No-one likes to fail.
But maybe we need to talk about failure more.
Because let’s face it, we ALL fail sometimes.
This year I’ve failed to achieve a major goal. That’s not a thing you’ll find many coaches saying publicly. Or any kind of people saying publicly, come to think of it.
Being me, of course I couldn’t let my failure go unanalysed. I had to know what caused it so I can not only minimise failure in the future, but help you to do the same!
...when we fail to complete a major goal, we can take if as an opportunity to really reflect & build self-awareness.” Jeff Fajans, Creativity Coach
I persuaded two of the top Coach.me coaches - Joel Ordesky and Jeff Fajans - to give me their insights on why, despite our best efforts, we often fail to meet our goals.
In this post I’ll give you the scoop on the SINGLE most important reason we fail to to achieve our goals - which strangely you almost never hear mentioned in goal-setting how to’s.
I’ll also share a pro tip on how you can more effectively set goals you CAN reach in the future.
Why SMART Goals Aren’t Smart Enough
You know all about setting SMART goals right?
S. - Specific M. - Measurable A. – Achievable R. - Realistic T. – Time-based
Well, it turns out that there’s an intrinsic flaw in this system: How do we know if our goal is achievable or realistic?
Often I see people really underestimating the work, self-development, learning and time required to make major goals happen - not to mention not accounting for possible obstacles when life gets problematic.” Jeff Fajans
You only have to look at your to do list to recognise that we set unrealistic goals every day of our lives. We constantly underestimate how long things will take and pile too many projects onto our plates. How many of us don’t do this?
So when you sit down on January 1st and say “This year I’m going to...”, you can be pretty sure that you’ll be repeating that same wishful-thinking.
That’s exactly what I did when back in January I decided to make 10 Artist’s Books by the end of the year.
This sounds like a great goal right? 10 is a nice round number. There are 12 months in the year so I don’t have to complete a book every month.
So bang, I put this goal on my radar. I tell people about it to invest it with some accountability. I’m good to go.
There was a major defect in my plan: I’ve never completed an Artist’s Book before.
So while my goal was specific, measurable and time-based, without the experience of completing at least ONE Artist’s Book previously, I had no idea whether making 10 in a year was REALISTIC and ACHIEVEABLE for me.
Turns out it wasn’t.
Each book took me about two months from conception to completion.
So even in a perfect year the maximum I could have ever made was SIX. But it hasn’t been a perfect year. For various reasons, I’ve had to travel which has meant long periods away from a stable workspace.
As the year went on, I grew further and further behind with my goal.
Around the middle of the year, I ‘renegotiated’ the goal with myself and lowered my expectations to 7 books.
By the end of the summer, I’d fallen even further behind. It was clear that I wasn’t going to reach my goal or anywhere near.
The Missing Ingredient for Achievable Goal-Setting
So how can we better determine if our goals are achievable and realistic?
Business coach Joel Ordesky says we need to add another parameter to the mix: Goals have to be NEGOTIATED!
Negotiation is part of the process to assure realistically achievable goals are set, that stretch - but do not break - a person.
It’s this friction and negotiation that allows for the right goal. One that is not assured to create failure, but also is not so easy that it creates no real momentum.”
This is fine in a business environment, but when you set a personal or creative goal who can you negotiate it with? This person has to be able to cross-question you about the realism of your goal and take no bull from you!
You might turn to a trusted friend or family member for this process, but it’s even more powerful if you negotiate your goal with your mastermind partner(s) or your coach.
If you really don’t have anyone to to help you negotiate your goal, then you can self-coach.
For my Artist’s Book goal self-coaching might have gone something like this:
“I’m going to make 10 AB’s this year”
“Why are you so sure you can complete this goal?”
“Because I already made most of an AB last year and it went well. I figure I can make one a month and the extra two months leaves me some wiggle room.”
“So how long did it take you to ‘almost make’ that first book?”
“Well...I was working on it for a few months but not all the time...”
“So will you be working full-time on your books this year?”
“Well...no...I’ll still have all the other parts of my workload: coaching, blogging, marketing...Plus I have to help my partner with one of his projects and I’m going to be doing some travelling...”
“So if you didn’t complete the last AB in several months of part-time work, how will you complete each book in a month of part-time work this year?”
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
If I’d cross-questioned myself thoroughly about my goal at the start of the year, I would have seen pretty early on that it probably wasn’t realistic. Or even if it was, I certainly didn’t have any PROOF that it was.
So remember. If you’re starting to think about your goals for next year, don’t just pluck a nice number out of nowhere.
Make sure your goals are NEGOTIATED as well as SMART.