. There are some questions at the beginning of the worksheet, to get reaaaaalllly clear on your goals and why they’re important to you. If you have any questions, or would like to share your goals with me (oh, yes, please do!) leave a comment below!