Goal Setting Tips

Bring on 2024!

Once again we find ourselves ringing in the new year.  Time for a fresh start.  Time to do some reassessments and goal setting.

It has come to my attention that many people are not efficient in their goal setting, so I would like to offer some suggestions.

First, we should set our goals in three levels:  immediate, mid-range, and big picture goals.

An example of immediate goals are goals on our daily list of things to do, or our goals for the week.  Mid-range goals are things that we would like to accomplish by the end of the year (or maybe within the next two years).  Big picture goals answer questions like:  “Where do you see yourself in five (or ten) years from now?” or “What do you want to do with your life?”

To me, it seems like big picture goals are the best place to start.  If you know what you want to do in the big picture, then you can be more efficient in planning your immediate and mid-range goals.  If you start the other way around (with immediate goals) then you may end up on some tangent from where you really want to go.

Once you know your big picture goals, then when it comes time to set your mid-range and immediate goals, you can ask yourself the question:  “Will this eventually help me in the big picture?”  If it doesn’t, then you know that you need to re-focus.

The second thing you should be aware of is that your goals should not be lopsided.  Sometimes we focus all of our attention on one thing.  For example, you may set a goal for yourself to be financially independent by the time you are 50 years old.  This is a worthy goal to shoot for, but there is more to your life than just money.  There are many aspects of our lives and we should set goals for all of them.  Don’t let one goal skew the rest of your life.  In other words, don’t let your goal of financial independence (for example) steal time and energy from your family, career, and spiritual goals.

Way back in 2010, I wrote a three part series on books in my old Nick’s News Blog.  If you were reading along with me back then, you may remember the book ‘The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management’ by Hyrum W. Smith that I mentioned in part 2 of that series, which was my personal list of ‘must read’ books.  If you did not rush out and add that book to your own personal bookshelf… that’s OK, I’m not offended.  But, now may be the time to add it to your collection.  I refer to it often.  It is as relevant today, as it was the first time I read it.

There is a whole section in Smith’s book on goal setting.  I will give you some of the highlights (including how to incorporate goals for all aspects of your life).  As I mentioned earlier, you may want to set financial goals.  These are goals about making and saving money.  Investing money.  Preparing for retirement.  And most importantly, living within your means.

You should also set goals relating to your physical well being.  These are your health and wellness goals.  Things like exercising and eating right.  Overcoming bad habits like smoking , excessive drinking, eating junk food, etc.  Weight loss.

You may also want to set personal relationship goals.  Maybe you want to spend more quality time with your family or friends (both individually and as a group).  Maybe plan a vacation with your family or set aside some one-on-one time with each of your kids or your parents.  Maybe plan a family reunion.  In my opinion, all the success and money in the world is meaningless if you don’t have a happy and healthy family unit.

Keep in mind that your financial goals are a little different from your career goals.  These are goals as they relate to your job performance, not just the making of the money.  Maybe you should set goals on how you can improve your performance at work.  How can you be more effective at your job?  What can you do to ensure advancement and promote your own job security?

We often forget (or take for granted) our spiritual goals.  This might also include humanitarian goals.  Maybe you want to volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen.  Maybe you want to search out a church, temple, or mosque where you feel comfortable worshiping.  Or maybe you want to find a spiritual guide or mentor.  Maybe you want to be more tolerant or more kind.  The world certainly needs more of that right now!  But be specific.  Don’t just pledge to be more kind or tolerant.  Decide how you can do that in a practical way.  Do one random act of kindness per week or month.  Maybe have lunch or coffee with someone who has radically different political/religious opinions from yours and try to listen from their point of view.  Do what feels right for you.

And one of the things I love about the Franklin Covey organization (that Smith co-founded with Stephen Covey) is that they are always geared toward personal development (they call it ‘sharpening the saw’).  These are your continuing education goals.  Your big picture goals may require you to take some more formal educational classes at the university level.  Or it may be as simple as reading some books to increase your knowledge on your chosen career path.  Maybe you want to take an occasional workshop to keep your skills sharp or learn the latest, most up to date information in your field.

Your personal development goals should also include some form of rest and relaxation, and some cultural goals.  Maybe you want to take in a museum or a concert.  Don’t forget that sometimes it’s good to step away and come back rejuvenated with ‘fresh eyes’.

So now that you have an idea about some of the areas to focus on (feel free to elaborate on these areas as they pertain to your own situation)… the next thing you should keep in mind about goal setting, is that you must write your goals down!  If you don’t write it down, it’s not really a goal, it’s just a dream or a thought in the back of your mind.

