Goal Setting Is Easy – Ask Brenda

Brenda woke up at 5am. She was an early riser, always out of bed by 5.30am. She had an internal clock and no longer needed the alarm. Today, however, she needed the extra 30 minutes as a cushion – just in case. You never know when traffic will get mad crazy, and you end up getting late for an appointment. And Brenda could not afford to miss today’s appointment.

It was a job interview at Gigiri and she lived in Mlolongo. To avoid to insane Mombasa Road morning traffic, she needed to take a Matatu to the City Center by 6.00 am, at the latest. The interview was at 9.30 am. She figured that if she was in town by 7.30 am, she would make it to the interview on time, perhaps even with time to spare.

She fixed a cup of instant coffee, sat down, and looked the black folder on the coffee table. She was a meticulous planner. She opened the folder, looked through it one more time. She had made copies of all the documents related to the position. She doubted that any of the documents would be needed for the interview, but having them helped in organizing her thought process. She felt confident. She was prepared.

The skirt suit and shoes for interview were laid out in the bedroom, carefully selected the previous night. She took a shower, dressed up and grabbed her handbag and folder. On her way out, she looked at the mirror. Chief Financial Officer. She smiled. Let’s do this, girl! Head up, five short minutes to the bus-stop and she was on her way.

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A couple of years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of young people on goal setting. Now, if you have been employed for a while, especially in the corporate world, setting goals is almost second nature. That is how businesses operate – goals, strategic plans, visions, missions and all that bag of terms. The group that I was presenting to was different. For starters, it was not a business or corporate setting. This was a church youth group in shags, ndani kabisaaa, in the bundus. How ndani is ndani, you ask. How about this: the place is called Wĩyũmĩrĩrie. Places with names like Wĩyũmĩrĩrie, Ngai Ndeithia, and Wĩthare are usually found in the bowels of shags ndani. Do not hate – Wĩyũmĩrĩrie happens to be my shags and I am very proud of it! But I digress…

My audience comprised of mainly secondary school kids, a few who had cleared Form Four (cleared – such a Kenyan term!) and one or two in college. My dilemma was how to present Goal Setting in simple, clear terms, which they could understand and translate into action. Big corporate terms and phrases were not going to fly.

As I thought about it, I realized that there was actually nothing new that I was going to teach this group. They set goals all the time! And they execute them. My task was very simple – first, to help them understand that goal setting was not a new thing that they needed to adopt because they were already doing it. Human beings tend to resist ‘new’, unless it is new money or new car! Second, to demonstrate how to apply goal setting to every aspect of their lives. By so doing, they would become more productive and successful.

We used role-playing. Imagine you are a farmer and you wanted to grow cabbages or other food crop (Cabbage or potatoes was a good choice for Wiyumiririe. I bet Tigoni youth would have picked apples!). What are the steps, the timeline and resources that would be required? By the time we got round to defining what a goal is and explaining SMART goals, everyone was on a roll.

Back to Brenda –

Most of us do not set goals, either because we do not appreciate how significant they play in achieving success, or because we are intimidated by the exercise. We assume it is a stressful undertaking. Goal setting is actually less complicated than we might presume. We set goals all the time. We do not recognize them as such because they are mundane. Take the Brenda story above. It has all the necessary ingredients of goal setting. She aspires to be a CFO (Goal). She takes action by first, looking out for open positions and submitting applications. Once she is invited for the interview, she has to take a number of specific actions at a specific time to ensure that she is at the venue of the interview in time.

Now, I am not suggesting that waking up in the morning and going to work or for an interview is such a monumental thing, you need a goal to achieve it. My point is that you can extrapolate this same planning process to every dream that you have, and turn it into a goal. You start with the desired result in mind (goal) and work backwards to the present. If you want to build a home in 3 years, what actions do you need to take today, in a month, in six months, one year? Those actions are the  equivalents of Brenda submitting an application, preparing for the interview by picking out the interview outfit, waking up early… The goal will have an action plan, with specific actions mapped along the timeline. It has a when, where, who, what and how.

A goal is a desired result, which you envision, plan for and commit to achieve. That is what translates a dream into reality. You have a dream? Take the next step and do the plan then commit to it!

P.S. That image and the post are completely unrelated.  Mosquitoes are hardly ever featured except when they are getting a bad rap. I thought that I could extend some love.

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