With the New Year approaching, I thought I'd share something that's been a tradition of mine for over 20 years! Like you, I've had friends talk about resolutions every year and of course most of them had no hope of accomplishing them. Heck, after January most people can't even remember what they resolved to do. One of my favorite quotes that motivate me to set goals, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably get there."
Every year since I turned 17, I take time to write down my goals for the coming year. Over the years, I've tried to learn all I can from my experience, books, seminars and other people in order to refine my success. What I do works for me and maybe something I'll share will work for you. I'm very goal driven and this system has allowed me to achieve around 85% of my goals every year. I look back at my life and I'm amazed at some of the things I've been able to accomplish over time.
Here's the cliff note version for those that just want the basics…
AREAS OF LIFE
First thing I do is pick the areas of my life to set goals in. I use these areas to holistically exam my life. You may consolidate them or expand as needed. At some points in my life I only used 4 of these and at other times I've had 10. Usually I use about 7 of them each year. The beauty of the system is you get to pick what's important to you. I use these broad areas to help me pick where I need or want to grow. Here are the ones I've used…
Now it's time to get down to brass tacks. You can start thinking about what you want your year to look like and what you want to accomplish. Side note…I use documents that have my life purpose statement, long term goals and dreams, bucket list and calendar at this point. You can use this exact same system to set long term goals. I will use short term goals as building blocks to my overall long term goals.
When I set goals I make sure they are specific and realistic. I see people all the time set goals that can't be measured or they have no reasonable expectation of achieving. I'm all for stretching but you need to deal with reality.
Here's what I mean when I say specific. I ask these types of questions to identify what I want to achieve exactly. As I answer the questions I try to put things in a positive light in order maximize my own will power. Also, your subconscious mind doesn't work real well with negative concepts.
Now I put those specifics together to create my goals. You'll find that specifics may bring about multiple goals that crossover into many areas. For example:
You can see that most of these become subsets of your goal to lose weight.
I want to spend a little time on the WHY? portion right now. Desire is a powerful tool in your motivation toolbox. The more hunger you have for something the easier your motivation is to do the hard work necessary to achieve your goals. Let's be real for a moment, great achievements in life usually require great sacrifice.
Another powerful motivator can be Fear. Look how many folks have a major medical incident and then radically change their lives in order to get healthier. How many entrepreneurs "burn the boats" in order to make their new venture successful? Failure is not an option! My point is to figure out what really stirs your juices when compiling your goals; you are more likely to tackle them and succeed, even if those are the more difficult ones on your list.
Now, I'd like to cover realistic. Realistic doesn't mean you have to pick easy or non-stretching goals. It just means you need to understand what you can & cannot do (mentally, physically & emotionally). It's certainly possible to make $50,000 in a month, but I've only done it once in my entire working career and had the means to do it. Right now I do not have a vehicle that would allow me to make that amount in 30 days. I'm not saying it's not possible, but it would take extraordinary measures beyond my ability to control or influence to make it so. So that's not a realistic goal. But if instead I said I need to increase my cash flow $4,000 a month over the next 12 months, I can think of a few ways that might happen (that's where specificity becomes really important). Having the ability to do something is really important.
Make sure your goals are consistent with your real passions. If you hate running but your goal is to run on a treadmill, you may be in for a rough road. Pick goals that are consistent with the things you value. If you are a "foodie", you may want to up your exercise options versus restricting your caloric intake. You get the idea.
Next, you need to make sure your goals are compatible. If being a great dad means attending all your kids after school activities, you may not hit that work bonus that makes it possible to buy the new living room suite. If you want to buy a $500,000 home but only make $40,000 a year, you may need to consider the home as a long term goal and work some intermediate goals to achieve that.
Now that you have goals that are specific and realistic, comes the really hard part…prioritization and simplification. Now that you've picked the areas you want to grow and put together specific goals that you can reasonably attain, you've probably got a lot of them! As you make sure they are consistent and compatible, you may find competing goals. Here's where you need to make sure you know what's important to you. To use the example above; which one is more important to you…great dad or a financial success? This example isn't unique. Life is all about choices, mostly competing ones. You could spend your whole day at work and still have things to do. Likewise, you could spend your whole day with your family and they still want more of you. You can't do everything, you have to prioritize.
The next thing I'll cover is simplification. I've found that I can come up with a list of 100 things I'd like to improve this year. The truth for me is that if I've picked the right things I limit myself to less than 30 things each year. I'll probably take some of those and break them up to smaller goals, but realistically speaking I'd rather have 10 goals that really stretch me versus 100 that I may not get to or easily achieve. One of the things I see folks do is try to do too much. Create savings, eliminate debt, buy new things, etc…not only are some of these conflicting but usually it's just too much for the average person to tackle. Start small and work your way up. You can always have a secondary list that you can add to your primary goals as you accomplish them.
WRITE THEM DOWN
If it's not written down, it doesn't exist. You need to write your goals down. I put them on one sheet of paper. The power of this cannot be over emphasized. It's like making a contract with yourself. Seriously, WRITE THEM DOWN.
REVIEW THEM REGULARLY
I post a copy of my goals in my bathroom. I email a copy to my wife. I then usually send specific sections to friends and mentors. I usually look at them daily for the first month, but as the year progresses I move to monthly and finally quarterly. They are still on my wall, but after looking at them daily I've pretty much memorized them after 30 days. I also put a quarterly review on my calendar in order to take an hour or two to really do a hard assessment of how I'm doing. Last year for example, I was way behind on most of my goals, but probably the most difficult one I'd just achieved. It was a time of celebration but also a realization that I'd prioritized a hard goal and was I willing to miss some of the others? I decided to keep things as they were, but the quarterly check in is important. I've added or changed goals 3 months in and feel like I'd do that at any check in. One thing I'll not do is take goals off after the 6 month mark. I'll add or tweak them but not take them off. Not hitting goals can be motivating for someone like me. You may be different, so do what works for you.
Last thing on this topic, some goals may need more rigorous review than others. I have a buddy that has a weekly accountability meeting to achieve his goals. I've used a daily check in meet some of mine. Use what works.
Some things to remember regarding goals…
Perseverance wins. Never, never, never give up. Quitters never win. There are so many clichés because it's true. I mentioned earlier that great things often require great sacrifice. I've gone without many times because I knew the payoff at the end was worth it.
A caution…I don't share my goals very broadly. I don't want or need any negativity about what I want to accomplish. I share them with my family, a few choice friends and my mentors. Usually I share them with the choice friends because I've asked them to hold me accountable to a specific goal. I'll program emails to go out quarterly to remind them to follow up with me on some goals.Rhino
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