Let’s be honest – most of us don’t set goals just because we love the process. We set goals because we want to change something, achieve something, or get new results in our lives. It’s the end result that really matters to us.
Of course, how you set goals is important. But at the end of the day goals are only achieved by taking action. No matter how great the goal is, no matter how many times you write it down, you’ll only meet it if you do something new and different. That’s why when I work with clients, I encourage them to build an action plan to support any goal they want to achieve.
Action planning takes our goal-setting out of the theoretical and into the practical. It forces us to think about how we’re going to get the thing we want. It offers a check on our ambition. And it helps us see areas where we need to learn a new skill, find a new resource, or put a system in place to support our plans.
So, if you have goals you’re serious about achieving, you need to get serious about your action plan. Not sure where to start? Here are a few key questions to help with the process.
How do you need to change or grow to meet this goal?
Most of the goals we set require us to develop in new, meaningful ways. Maybe your goals mean you need to be more disciplined or manage your time better. Perhaps you need to get more comfortable operating outside your comfort zone. Maybe you need to develop a greater sense of urgency, more self-confidence, or greater patience.
These areas of growth begin to point you toward the first steps of your action plan.
What do you need to learn or what resource do you need to acquire to meet your goal?
Sometimes a crucial step in our action plan is learning a new skill or gaining a resource. For example, do you want to lead better meetings with your team? You may need to do some research on the components of great meetings or learn how other leaders in your organization manage their own meetings effectively. If you want to improve your executive presence, you might want to explore some mindfulness exercises or other techniques to help you improve your interactions.
Acknowledging the things you need to learn can seem obvious. However, it’s a powerful step to avoid feeling lost or overwhelmed as you moved toward your goals.
Who else needs to know about your goal?
Our lives are intertwined with many people and as you set goals. Some of the people in your sphere of influence may need to know about them. Often, these are people whose help you may want to hold you accountable to your goals (like a coach, personal trainer or supervisor). But, there are other possibilities, as well.
For instance, making a significant shift in how you manage your team? You may want to let them know what you’re doing and what they can expect to see that is different. Or you may want support from friends, family or colleagues for changes.
Whatever drives you to share your goals, seeking out social support and accountability from those around you can be a powerful part of your action plan.
What systems or processes do you need to put in place to achieve your goal?
No matter how dedicated you are and no matter how much you want to achieve your goals, the truth is that changing our behavior is difficult. Habits are hard to break. New habits are hard to build. One way to improve your chances for success is to look at the systems and processes that can support you as you work toward your goals.
“Systems and processes” can sound like big, complicated concepts, but don’t overthink this. A supportive process can be as simple as packing your gym bag to make working out easier. Or perhaps meal prepping on the weekends to make healthy eating more of a reality. They can be a daily huddle meeting with your team or debriefing your performance on a regular basis with a supervisor or mentor. What matters most about systems and processes is that they make it easier for you to achieve your goal. You want it to bring new awareness to your own growth.
The ability to set and achieve our most important goals is a secret weapon in our success and our sense of satisfaction. If you’ve skipped over making a dedicated action plan to support your goals in the past, it’s time to embrace this practice and take your goal-setting to the next level.