The key to succeeding in your goals is to divide them up into sub-parts and then use those sub-parts as regular ‘checkpoints’ along the way to determine your progress and to fine-tune your approach.
I remember during scouting as a kid, we would often practice orienteering. After we were given a compass and a map, our scout leader would point out our destination on the map and it was then up to us to correctly estimate and map out the journey so that we would successfully arrive there.
The key to success with orienteering is not to simply make a B-line to the destination but instead to divide the journey into several checkpoints along the way. As we traveled along these checkpoints, they provided a way to not only track our progress but to recalibrate our compasses and regain our bearings so that we were sure we were heading in the right direction. By doing this we never strayed too far off course because the checkpoints acted as early-warning signs to a miscalculated route or an incorrectly configured compass.
The same holds true with goals. The key to succeeding in your goals is to divide them up into sub-parts and then use those sub-parts as regular ‘checkpoints’ along the way to determine your progress and to fine-tune your approach. This could be a time-driven approach where you divide up a goal (such as quitting smoking) into time units (see the 10-day challenge) or based on specific tasks that are accomplished (you want to write a book so you divide that goal into checkpoints of individual chapters).
Once you’ve reached a checkpoint, the most important task is to ‘recalibrate.’ That is, to get your bearings by observing what is or what is not working, why it is working or not, and then make any adjustments to your approach that will help you reach your final destination.
Let’s use the example of wanting to lose 20 pounds in two months. You decide to break this goal up into weekly checkpoints (such as every Sunday) where you expect to lose around two pounds per checkpoint.
When Sunday comes along your first step is to get your bearings — that is, you determine where you are in relation to your goal. Since your goal is to lose weight, the most important bearing would be weighing yourself. If you’ve lost two pounds than great, stick to what is working for you and continue on. If you haven’t than it is at this time that you need to ‘recalibrate.’
Recalibrating in this example might be looking over what you’ve eaten over the last week (assuming you kept a food log), determining how many calories you’ve consumed, and then decreasing them the next week. If you don’t know the amount of calories you’ve eaten, then part of the recalibration process might be to start keeping a food log. Or perhaps you notice that you need to increase the frequency of exercise, so you add an extra day. The key here is to make some kind of change. It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If your not happy with the course you’re taking than change the course. This is the whole purpose of the recalibration step.
After a number of recalibrations, you may notice that you are doing everything you can to make progress but your just not getting any closer to your goal. At this time you may want to reevaluate your goal. It may be that you’ve just been unrealistic. This is where you would redefine your goal and then continue with the process. If you reach this point, don’t get discouraged because you ARE making progress. You’re realizing what works and does not work for you.
What make this process so powerful is that you are taking a systematic approach to achieving your goals . The majority make goals or set resolutions only to head out to their destination without a setting a course or regularly taking a bearing. This automatically sets them up for failure. By approaching goal achievement as one would an orienteering exercise, you’ll be well on your way to achieving what it is you’ve set out to.