Stay Sane Mom Founder
Published in Self, Goal Setting on January 03, 2019
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Everyone you meet has goals.
They talk all excitedly about how they're going to become a millionaire before they turn 40, how their kids are all destined for Ivy League schools, and how their new clothing brand is going to be the next Prada you wait and see.
Yeah...I don't know the specifics, hypothetical clothing line lady, but I'm not holding my breath.
The main reason why I'm not getting all excited about that lady's up-and-coming clothing line is the same reason I don't buy lottery tickets. It seems like kind of a crap shoot, and there's not much science or reason telling me I should.
That's because what most people call "goals" are actually "dreams".
We've all seen the corny Pinterest quote that "a goal is a dream with a deadline" and rolled our eyes, but inside every corny Pinterest quote is a morsel of truth.
The reason most people actually have "dreams" when they think they have "goals" is the same basic litmus test that separates the science fiction section from the nonfiction section of the bookstore. Let me explain.
When an actual scientist (think physicist, chemist, psychologist, biologist, or some other -ist in a lab coat) tries to prove their latest theory, they all use something called the Scientific Method. This means they have a question/hypothesis, then they actually collect data in a controlled experiment before they can decide whether their hypothesis was true or false.
No scientist worth their salt will ever ask you to believe them without data and proof for what they're saying. And they won't believe you unless you have something to back it up either.
And that is the scientific mindset I use to decide if I want to believe someone when they tell me they're the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk (or that their kid is going to be).
A real goal is constructed using specific goal setting process that guarantees you'll either achieve your goal or know why you didn't (and how to achieve it on your next attempt).
Scientific research is done using the Scientific Method. Goal setting is done using the GROW Model.
Since the early 1980's, business coaches, consultants, and others in the personal development community have utilized a 4-step process to help their clients set their goals. No one (even the almighty Wikipedia) knows who exactly created it, but it has become widely accepted in multiple fields, from sports to business.
As most things in the goal setting world are, GROW is an acronym:
Each of the 4 letters in the GROW model stands for one of the critical steps in the goal-setting process.
As we go through the model, try to think of these steps with one question in mind:
"How will this help me translate an abstract goal into actionable, day-to-day to do items."
If a goal is like the top of a mountain and your current state is like the parking lot at the foot of the mountain, the only way to ensure your goal is going to get accomplished is by figuring out the exact path, down to the individual footsteps, you need to take to get from the parking lot to the top.
After each section, try to think of how what you just read will translate into action items.
The first step of the GROW model is something many people at least attempt to do when they set a goal: figure out what their desired outcome will be.
Even the dreamers (remember miss clothing line?) do this in a vague, poorly-defined kind of way.
As unrealistic as they sound, "I'm going to be a millionaire before I turn 40" or "my kids are going to go to Harvard" are specific goals.
What they lack is a detailed, understandable, and clear definition for what exactly this entails.
The most common way to get a clear plan for a goal is by following the SMART Goals framework. This is basically a way to turn an abstract goal into something with a clear definition, time frame (aka deadline), and metrics by which you can measure your performance.
If you want to know more about SMART goals, check out my blog post on How to set SMART Goals and it's accompanying freebie worksheet.
The next step of the GROW framework is R for Reality. This means that you need to know where you currently stand, in relation to where you want to end up.
In business, this is also referred to as performing a Gap Analysis.
Basically, you need to know how far you have to travel (and in what direction) in order to accomplish your goal.
While most people think a gap analysis is as simplistic as "I want to make $5k a month and right now I'm making $3k a month, so the gap is $2k per month", there's actually a lot more to it than that.
A gap analysis includes how far you have until your goal, but it isn't just that. A gap analysis is also all about identifying the resources, skills, assistance, and/or tools you'll need to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
In this step of goal setting, you should make sure you identify any training you need, any skills you have to acquire, any support from third parties, or any resources (e.g. start-up capital, time, etc.) you would need to accomplish your goal.
