Have you ever felt like you have so many dreams and potential but like nothing is happening?
I feel like that some days and I realised that those are the days when I have nothing planned and I’m just wandering around the house. I feel like so many of us wander through life not fulfilling our potential and feeling stuck, (especially right now in 2020 when Coronavirus has forced us to be at home).
The good news is there is a cure for that. That cure, is making a plan and taking action to bring your plan to life.
Why Set Goals?
Top-level athletes, successful business people and achievers in all fields all set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation . It focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organise your time and your resources so that you can make the most of your life.
By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, you can measure and take pride in the achievement of those goals, and you’ll see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless grind. You will also raise your self-confidence , as you recognise your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you’ve set.
How to Set Goals - 6 Step Process
Step 1: Create Visions For Your Life
Before you set individual goals, consider the main life categories like health, relationships, finance, etc.
In each area of your life, before you create goals, create a vision. That is to say, write down what you believe in (your values) and what you want for your future. It is fruitless to create a goal without having an overarching vision because you won’t know why you’re setting your goal, and when you reach it, you won’t feel as good about it.
Productivity – Do you want to achieve any artistic or creative goals?
Family – Do you want to be a parent? If so, how are you going to be a good parent? How do you want to be seen by a partner or by members of your extended family?
Health – Are there any athletic goals that you want to achieve, or do you want good health deep into old age? What steps are you going to take to achieve this?
Love – Do you want to have a partner or stay single? If you want a partner, what type of relationship do you want?
Work – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?
Fun – How do you want to enjoy yourself? (You should ensure that some of your life is for you!)
Money – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?
Personal Growth – Is there any knowledge you want to acquire in particular? What information and skills will you need to have in order to achieve other goals?
Attitude – Is any part of your mindset holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? (If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem.)
Public Service – Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?
Step 2: Think And Reflect Upon Where You Are Now (Take Inventory)
After you know what you want, you need to check in with yourself and “take inventory” of where you are right now.
Look at each area of your life and write down the status of where you are. Be honest with yourself. If you’re in an unhappy relationship, write that down. Being honest with yourself will help you make the necessary changes in order to move you toward the life you want to live. Do this for every area of your life.
Step 3: Create An Overarching Plan For Each Category
With each life category written down, decide on one big, overarching plan to lead you toward your vision for that category.
For example, if your financial vision is to become financially free and be an example to your children, your corresponding, overarching plan could be to become debt free (and stay out of debt) and build wealth.
The vision is something that is a way of life; it’s your legacy. The overarching plan is the biggest goal you set to get there — it’s something that is attainable. After you set your overarching plan, you’ll then be able to set smaller goals that are measurable and attainable.
Step 4: Set Your Goals
After you know what you want (vision), where you are (inventory), and your main plan of getting to where you want to go, you are ready to set goals.
A goal is an achievable aim or target in the future.
One of the most popular goal-setting strategies is the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.
Goals should be:
- Specific (not vague)
- Measurable (detailed)
- Achievable (attainable given where you are now)
- Relevant (related to the area of your life that needs improvement)
- Timely (with a definite deadline)
This means that when you create goals, they should be narrow, in writing, achievable, and have a deadline. Goals can be long-term goals (over one year) or short-term goals (less than one year). You can do this for all areas of your life, or you can focus on a few areas that you want to change the most. Examples of long-term benchmarks are: 5 years out, 10 years out, and 20 years out. Short-term benchmarks for goals include anything less than 1 year, such as one week or 12 months.
A good way to know whether you’re setting appropriate goals is to follow Michael Hyatt’s advice and ask whether you are
- staying inside your comfort zone (bad),
- getting outside your comfort zone (good), or
- being delusional (bad).
You want to set goals that stretch you outside your comfort zone (i.e. that are a reach for you), but not so far of a reach that they’re delusional.
Decide what categories you want to create goals for (as little as one category up to all categories), and get to writing. Keep in mind that the more goals you have at one time, the harder it is to focus. It may be more effective for you to focus on 1-4 goals for the first half of the year and the remaining 4 life categories in the second half of the year. Or, if you are only struggling in one area of your life, it may make sense for you to focus on that category for the entire year, setting goals only for that area of your life until it has improved. Only you know where you stand, so choose your goals wisely. Use your inventories from above to determine where you should focus your energy.
I also recommend using tools that will help you ensure you’ll achieve your goals. The best tool I’ve seen for this (and I’ve tried a lot of them), is The Dailygreatness Journal. It’s a journaling book that teaches you how to accomplish your goal in 90 days. I use it and find it very easy and helpful.
Examples of two bad goals:
- Get on track financially this year.
- Be more careful with my credit card.
Examples of two good goals:
- Create monthly budgets the first of every month for the following month with my husband.
- Pay off my credit card every month and stop using it for everything except groceries.
In the bad set of examples, you can see how the goals are vague and do not have deadlines. In the good set of examples, the goals are specific and timely. Both of these goals are written down which is incredibly important, too.
Step 5: Implement Your Goals
Implement your goals by taking action. This may seem obvious, but I believe implementation and planning needs to be a separate step because it is the difference between success and failure.
The reason I am so productive and accomplish my goals is because they are concrete and always on my calendar (I use Gmail’s calendar and always have it in the month view so I can visualize what is coming up in the next week and month). If I don’t use my calendar to plan my goals, I have about a 20% success rate. I have found it is the little things (habits and systems) that make success possible (and almost guaranteed) for me.
Whatever calendar you use, put your goals on it as deadlines.
Also, put a weekly “goals check-in” on your calendar. Your deadlines will keep you on track and focused. Your weekly check-ins will allow you to make changes and plan accordingly with respect to your deadlines. Perhaps this means that every week you put on your calendar “work on goals” on Saturday morning at 10am. Whatever works for you, the key is to plan it. If you plan it, it will happen. If you don’t check-in with yourself, you won’t give yourself the opportunity to make changes based on your circumstances. For example, if you plan to train for a marathon and put deadlines on your calendar but you’re injured two weeks into training, it doesn’t make sense for you to keep those goals on your calendar. You need to make changes accordingly.
Step 6: The 4 R’S — Reward, Reflect, Revise, AND Repeat
As I alluded to above, you are going to need to make changes. As much as you try to plan your life, you can only do so much. There are circumstances that are beyond your control (like Covid-19) that will happen. And there are circumstances that will lead you to change what you want. While you may think you know what you want in 5 years, you may end up being way off.
Enter the 4 R’s. First, you should reward yourself after accomplishing any goal. We’re creatures of positive reinforcement and you’ll have more success if you reward yourself. Second, reflect on your progress and think about the journey as time passes. Without reflection it will be hard for you to learn and grow. Third, revise your visions, plans, and goals over time. As you change, so should your goals. Revision can take place during your check-ins so that you keep moving forward in the direction you want as things change. Finally, repeat the process by continuing to make and write down new goals as time goes on.
A Final Thought
Goal setting is an important method for:
Deciding what you want to achieve in your life.
Separating what’s important from what’s irrelevant, or a distraction.
Building your self-confidence, based on successful achievement of goals.
Set your lifetime goals first. Then, set a five-year plan of smaller goals that you need to complete if you are to reach your lifetime plan. Keep the process going by regularly reviewing and updating your goals. And remember to take time to enjoy the satisfaction of achieving your goals when you do so.
If you don’t already set goals, do so, starting now. As you make this technique part of your life, you’ll find your career accelerating, and you’ll wonder how you did without it!