Person Holding Pen and Planner

Once when I was teaching in the undergrad business school at Loyola University Chicago my class and I were talking about goal setting. I shared with them how I set and track my own goals.

I like to physically write in a day planner or calendar the 3-5 big things I want to achieve every 6 months. Yes Google cal and Outlook are great but I’m a big believer in being able to hold the thing I write my goals in… even if it’s just a piece of paper I tape onto a calendar hanging in my home office (my current #goals situation). I also shared that I orient my goals around my birthday and half-birthday, simply because I tend to naturally reflect during those times and why not build a loose structure onto something I already do?

Anyway, the day that we were talking goal setting just happened to be in early October aka my half-birthday aka I was due to check-in. To show my students I wasn’t BSing them I opened my physical day planner and began to read the goals I had set the April before aloud in the front of the room.

By the time I got to the third one I started to slow down, my brows furrowing. I looked up and scanned the class and in a calm yet somewhat surprised tone said, “Huh. I actually hit all of these last month.”

I was truly shocked how powerful this was.

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When’s the last time you set goals and held a check-in 6 months later for yourself? Not something that your manager asked you to do or that your company mandates?

Even for the most reflective of us, checking in on a regular basis is really quite difficult.

Plus, it’s not enough to simply look at your goals and check whether you did them or not (in that story above I did something else after I left class that day). You need to consider a little more.

With that, here are the 6 steps to take to successfully hold a 6-month check-in with yourself:

1. Check in on what this time period has been like FIRST. Yes, you want to see if you accomplished what you set out to but before you look at your written goals, first take stock more broadly of your life. Zoom out for a moment and consider “What has my life been like these last 6 months?” This not only will get you into a more introspective mindset to review the specifics but it often helps you see things you didn’t even consider in your original goals. (Yes, I know I didn’t do this in my example above – it was a teaching moment, plus I did do it later that day!)

2. Look at your goals & notice what you’ve done. Now actually review what you had set out to do. This is why having them physically written out is best IMO. However you want to capture them, reserve some time with yourself alone or with a trusted person to take stock of what you’ve done. At its most fundamental you’re seeing if you’ve met your goals here.

3. Ask yourself, “What does this mean?” This is intentionally broad. That’s because your goals are yours, and you have to dig into their meaning and implications of meeting or not meeting them. This also has really practical aspects. For instance, if your goals were financial in nature hitting your goal might mean you can go on a trip, quit a job, buy a home, help out a loved one, or host a wedding. Not hitting your goal might mean you can’t do those things.

This is actually a really key step. I see a lot of people skip this especially when goals aren’t met. It’s easy to simply shrug things off or say you’ll do better in 6 months. And that’s great and likely viable and possible! But there’s a big difference between being negative and realistic and this falls very much into the latter category.

4. Ask yourself next, “How have I grown during this period?” Goals are amazing but unless our goals map to growth, we’re simply writing a to-do list. We have to consider what the bigger growth has been, otherwise what’s the point?

5. Take some time an celebrate! There’s actual science behind celebration, making it extremely important. Plus it’s fun! Whatever celebration means to you, do that. It might mean sharing your success with a loved one, a nice meal or an afternoon to yourself. It might mean something totally different. Celebration doesn’t mean a party or drinking or spending money or people or time. It does mean taking a moment to acknowledge your hard work. You need to actually train yourself to do this and making it a part of your personal 6-month check-in is a great step!

6. After you take some time and celebrate there’s one final thing to ask yourself, “What’s next? And what kind of accountability do I need to do this?” When it comes to goals and growth accountability is key. It consists of setting structures (formal or informal) to help you achieve success. And let me tell you this step is key. In fact, The American Society of Training & Development found that your likelihood of success increases up to 95% when you build accountability structure. And you are 65% more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person.

So what’s next for you? And want some accountability? Sign up for my monthly accountability check in where I’ll check in with you regularly.