Without identifying what you need in order to accomplish a goal, you can't realistically plan for what lies ahead.
There's a problem in the way people look at their goals.
People think you have a goal and then either accomplish it or you don't. There aren't enough words in the English language to explain to you how wrong that is.
Let me put it in graphic form instead:
The way things really work is you have a goal, then you bounce from failure to failure between 3 and 75 bajillion times, then you finally land on success.
The only time you actually land in "catastrophic failure" (which is the psychological term for really, really bad failure from which one doesn't recover or bounce back) is if you either die or stop trying and give up.
Every non-catastrophic failure is an important, necessary, and valuable learning experience.
Yes, you read that right.
Failures are necessary and valuable.
I can (and will, and have) written a billion blog articles on this and I could talk about it until I'm blue in the face, but here's the short version: every time you don't achieve a goal, you miss a milestone, or things don't turn out the way you planned, you learn more than you would have if you had succeeded.
Yes, my dears, failure = learning.
This is important for the O for Opportunities and Obstacles phase of the GROW model, because this is when you develop contingency plans. What if you don't meet your first milestone? What if you can't raise sufficient startup funds? What if you need a little more education in X, Y, or Z?
It's important to plan for these possible roadblocks ahead of time so you can 1) anticipate and avoid them whenever possible and 2) not panic if/when you encounter a roadblock.
This part is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
Finding your way forward means analyzing the SMART goals you set up in Step 1, culling the action items generated by the gap analysis you did in Step 2, looking preemptively for steps you can take to avoid the obstacles identified in Step 3, and putting together an actionable battle plan.
This is the most important step because it will take a high-level goal and break it down to the granular level so that, when you sit down at your desk, you begin working on tasks that will bring you closer to your eventual goal.
Now, I have two best practices and one present to help you on this step.
When you're making your action item list, you're probably going to have a lot of thoughts and tasks swirling around you.
Remember the cow scene in Twister? Something like that.
When you first sit down to make your action plan, your way forward, don't worry about what order stuff needs to be done, what's most important, or the due dates attached to your tasks.
Seriously, sit down (probably using the present you're going to get below) and just spew out every possible task that comes out of your mom-brain in relation to your goal. Make a massive, juicy, chaotic list.
If you keep stopping and starting to organize your list it'll temper the flow of ideas, so, for now, just let yourself type away without really worrying about form or format. You'll organize everything once you finish compiling your comprehensive list.
Now that you have your massive master list in writing (where it can't escape) you finally get to organize it.
There are three main factors you have to think about when you're going through your list. For each task you have to think about:
Once you have these different factors in place for each of your tasks, you've officially completed the GROW framework:
One of the biggest challenges in goal setting is in staying organized.
It's really hard to keep everything listed out in the detail you need (what we described in step 4) when things change all the time, have to be reorganized, reordered, or otherwise evolve.
Your present from me is the exact spreadsheet I use to translate my goals into action items. This action plan also then serves as my personal to do list whenever I sit down at my desk to work.
It's a massively helpful document that I wanted to share because it took me forever to create and even longer to perfect.
Check out this quick video that gives you a peek at what it looks like and how to use it:
Then get your free copy below!
P.S. Don't forget to let me know how it works for you in the comments.
Sometimes I want to give myself a strict timeline to be focus, however I love to procrastinate - it is also the time where I become more creative, and happy. This will work maybe for some, and its a good advice!
This post is very informative. There are many insights here that are valuable.
this is a great post.. i also downloaded your planner..thanks a lot
Your post gave a lot of insight. I enjoyed reading about real goals! You gave some great tips for goal setting!
You've made some great points here!
Fabulous tips on goal setting. Right now I have found that setting a longterm goal with daily goals is actually helping me find motivation and productivity each day. It gives me focus for the day during a difficult season (winter) that usually takes me down.
Great tips and Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. The video is useful too.
so totally agree with your post.. i am working through the nth failure currently and hopefully next time will be the 'success' try for a couple of my personal goals..
