Setting and achieving goals is probably one of the easiest and yet most difficult activities we engage in during our lives. We set goals every day, yet when we look back on our goals we realize that something happened, and we did not achieve the goals we wanted to.
In its simplest form, we set goals to achieve something that we have not achieved before, or to reclaim something we once had and want to have again. That’s it – only two choices really. If we have never climbed a mountain or gone SCUBA diving, then setting a goal to do this is something new to us. Having a goal to lose weight to get back down to our High School weight is an attempt to regain something we once had. No matter whether the goal is something new or to regain something lost, we always need to learn something new as we start the process.
Seek out New Information
As I have been researching and observing how people achieve goals, plans, or innovations that they are working on, I have noticed some common traits that resulted in greater success. The traits can be summarized into a series of steps, that when followed, will increase the chances of success. The CLEAR Process™ spells this out in that we Create, Learn, Execute, Adjust, and Recognize our goals or achievements.
The Learn step in the process is important as it reminds us that we need to seek out new knowledge before we embark on implementing or Executing our goals or plans. This learning should be just enough to get us off to a good start, and not too much that we end up stalling out before we get going.
Access to knowledge and information has never been easier, and yet has also never been harder. It is easy to find information as the Internet and sources on the Internet are seemingly unlimited, and yet it can be so difficult because we need to sift through even more potential sources of information. Another challenge is to determine the validity of the information we find, as it is easy for anyone to post their opinion as fact – which is just my opinion by the way.
As we create and then prepare to start working on our goals, we will need to gather and use some amount of new information. If we are starting something new that we have never done before, we will have quite a bit of learning to do. Where should we start, what are some early problems to consider, what resources are available? If we are trying to regain something we once had, new information will still be required as we begin the process of achieving our goals. Simple fact is, if we already knew what needed to be done, we would probably be doing it.
With access to seemingly unlimited information sources, it can be difficult to stay focused on what information is important and what is not important. A simple way to address this is what I call a “three deep” method. When you begin to search out new information, choose only three topics that you want to learn more about. Then, within each of these three topics, only search out three sources of information – no more and no less.
For example, if you have a goal to lose weight you might chose to learn more about balanced diet recommendations, exercise programs, and support groups or clubs of people who are also working on weight loss. Of these three topics, you should go to no more than three sources to start with. Let’s say you do an Internet search on “exercise for weight loss” and find an article that interests you – that is one source. From this source you find a link that talks more about something that interests you – that is source two. Now you go back to the original search results and find another article – source three. Stop there.
The reason for this method is to set a limit to how much research or learning you do before you start working on achieving your goal. These initial three topics are meant to be the kick-start to your goal – providing enough information to help get you off on the right foot and gain momentum more quickly. Along the way you will continue learning through experience and more research. As you work on your goal, you will find more sources of information and through experience in working on your goal will be able to determine what new information you should seek out.
The question will invariably come up, what if I don’t learn anything new in these first three sources? Well, ask yourself why you think you didn’t learn something new. Is it because you chose a topic that you were already familiar with? Did you lose focus on what your goal was and what you needed to learn? It may seem harsh, but if you spent the time reading and researching three topics and did not learn anything new, you were not focused on what needed to be done here – seeking out new information that you need to get started with your goal.
Understand your Learning Style
As part of learning, you should also understand your learning style – how is it that you learn most easily. In general, there are four styles in which we learn; Visually through what we see around us, Aurally through what we hear around us, Physically through what we touch or experience, and Reading/Writing. Everyone learns using all four of these, and each person has a different mixture of which styles they learn the best through. Understanding this and how to apply it to your current goal is important.
Using our weight loss example, we may start learning through reading and listening to others before we begin a program or regimen. As we start to change our diet and exercise, we might start to learn more through physical and aural methods as we actively do exercises and listen to others providing guidance in proper form. The important factor here is to understand that we all learn in different ways and there is always a mix of these four basic styles.
Just to be complete, you may come across seven learning style models which focus more on how these four basic styles interact for each person and the environmental effects of learning. Some people are logical in that they learn through making connections or following systems of learning. Social learners do better in groups, while Solitary learners prefer to be alone. These are also important to understand as we learn new things.
Before we get started on a new goal or plan of action, learning needs to be considered and addressed. Gaining enough new information to help kick-start our progress will result in greater success when achieving our goals. As you work on achieving your goal, you will continue to learn and can even adjust the direction of your goal along the way based on new knowledge that you gain as you work on the goal. Execution of your goal is an important step to achieving it, and gaining new knowledge first allows you to start heading in the right direction to start with.
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