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When you enter an address into a GPS app and then tap “Directions” a new field pops up for the starting location. You can enter whatever you want but the default is usually ‘Current location,’ and your phone knows where you are because of, well… GPS. It’s critical to know where you are starting from in order to get directions to a destination. Luckily, it’s not too difficult in 2021 to find out where you physically are on the planet.
Similarly, when you are setting goals you need to know where you are starting from.
The first reason it is important to know where you are starting from is the same as with driving directions – the plan to get there simply requires it. The steps that will result in achievement of your goal can be planned based on that route. For example, if you want $10,000 for a family trip to Disney next year, how much you need to save will be different if you already have $5,000 saved (~$100/week) vs. if you are starting from scratch (and therefore need to save ~$200/week). Big difference!
With driving directions, the starting location helps calculate the time needed to reach the destination. The goals corollary has two components. First, very simply, it helps you estimate how long it might take to achieve your goal if you prefer to ‘back calculate.’ From the example above, if you have nothing saved yet and think it is reasonable to save $100/week – it will take you 2 years to save for that Disney trip.
Second, it helps you craft goals that are the right degree of challenging vs. attainable to suit your individual style. For some people, smaller shorter-term goals are good to get momentum-building wins. For others, those bigger more audacious goals are extremely motivating. And the scale of ‘how challenging is this goal’ is one of relativity. For instance, a goal around running for someone who’s been doing 10Ks and now wants to do a marathon may be on-par with a goal for a couch potato who is striving to run a 5K. That couch potato could certainly make a goal to train for a marathon but might set himself up for frustration or injury without honestly assessing his starting point.
Self-assessment is NOT about judgment.
There’s a very wise motto: Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. This applies equally in self-reflection: Meet yourself where you are, not where you want to be or expect you ‘should’ be. The process of setting and pursuing goals is about becoming the person you want to be, achieving the thing you want to achieve. And yet you are exactly who and where you are supposed to be in this moment. Please don’t use the process of self-assessment to be one of judgment or self-flagellation. I can’t emphasize strongly enough that clarifying where you ‘are’ is not about beating yourself up, throwing a pity party, or just giving up. It’s also not about deciding you are already perfect and don’t need any stinkin’ goals – we can all, always, be better tomorrow that we are today!
How do you assess where you are starting from? The area or topic you want to assess can be virtually anything so the specifics will vary, but the following 5 things will help regardless of what you are assessing.
Set aside enough time: You may only need a few minutes for something simple; you may need more time for something that requires genuine reflection and analysis. Consider how much time you think is reasonable and make sure you can be uninterrupted for this important process.
Stick to the area you are assessing: It’s easy to meander from one area of yourself / your life into others but try to focus on the area relevant to the goal you are crafting.
Be specific: Saying “I am unhealthy” is not as useful as acknowledging that you are lacking muscle or stamina (e.g., to climb stairs); you are eating too much sugar or not enough veggies; you are frequently fatigued; etc. This will help you craft micro-goals and/or the specifics of your plan.
Include a ‘readiness’ evaluation: How ready and willing are you to take on this goal? Are there major challenges you need to address so they don’t sabotage you? Do you have fear of failure or of success that you need to acknowledge so you can work through it in a way that works for you?
Be honest: Without judgment, be as truthful as you can. Neither sugar coating nor unfair criticism are beneficial.
By doing this analysis, and actually writing it down, you can look back later and see just how far you have come. Even if your original goal wasn’t quite right and you ended up at a different ‘destination,’ you’ll still be able to step back and marvel at progress made!
Depending on the area you are looking to assess, it can be valuable to seek input from others to cover blind spots. Be particular in who you choose to ask. First, it must be someone that will tell you the truth as they see it. It is not always easy to give people less-than-stellar feedback, even if they asked for it. So, make sure you have confidence that the person you choose has the cojones to tell it as they see it. Second, it must be someone whose opinion you value. If you don’t respect the person in the areas in which you are seeking assessment – don’t ask their opinion. Final word of advice on seeking external input: always remember that someone else’s opinion is their opinion. You do not have to agree with it. They are giving you a piece of data and you get to choose whether to integrate in your analysis or discard it.
To get from Point A to Point B – you need to know where both Points are.
Just like your trusted GPS app, goal setting requires knowing both where you want to go and where you are starting. Unlike that app, you get to do the work to understand your ‘current location.’ This helps you know what steps will be needed to achieve success, how long it will take, and whether it is a challenging enough target. It will also help you appreciate the progress you make even when it doesn’t feel like you’ve made any. The process of determining where you are may look different depending what aspect of yourself you are analyzing, but the tips above can be extrapolated to fit many goals. Input from others can be extremely valuable, just remember others’ opinions are theirs.
Enjoy creating your “X marks the spot”!
Each individual is unique – this is why I love working 1-on-1 and in small groups to help you find ways to create beautiful, dynamic balance in your life! If you are interested in a discovery session to learn about working together, please contact me