I couldn't agree more. Most of the times I set unrealistic goals and that's a big problem for me. Great post!
I've actually never heard of the GROW model before but it makes so much sense. Love that you broke it down into details just like a goal should be. Now I just have to go create better goals!
Most theories say in order to get a goal... keep it simple and don't set goals too hard to reach but I don't agree. My way to get it is... to keep it high.
Great tips! I still can't figure how to properly place bigger goals (like earning more money, it's hard to feel for me) taking smaller steps is all for me
I think it's so important to have specific action steps for your goals as you can break down larger goals. I did that last year and broke it down to monthly goals x
Great ideas and love the concept of G.R.O.W model of goal setting. It's easy to put into practice when its logical!
This is such a great post! So detailed, and straight to the point!
Never heard of GROW and have just jotted it down in my planner! Great stuff and very, very true. Thank you!
thanks for the tips and tricks shared. my mom and sister would love this! I subscribed to your youtube channel as well. I love the gap analysis method. Going to try that.
Thanks for the tips and advice! Great blog!
This is such a smart reminder of what to do in 2019 . I truly loved it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge
Smart way of breaking down significant points of setting and achieving goals. Thanks for sharing!
We have just started a bullet journal of sorts and there is so much here we can use from here
This is a very helpful post, a good reminder to be focus on our goal this year! We need more fire and aggressive to achieve our goals.
This is really a different way of looking at goals. I have heard of SMART goals but not this acronym. What I like about it is the options portion of it. I think we get to rigid in our thinking far too often. This would work in helping us see around problems.
In my work we set smart targets because you know exactly what you are doing and what the result should be...and, importantly, the targets are achievable. You're right that many confuse goals with dreams. Good post.
What a great read! I hope I can achieve my goals this year. I'm definitely using your tips! http://travelwithkarla.com
I couldn't agree with you more! Every word in this post is so true! I think same applies to resolutions: instead of making 10, why not just start with one?
I use the SMART method for my goals and it's what works best for me
This is the BEST goal breakdown tool! I love how easy it is to have a focused plan when I work, even if it’s in a 5 minute sprint, because I don’t have to flounder aimlessness and worry about figuring out what to do next. I just go to the list, see what is next, and do the thing! Thank you so much!
Great tips for setting goals. I will be implementing all you have mentioned here. Thanks for sharing.
That's exactly what I was doing the last few years. I used to set unrealistic "goals" which in reality they were "dreams" and I was soooo frustrated at the end of each year cause I coudn't maage to make them reality.
Great tips! I really struggle with not only setting goals, but achieving them too! This sounds like it could be just the advice I need
Good tips. Set Goals That Motivate You. When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. ... Motivation is the key to achieving goals. Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life.
I'm slightly amazed at myself to realise I'd never heard of the Grow method! Glad you put a link to the Smart goals bit as I couldn't remember what two of the letters stood for. Thanks for this. I'm sure the video will come in useful too.
I wish I will be able to follow your advice and techniques for I am the queen of procrastination 😂 I need to GROW!
Love your writings~ it's really informative~ I amazed on how you're able to share such lengthy information but not in a boring way~
Founder | Contributor
Liz is a wife, mom, blogger, coder (and unabashed digital nerd), PhD student (and huge psychology geek), workout masochist, and occasional human being. She founded The Stay Sane Mom after marrying into the role of stepmom to a preteen girl (and Instagram addict) and shortly thereafter having her first bio kid (now a toddlernado supreme). Her goal is to provide tools and support to help other capable, sleep-deprived, soul-hungry moms master their domains so they have the time and energy to be more than just 'mom'.
Stay Sane Mom gives support to the over-worked, under-slept, marker-stained, soul-hungry moms of the world, so they can be more than just "mom".
You just want to keep the house clean, have a happy marriage, raise functional kids, and still have a little left in the tank to be a real person as well.
I'm here for you.
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