One of the things that I do every year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is to set new goals for the coming year. Admittedly, I don’t always reach my goals, and I consider it a pretty successful year if I reach 75% of them. I’m not a slave to my goals, but I do like the guidance and definition that they provide. There are lots of opinions about the best way to set goals and even on whether or not it’s really best to set goals, so I recognize that what I am going to share may not work for you, but here are a few things that have helped me.
- The Process of Reflection is Invaluable—As I make decisions about the goals that I am going to set for the coming year, it forces me to reflect, both on the past and on the future. I look at the goals from the previous year or years and ask myself things like: Did I reach this goal? If not, why not? Does it matter? Was it a worthy goal? I also look forward and ask myself things like: Do I want to continue pursuing this goal? If I reached it this year, should I set a more aggressive goal? A more attainable goal? Is there something that matters more to me than this goal? All of these questions, and more, enable me to really evaluate what I have accomplished, where I am going, and whether that’s REALLY what I want. It’s been stated that an organization is perfectly aligned to produce the results that it is getting, and the same is true for individuals. It’s likely that you are living the precise way you need to in order to reach the results you are getting. If you want to get different results, it’s likely that you need to change behavior. Reflection can help clarify that.
- Set a Variety of Goals—Don’t just set financial goals. Don’t just set work goals. Don’t just set new experience “bucket” kind of goals (life is meant to be more than one fun escapade after another!). Set goals that have to do with improving yourself, relationships, health, skills, and things like that. Set both process goals, which are things that you have more control over, as well as production goals, which can be more susceptible to outside influences. For example, the goal to clean my garage every week is a process goal. I have a lot of control over whether or not I do that. My goal to win the Rotary Club Golf Scramble is a production goal (actually, it’s a fantasy, but that’s another story). The point is that you need a variety of goals.
- Review Your Goals Constantly—I will let you interpret what “constantly” means to you. However, to me it means…daily. I know, that seems like overkill, but that’s the rhythm that works for me. There are people who say that you need to set your goals for 5 years, write them down, and then basically forget them because writing them down will cement them enough in your mind that you will essentially move toward them. To them, setting annual goals and reviewing them regularly is working too hard without getting any different result. Other people suggest setting nothing more than 90 Day goals because if you can’t achieve it in 90 Days, it’s too broad a goal. Some people say you need 5 year goals, 1 year goals, and 90 day goals. My response to those suggestions is a resounding: “Maybe.” However, no matter what your time period—I think it’s very important to review them constantly. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get off-track or to lose track.
- Schedule Time to Make Progress—Goal or no goal, most of us don’t get anything done unless there’s a set time when we’re going to do it. We live by the appointment, right? When someone says, “Let’s get a cup of coffee together,” it doesn’t mean anything unless you agree on when and where. Otherwise, it’s just talk. That’s the same with achieving your goals. You can set a goal of reading ten new books in 2015, but if you don’t schedule a time to read each day or each week, it’s very unlikely that you will reach that goal. If you just say, “Oh, I’ll read when I feel like it,” my guess is that you won’t feel much like reading much of the time.
Those are a few of the things that I’ve learned that help me to set helpful goals. I’m curious to know what some of you have discovered about setting goals. Let’s hear back from you! In the meantime—Happy New Year from SGR and Happy Goal Reaching in 2015!