One of the most common complaints I hear from clients in my coaching practice is that they just don’t make the kind of progress they’d like when trying to turn their ideas into reality. I have found that these aggravating hurdles crop up when we are not yet clear enough with ourselves about why we are pursuing an idea and the way we are approaching it.
It is easy for us to be attracted by ideas, dreams, or fantasies about what our future might look like, but all too often, we settle on a surface-level understanding of why we want to do something. For example, a common response I hear to the “why” question is, “to make more money.” That’s a perfectly reasonable response.
However, research has shown that after we have enough money to become comfortable, money begins to lose its luster as a motivational force. That’s when we need to dig a bit deeper and connect the goal to something that aligns with our values, allows us to tap into our strengths, or permits us to live a life we find fulfilling.
We need to go into “toddler mode” and keep asking, “why is that important?” What is it about money that makes us want more of it? How would we use the money? Having a solid “why” can reinforce each step of our progress and can help us sustain our efforts, which is crucial when life gets busy and things get in the way.
A commonly used technique for making progress on ideas is to have SMART goals. These are goals that are specific in nature and could be easily explained to someone else. They also are measurable, so you will know precisely when the goal has been met. While the goals may be challenging, they must be achievable in the sense that they are realistic and possible. Relevant goals relate to one’s values and to the “why” discussed above. Finally, the goals should be time-limited. They must have a specific time frame that is reasonable and that fits into one’s bigger-picture objectives.
Consider making someone else aware of the goal and the deadline you’ve set for achieving it. This goal confidante is known as an accountability partner. Having someone on your side who is expecting news about your progress can have a powerful impact.
For big, long-term goals, it can be particularly helpful to engage in backward planning. This process involves setting a reasonable time frame for achieving a major goal, such as leaving a current job and making a living by owning a business in five years. What kind of income does this business need to have in five years? Set a number and make that the goal. Working backward, what kind of target income would you set for three years from now to be on track? In one year? Six months? Then think about the steps that need to happen to reach each target and break them into SMART goals that you can track.
The next time you find yourself stuck or frustrated with a lack of progress on your goals, remember to closely examine why you’re doing what you’re doing and look carefully at how you’re going about it. Odds are that once you’ve done so, you will find your ideas will start to become real!