Setting goals that matter starts with knowing what’s most important to you. (See below for a couple free printables!)
Let’s talk about setting goals.
As we approach the end of the first quarter of this year, I felt it’s a good time to review some things about setting (and achieving) meaningful goals.
Setting Goals that Matter
We’re talking about setting goals that MATTER, creating goals based on guiding principles & long-term objectives.
The journey from where we are to where we want to be is made one step at a time. And part of that journey is creating a plan, a road map, breaking down the big objectives into small, achievable pieces
Identify what matters to you
I believe the starting point for setting goals is taking the time to think through our commitments, dreams, and values, and to establish priorities firmly in our minds. This in turn will help us make smart choices about how we use our time and resources, so we accomplish the things that are most important to us and become truly productive.
We all have to choose among many options for how our time and resources are used. Without some guiding principles to base our choices on, we can’t be sure we’ll accomplish the things that matter to us. Those guiding principles come from truly understanding what our priorities are.
So set aside some time when you can be quiet and undisturbed. Schedule it, sit down with your calendar, and your favorite beverage, and think through the following questions.
- What are the roles you play in life?
Wife, mother, Christian, employee or boss, parent, citizen. List them all, and don’t forget to include “Self”.
- Prioritize these areas of your life.
By that, I do not mean rank them in order of importance. For example, if you’re a person of faith, your relationship with God probably comes first. After that maintaining your mental and physical health is a priority (because you’re no good to anybody else if you’re falling apart physically, mentally, or emotionally. Perhaps your spouse and children, your career and/or ministry, your friends and extended family, are your next priority. There’s no one-size-fits-all list here. It should be a matter of careful thought and prayer.
- For each of those roles, answer this question: “What kind of _______ do I want to be?”
Another way of looking at this is think of the people you “answer to” in each role and ask yourself, “How do I want that person to remember me when I’m gone?” Think about what each relationship or role would look like if you were doing things like you want to. Be honest with yourself. Then realistically evaluate where you are today, and write down an action item or two to help move you in the direction of that ideal.
- Keep these priorities and action steps somewhere handy
Review them regularly, and refer to them when you’re offered an opportunity to do something. Ask yourself: Does this fit into my priorities, into my vision for where I want my life to go? If no, then maybe pass on that opportunity and leave it to someone for whom it’s a better fit.
Use this Vision-Casting Worksheet as you journal about your priorities and values.
The reason I talk about this in a goal-setting episode is because I don’t think it’s possible to set truly meaningful goals unless we know what matters most to us, and a lot of us do not take the time to think about that because we’re busy doing and responding before we have a chance to think about whether what we’re doing is reflective of what matters to us. Unless we know what matters to us, it’s hard to judge how to spend our time.
Creating actionable goals based on your priorities
Defining the terms: What is a goal, and how is it different from a dream or an objective or a wish?
- A wish or a dream is an image, an idea, an aspiration, maybe a nebulous thing, something that would be nice
- I’d like to go to Europe someday
- It sure would be nice to be an author
- I want to enjoy an active, healthy old age
- I want to raise happy, healthy kids who contribute to the world
- An objective is something you’ve made a commitment to achieving, but it’s maybe a big-picture kind of thing
- I’m going to retire to a ranch in Montana when I’m 55
- I’m going to be a podcaster
- I’m going to run a marathon
- I’m going to get fitter and healthier
- A goal is something more specific, and it invites very specific action. There are different types of goals — long-term, intermediate, short-term — but a good, meaningful goal will have certain characteristics.
1. Specific — A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Where: Identify a location.
- When: Establish a time frame.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
EXAMPLE: A general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a health club and workout 3 days a week.”
2. Measurable — You can know when you’ve achieved it. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.
To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as:
- How much? How many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
- Achievable (or Attainable)
3. Attainable — When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.
4. Realistic — To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress.
A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.
Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.
5. Timely — A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.
Focus on Process Goals (actions you will take) rather than Outcome goals (result you want at the end). Certainly picture what you want at the end, but process goals will be much more effective.
Check out this free printable for help in setting your SMART goals.
Be smart about setting goals
- Focus on your highest priorities — we can’t take on the world all at once, so choose 2 or 3
- Have a meaningful why for each of your goals
- Is it because somebody else wants you to do it, or is it really something you want?
- The question is, will you personally feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when you achieve it? If not, maybe it’s the wrong goal.
- Your goals should align with your values.
- A goal can’t contradict any of your other goals
- You can’t set a goal to buy a million-dollar house if you also have a goal to quit your job and homestead in Alaska
- Be balanced in your goal setting — Consider all the important areas of your life
- Physical Health
- Mental / Emotional health
What do you think?
What’s a goal you’re working toward, and how can we help you make progress on it this week? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group or send me an email.
Announcements & Reminders
Thank you to our sponsors Warby Parker & Indeed for helping me bring content to you at no charge.
- Check out Warby Parker if you need or want new glasses or prescription sunglasses. Visit Warbyparker.com/tpw to get started with a free home try-on.
- If you run a business or hire employees, you need to know about Indeed! Indeed gives you the smart tools to make hiring decisions quickly, and to be confident that you’re making the right hire for your team. Post your job today at Indeed.com/TPW and get a free sponsored job upgrade on your first posting. Conditions and exclusions apply. Offer is valid through March 31, 2020.
I would love to have your help!
- Subscribe, rate, and review The Productive Woman in Apple Podcasts or subscribe in Stitcher.
- Join the conversation at The Productive Woman on Facebook.
- Your feedback matters to me. Please share your comments, questions, or suggestions.
Royse City, Texas