Have you set–or are you setting–goals for this new year? This week we’re talking about goals and how to focus them based on what’s most important and what we would like to accomplish in the new year.
Goal-setting refresher: It’s possible to accomplish our goals without overwhelming ourselves or pulling us away from daily priorities
As we’re starting out this new year, a lot of us have been thinking about goals for the coming year. We’ve talked about goal-setting in the past (TPW223, 285, 379, and a series on goal-setting way back at the beginning, episodes 004, 005, and 006). It’s been a while, though, since we talked about the basics of goal-setting, so for my sake as much as yours thought I’d do a little refresher.
What is a goal?
The Oxford dictionary defines a goal as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”
Dictionary.com defines it as “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end”
It may be helpful to think of it in terms of a sports analogy, where the goal is the target, the place you’re trying to get the ball in order to score a point. On the soccer field or the hockey rink, the goal gives the players the point of focus for what they’re doing.
“A goal is an object or an aim that we wish to achieve through action.” [from Importance of Goal Setting]
I like this–a goal is something we want to achieve through action. A goal guides what we do by providing a target or focus.
Why do we set goals? What is the benefit?
Goals provide a focus for our energy, attention, and action each day. When we set goals, whether for a day, a year, or a life, we are being proactive–intentionally choosing–rather than simply wandering through our days reacting to what the world throws at us. Goals make our activity productive and purposeful–they are the difference between being busy and being productive. They provide motivation, both as a target and as we see our progress.
“Why are goals important? Simply put, they allow you to focus your attention on an objective and measure your progress along the way.” [from 5 Reasons Why You Should Set Goals]
This article also says:
“The real value of setting goals is the focus it affords you in a world otherwise chock-full of distractions. With a clear idea of your objectives, you’ll have more capacity to home in on your target. If you veer off-course, you’ll have your goals written down to help bring you back to center.”
I thought an article titled 7 Reasons You Should Set Goals provided some food for thought about the value of goal-setting:
“Know that all things are created twice: first in the mind, then in the physical world. The mental creation happens when you set your goals. The physical creation happens when you work on your goal and bring it to life. Without the mental creation, the physical creation can’t happen. When you set goals, you kick off the very first step to making your dreams happen, after which the next steps will follow suit.”
Process for goal-setting
1. Keep your values in mind
- What’s most important to you?
- Does each goal you’re considering reflect that?
- Consider the big picture: what kind of life do you want? Who do you want to be in the world? What kinds of things does that kind of person do?
2. Daydream and brainstorm
- If money and time were no object, what would you do?
- What would your ideal life be like?
- Consider all aspects of your life: professional, relationships, health & well being
- Write it all down–don’t censor yourself at the early stage
3. Narrow them down
Once you have your list of possibilities, consider which one, two, or maybe three really speak to you. Ask yourself why that one, why now? Make sure you like the answer.
You don’t have to work on everything at once–the idea is to commit a certain period of time to focusing your energy and attention on just a small handful of goals. Maybe for 90 days you focus mostly on one area, then in the next 90-day period you’ll have established habits that keep you moving toward those goals and can look at others. “Not now” doesn’t mean “never.”
4. When you start narrowing down a few goals you want to focus on now, state them in positive terms
- “I will launch my blog by [date].”
- “I will take a 3-week trip to Australia with my family or with 2 friends in [month and year].”
- “I will submit my novel to 3 agents or publishers by [date].”
- “I will eat 6 fruits or vegetables daily for the next 6 weeks.”
- “I will spend 2 hours each week studying X topic for the next 3 months.”
- “I will call or email one new client prospect each weekday in February.”
5. Favor process goals rather than outcome goals
Success is more likely when you structure them around what you can control (i.e., your own behavior) rather than what you can’t (i.e., the result). The big, long-term goals often are outcome-based.
- Lose 50 pounds
- Publish a book
- Own my dream house
- Earn a Ph.D. or MD
On the other hand, the smaller short-term goals are often process-based.
- Track my food intake each day
- 20 minutes of activity each day
- Write 10 minutes (or 250 words) each day
- Put $200/month into house savings account
- Research Ph.D. programs; identify scholarship opportunities
6. Break big long-term goals down into milestones
For each big, long-term goal, brainstorm all the steps to achieving it.
- What do you need to do to achieve this goal?
- What resources do you need? (people, materials, equipment, skills, knowledge)
- Which of those resources do you already have? Which do you need to acquire? Where and how will you acquire them?
After brainstorming, start organizing.
- What needs to happen first? Next? Don’t get bogged down with trying to create the perfect order. Pick something.
- What are the main milestones toward accomplishing the big goal, and when will you accomplish them? (Put them on your calendar with a reminder!)
- Identify one simple, small step you can take right away to get started.
7. Consider the SMART formulation
- Specific – not just “get healthier” but “reduce my blood pressure” or “increase my stamina enough to jog a 5k.”
- Measurable – how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
- Achievable – within the realm of possibility for you, but a stretch. I’ll never be an NBA basketball player or astronaut, but I could learn to do free throws in my back yard
- Relevant – to your stage of life, consistent with your values and priorities
- Time-bound – set deadlines and/or allocations of time – 3x/week; 15 minutes/day
As an example, one of my long-ish term goals is to retire from legal practice by May 10, 2025. As I think about how to get there, I identify several areas that will require action on my part:
- Meet with our financial advisor to verify savings/investments needed
- Update annual/monthly savings plan
- Re-evaluate recurring expenses (subscriptions, services, etc.) and our overall budget
- Consider whether we should or can pay off the house by then
Legal practice components
- Transitioning clients
- Evaluating, archiving, and disposing of paperwork and records
- Evaluating/disposing of equipment
- What do I want to do with my time after retirement?
Final step of goal-setting: Turn them into tasks, and commit to specific times to work on them–remember that a goal is something you’re taking action to achieve.
Some final thoughts
Setting goals can be a valuable component of living a productive life. The goals we pursue should be meaningful to us, though, chosen intentionally and not.
What do you think?
Resources and Links
- TPW004 – Setting Goals That Matter
- TPW005 – A Step by Step Process for Setting Goals
- TPW006 – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieving Our Goals
- TPW223 – Resolutions & Goals
- TPW285 – Setting Goals that Matter
- TPW379 – “Who Will You Be This Time Next Year? Setting Goals that Matter
- The Importance, Benefits, and Value of Goal Setting
- 7 Important Reasons Why You Should Set Goals – Personal Excellence
- Importance of Goal Setting-Success Starts Within
- 5 Reasons Why Goal Setting Will Improve Your Focus
- Goal Setting – How To Set And Achieve Goals | Brian Tracy
- What Is Goal Setting And How It Leads to a Fulfilling Life – Lifehack
- 5 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important | American Family Insurance
- Personal Goal Setting – Planning to Live Your Life Your Way
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