A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.’ Rita Mae Brown

Yes, in today’s article we will be talking about deadlines. Rita Mae Brown said that ‘a deadline is a negative inspiration’, whereas Diana Scharf Hunt said ‘Goals are dreams with deadlines’, and Harvey MacKay said ‘A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline’. I can see both sides of this train of thought, but research and my own recent experience does show that where you have a timeframe attached to a dream, your dream truly becomes something that you want to achieve, that you want to succeed with. It gives you a clear focus.

Following on from the work you’ve done by following my previous articles, and still working with Rule 2 and the SMARTER process, let’s have a look at the T element:

  • T = time-bound * time-framed.
    • As well as being specific and measurable, it is said that you must know in what time frame you wish to achieve your goal. Larger goals will take longer to achieve, therefore knowing the time frame allows you to break larger goals down into smaller, more manageable and achievable goals.
      • Whatever your dream or dreams, you will find that you will feel that some of these can be achieved quite quickly, whereas others may take some time. Some dreams may have a clear direction, others may have a more torturous path, whereas some may appear to have a clear direction or path which becomes more challenging or torturous.
      • Whatever the dream you have, when you start to look at how long it will take you to achieve it in order to convert it into a goal, you’ll find that you have either mini goals, medium term milestone goals, long term milestone goals, or even a big picture goal. What’s the reason for splitting them into these type of categories? Simple – it really allows you to focus on the mini goals knowing that where a mini goal fits into a milestone or big picture goal you will be focusing on the long term successes without having to focus on it specifically. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said ‘It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise.’ In next week’s article I’ll go into more detail on how to link these together.
        • Big picture goals – these are the goals that you will always be remembered for. They are generally not achievable in one step. Big picture goals although defined in my course as goals that will be achieved within 3 to 5 years, they maybe longer in their achievement. In the same way as when you are approaching a mountain range, it looks so far away in the distance, goals that have a timeframe of longer than 3 years appear the same – so far away and distant, that they should be broken down into smaller goals of 3 years or less. When you are defining your big picture goals it’s important to remember that each big picture goal will be accomplished by defining and setting a range of smaller goals – one leading into another, and into another. Gradually by achieving each smaller goal you will achieve your big picture goal. As I explained above, I’ll go into this in a lot more detail next week.
        • Milestone goals are generally goals that you will set to allow you to achieve your big picture goals. What’s the reason that they are called ‘milestone’ goals? Simply that milestones are the markers along your path to achievement that tells you how much progress you are making towards achieving your big picture goal. Generally milestone goals will be goals that are achieved in anything from 3 months to 3 years. It’s important to understand that milestone goals are those goals that allow you to break down your big picture goals – those ones that feel so huge that they don’t feel achievable – into smaller, digestible goals. There is that wonderful quote by Lao-tzu that said ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Although it is true that a goal could be a milestone goal without being a smaller goal of your big picture goal, generally they are found to be smaller goals for a larger goal; and it’s for this reason that these are found to be motivating goals – you can see yourself achieving your big picture goal one step at a time. John Wanamaker said ‘One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time’ and this can be associated with achieving big picture goals too.
          • Milestone goals are split into two types of goals. The first being long term milestone goals which are generally the 1 – 3 year goals. The second is the medium term goals which are generally 3 – 12 months.
        • Mini goals are sometimes also referred to as tasks or actions that maybe set as part of a coaching session. These goals are generally defined as goals that you will achieve between now and 3 months’ time. These are the goals that milestone goals are broken down into and which break milestone goals and big-picture goals into ‘bite-size’ goals, so that they become truly manageable.
      • So now we come to it and remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr. said ‘Procrastination will always be the thief of time’, this is your opportunity to start defining when you want to complete and achieve your dream. What a very true statement! We are all guilty of putting things off and wasting time; and because human nature will tempt us to procrastinate, we should never leave a goal open-ended.

How did I put a time frame on my dream to lose 5 sizes and know that I’m successful when I’m a size 12 and weighing no more than 60 kilos? It wasn’t easy. Trying to lose 5 sizes didn’t feel like a mini or milestone goal – realistically it felt like a big-picture goal. Unlike losing weight by the kilo or pounds and stones, it does make it a lot more difficult to determine how much weight I’d lose in a week or a month. Statistics show that losing about 2 pounds a week or 1 kilo a week is on average the right type of weight-loss, but I’m not looking at my goal in that way. So how did I do it? I looked into my future and tried to determine whether I would have any particular ‘reason’. Anniversaries … birthdays … celebrations … what was around the corner? Remember that I started on this goal soon after April 2009. My first reason was my brothers birthday – yes a ?0 birthday at the end of 2010 – I was delighted when he told me that he would only be celebrating this with friends in Sept/Oct 2011 as that truly gave me an achievable date. Another was a friend’s graduation from her 3 years at University (a story for another time). Yet another was moving to the island of Madeira. As I reflected on what I could focus on to achieve my dream, I found a variety of opportunities.

When I started to think about the true length of time this goal might take, I also looked at how much of my life I was prepared to change. As much as I truly want to lose the weight, I didn’t want to give up socialising, celebrating, girls-lunches out, to mention just a few. So I had to find a balance and I realised that there was no huge push for me to lose the weight today or even tomorrow. This was a goal that I could bring into my life and gradually make the change. What a relief! So I chose my brothers ?0 birthday celebration in September/October 2011 as my goal achievement date.

Joe Girard
‘The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs… one step at a time.’

© 2010 Barbara J. Cormack
First published under Cormack’s Capers in Magna Intuitum