Why drawing (not writing) your goals will make them happen

15 November 2019 -

Person drawingSo, you've set some awesome goals and plans – but why didn't they all happen...?

Mark Rowland

People use SMART goals because they enable you to be realistic and help you visualise what’s required to meet your goal – but making your goals SMART is not a guarantee that you will achieve them.

It is just as easy to be too specific or not specific enough, and it can be hard to judge what is ‘Achievable’ and ‘Realistic’– particularly early on in your career. They can be too short term or cloud your view away from objectives that might take time to achieve. If SMART goals are going to work, you need to set them in the right way.

It’s all in the detail

It can be tricky to get the specifics right when goal setting; a set of bullet points may be clear and succinct, but that doesn’t mean they’re specific.

Sarah Brown, a consultant and ‘ideas inspirer’, runs her own business, Inspire2Aspire, with her husband, Bob. They draw their goals, rather than write them down – they encourage all of their clients to do the same.

“It works because you can't be vague in a drawing,” she explains. “Imagine you want to get fit: you write that as a goal – ‘get fit’. But when you draw it you have to be specific. Is it an image of finishing a marathon? Climbing a mountain? Lifting a heavy weight? A six-pack?”

The act of drawing, the colours you use and the visual medium engages your brain in different ways. It engages with your subconscious to help you visualise what successfully meeting that goal looks like.

Brown tells the story of a client of hers that wanted to start a business. They started by drawing out the client’s ideal location for the business. While drawing, the client was able to visualise lots of specific elements that they needed in the building that they hadn’t thought of before. “It became a much better goal in terms of planning.”

Patti Dobrowolski, American consultant and ‘strategic illustrator’, advocates a system for drawing goals, starting with your current state in relation to your goal, and contrasting that with what you want to achieve.

Follow inspiration

Lisa Phillips, author of The Confidence Coach, believes your goals need to have an element of inspiration if you want to have a chance of achieving them – that you should trust your instincts and your emotional responses to the goals themselves. “Only set a goal that feels good to you, otherwise you will give up,” she says. “Your goal should inspire you, rather than just motivate you.”

The problem with smart goals, she says, is that they’re often more about what people think they should do, rather than what they actually want to achieve. This means that although the goals can be meticulously laid out and strategic, people often fail to meet their goal because it’s not something that they want for themselves.

“Often they're also based on other people's goals. Don't set goals – set desires. How do you want to feel now? You're tuning in to what you want, and you're much more able to really get emotionally specific about what you want to achieve.”

Make a (flexible) plan

It’s also important to plan for how you will achieve your goals, says Reetu Kansal MA CMgr FCMI. “It does not have to be detailed. The purpose of the plan is to work backwards from your deadline and put in some dates in the diary to achieve milestones that help you get there.”

You must also build flexibility into that plan, says Kansal – be willing to adjust it, and the milestones you need to meet to achieve our goals, accordingly. If your personal or professional circumstances change, how will this impact your success? How well can you react to ambiguous or unpredictable times, while maintaining your progress?

“Sometimes preparation may take slightly longer than you anticipated so ensure you adjust your timetable and ring-fence sufficient time to finish the goal.”

One way to help you stay on top of your goals is through time-management and organisation – such as making lists and plans. Read about the psychology of list-makers on CMI Insights.

Image: Kelly Sikkema Unsplash 

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