Okay so you have finally gotten the message, your life is a mess and things need to change. You have identified the culprits in your self-sabotage saga. You’re ready to take action! You have researched some coaching models or talked to a life coach and are about to embark on your first step – setting the goal. It is at this point that I must draw your attention to the fact that a goal is very much like the foundation of a house. Build your house on sand and you know exactly what the result will be. So let me give you a sneak peak into how you can prevent from setting goals that will set you up for failure.

1. Setting a goal that is your own: You don’t have to be a genius to understand this one but surprisingly people from all over the world are breaking this very rule. Your parents want you to be a doctor or lawyer, but you have a passion for the arts. If you pursue their goal you will be doomed to failure because lets face it, your heart is just not in it. You will only prolong the agony, which in some cases may stretch many years. In order for you to succeed at a goal you need to be interested and passionate about your goal. So although it may be important to get the buy in from your family or friends, don’t let them force you on a journey that you know you don’t want to travel.

2. Not tying your goals into your values: Okay so your goal is to be rich, not just rich but filthy rich. This is the perfect example of a goal that has not been well thought through. So what does this wealth really give you? Does it buy you clothes, houses, friends or fast cars? If the answer to any of these is yes then you may have just stumbled on an actual goal. It is always a good idea to ask the question: “What does this goal actually give me?” If this question leads you to a value that you are aligned to then you have just found a goal. If however the core value of this goal does not fit with you then your goal is the wrong one for you. Just remember money is not a value, only an enabler.

3. Write down your goals: Okay every guru advises you write down your goals. There are literally hundreds of examples and case studies of what happens when you don’t write down your goals, much like the consequences of a chain letter. To be honest I don’t buy into the latter, however there is some value to writing down your goals. If you write down your goal you actually have to think about it, quantify and crystallize the goal. This is very different to the vague goal was floating inside your head a few moments earlier. Having written down the goal you have clarified it. Writing also uses a different part of the brain and as such the goal feels more “real” to you the creator. Another advantage of writing down your goals is that you actually have something that you can use to measure your progress. It’s also a perfect way of holding yourself accountable.

4. Give your goal a timeline: Goals that have no timeline linked to them are as useful as fairy tales. They sound fantastic and captivate audiences, but we all know they just aren’t real and can’t be taken seriously. If you can’t put a timeline to your goal you probably aren’t as serious about your goal as you may have thought you were. The practice of setting a timeline gives you some extra motivation to get started especially if it is important to you. It also allows you to measure and pace your progress.

5. Tell the world: Okay so you have set the goal and the timeline, now what. Well apart from getting started a really useful tip is to tell people about your goal. “What if I fail?” you may ask. Well by telling people about your goal you are less likely to backtrack and change your goal. Most people would be encouraging and support you. Those that don’t, well for me that would just be a dose of extra motivation to not only succeed but to prove them wrong. More importantly though is the fact that inherently we humans hate failure and so failure is not an option when everyone knows your goal. Especially if it’s a goal that is fairly simple.

6. Understand the impact of your goals: In the world of extremes there are some very cool goals to achieve. Like being the first person to kite surf across the Atlantic ocean for example. As awesome as this would be, the reality is that this may not be such a great goal after all. Especially if you have a family and children to support. Not to mention the fact that the mortgage needs to be paid and your wife may not share your excitement. In no way am I saying that you should not follow your dreams, rather just make sure you understand the impact of your dreams on those close to you.

7.Don’t set goals that are vague: Earlier I mentioned that you needed to crystallize your goals and have some clarity around what you are wanting to achieve. So it is important to make sure that the goals you set are not vague. The reason for this is simply that a goal that is vague never gets hit. Consider this statement: “I want to become healthier and richer”. So I give you a dollar while you are chewing on your celery stick, are you really happy that you have achieved your goal? To avoid this from happening make sure you quantify your goals and that the goal is measurable.

8. Set incremental goals: Some goals are massive and what James Collins refers to as a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. So huge in magnitude that it is wise to break these guys up in smaller bite size pieces. As the saying goes how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The same goes for these huge goals, break them down into manageable smaller goals that are easier to digest. The advantage is that achieving smaller goals in succession leads you to achieving a larger goal that ordinarily you may not have reached if you had to do it all at once. I also believe that success is a habit and as such achieving lots of smaller goals creates a successful habit.

9. Don’t set do or die goals: Goals that have conditions attached to them that challenge your own self worth or value system are very dangerous. Dangerous for you! Can you imagine setting a goal of becoming the CEO of your company in the next 5 years failing which you see yourself as a loser and downright failure. In year 4 all is on track despite the fact that you are hating every minute of the self inflicted pressure. Suddenly good old Murphy pitches up and its merger and acquisition time. Yup the prestigious job you have been busting your balls for, is suddenly whisked away putting Joe Bloggs in charge and leaving you high and dry. Yes you have reason to be peeved off, but are you a failure? No of course not, you are still a great leader. You just weren’t meant to get this position.

10. Have Fun: Setting goals can be serious business, so just remember to have some fun in the process. Make sure that the road to achieving your goal includes some fun elements. This doesn’t mean you have to run around in a clown suit, but at least enjoy what you are doing. I could think of nothing worse than having to get up in the morning, then having to do something all day that I hate doing. If you are confused at this point look up the definition of masochism and/or stupid. I guess what I am saying is live a little, enjoy the road to success. By the way achieving any goal no matter how big or small constitutes success.