Let me preface this by stating that your goals are yours, and yours only to choose. Also, you are free to change your goals at any point in time without any need for justification to anyone but yourself. Ok, now that is out of the way lets talk about goal attainment.
Literature on goal setting and goal attainment consistently talk about the five, seven, ten or whatever stages that exist. Words like ‘precontemplation’, ‘readiness’, ‘implementation’ and ‘evaluation’ permeate this language and provide us with convient compartments to place ourselves. This means that even if you are not actually making progress, you fall into a category within the scope of goal setting, so you should feel pretty satisfied about that.
I on the other hand believe there are two states of being in regards to our goals- you are either on the path to achieving your goal, or your aren’t. I have run this through my mind a number of times, and I fail to see any other category that could exist. If you fall into the latter category, I ask you, is your goal really a goal, or is it a fanciful dream?
What is a fanciful dream?
Let me give you an example. I would love to stand on the summit of Mount Everest. However, I am not willing to undertake the years of physical preparation, climbing training, financial sacrifice and the risk to my life for me to actually achieve this. I am bascically not willing to do what is required to achieve it. Therefore summitting Everest is not a goal of mine, rather it is a fanciful dream, and I am very comfortable with that.
Apply this to a goal of yours. If you think about the end result, of course you want that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But what would you have to do to actually realise this goal. Are you willing to undertake the changes that you would have to make in order to make that goal a reality? Are you currently living in a way that is contrary to your goals? If you are, then you are allowing an unnecessary conflict to exist in your life.
I truly believe that if your lifestyle and your goals do not match up, you need to either change your behaviour, or change your goals.
This is a conversation that should exist without judgement, as I said in my opening sentence, your goals are yours and you can change them at any time. But it is not useful to exist in conflict, nor is it useful, in my opinion, to justify procrastination using fancy psychobable like, ‘but i’m currently in the precontemplation stage!’
I don’t think there is any doubt that using a goal-setting framework like the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Realistic, Timely) is a good way to go- in most instances you should be able quatify your progress, and working towards a time-frame can be motivating.
Again, if your goals and your behaviour do not match-up, one of those needs to change. I would always err on the side of changing behaviour, as for one, you wouldn’t have decided upon a goal in the first place if it did not hold some importance for you. And secondly, commiting to a goal and achieving it is an amazingly empowering and enriching process.When you do it once with a significant goal, it opens up possibilities that may seem outlandish right now, or perhaps have not even been considered yet!