I have some friends who are so serious about their goal setting that, not only do they write their goals down on paper (or in a journal) but they also find an image that represents their goal and post it on a ‘vision board’ or on their bathroom mirror.  This way they see it first thing in the morning while brushing their teeth.  And then again at night before they go to bed.  This helps them to stay focused on their goal and helps them stay motivated.

Speaking of motivation, there is a great quote by an iconic sales coach and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar.  “People often say, ‘Zig, motivation doesn’t last’ and I say to them, ‘Bathing doesn’t last either, that’s why I recommend it daily!’”  Smart guy.

Not only do you have to write your goals down, you have to make sure that they are (what Smith calls) SMART goals.  These are goals that are:  Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely.

SpecificTo say that you want to be more healthy this year, or that you want to lose weight is a nice concept, but that is too vague.  How are you going to be more healthy?  Better to say, “I will workout one hour per day, three days per week for the next year.”  Or say, “I will eat vegetables with each meal and only have ‘fast food’ once each week.”  (Keep in mind I believe in moderation. So I didn’t say that you would never eat ‘fast food’ again.)  And as to the weight loss… how much weight do you want to lose?  By when?

Measurable:  You should be able to measure all of your goals.  If your goal is to lose 30 pounds by summer so you can fit into your bikini, that is measurable.  That gives you 4 months to accomplish that goal.  The thought of losing 30 pounds may seem overwhelming at first glance, but looking at it in smaller increments is much more doable.  By working toward your specific, immediate goal of working out 3 times per week for an hour, and eating more vegetables/less junk food, you should be able to lose 2 pounds per week.  Two pounds per week is 8 pounds per month.  And the first four months (January-April) would put you at 32 pounds of weight loss if you are sticking to the program.  That still gives you all of May to make up for any lapses in your fitness program.

Action-Oriented:  Saying you want to be a better student at school or a better employee at work sounds warm and fuzzy, but setting a goal to study two hours per day, five days per week is much more efficient.  Saying you want to learn more is ‘nice’ but saying, “I will read one book per month” is better.  Once you know when your paper (or project) is due for school or work, map out when you should have your outline prepared by, when you should have a rough draft prepared by, and when you should have the finished product ready to hand in and then be sure it is completed before the real due date (in case you want to make last minute changes).

Realistic:  It is good to set goals that motivate you and push you out of your ‘comfort zone’.  But they still need to be realistic.  For example, to say, “I will make a million dollars this year!” is a fun goal, but for most of us, it’s not realistic.  Better to set a goal to make a measurable amount  more than you did last year, but still within reason.  To say you want to lose 100 pounds by summer is not only not realistic, it’s not healthy!  Better to set a healthy and realistic goal of two pounds per week. This will help you stay motivated.

Timely:  A goal isn’t really a goal unless you have a time frame within which you can accomplish that goal.  To say you want to travel the world is a nice idea.  You might even put pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Big Ben on your bathroom mirror to keep you motivated.  But when are you going to take that trip?  Let’s say you want to make this your big picture goal.  Retire and travel the world by the time you are 60 years old.  Well now you can set your mid-range and immediate goals accordingly.  How much will that trip cost?  Don’t forget to include your other living expenses while you are away.  Unless your mortgage is paid off (or unless you sell your house) you will still have to pay that while you are traveling, so add it into the cost of your trip.  Now you can backtrack from there and set your other goals.  To set aside xxx amount of money per month, would be an immediate goal.  Taking the occasional class (or workshop) at your local community college to learn some language skills (French, Italian, or Spanish phrases to make your trip more enjoyable) might be a mid-range goal.  And all of that on top of your other goals pertaining to your family, career, spiritual, and personal development goals.

Another thing to keep in mind about your goals is that they are just goals.  These are not rules or laws that are inflexible.  You can change them if you want.  As we grow older and mature, our desires change.  You may decide later that you want to travel the United States before you travel the world.

A great way to keep all of this in perspective and to keep ourselves motivated is to share our goals with a close friend or family member.  This way you won’t give up on your goals too easily.

Chances are that if your goals are really in alignment with who you are and what you want, you will likely be motivated enough on your own.  If you are not motivated every day to wake up and do something toward accomplishing your goal, then your goal is not motivating to you and you need to find a better, more inspirational big picture goal.

One day, when I was working out of a health club, managing a team of salespeople, I walked into my morning meeting with a can of shaving cream.  I took the cap off the top of the shaving cream and pressed the button.  Some liquid drizzled out of the top of the can.  Then I read the directions off the side of the can out loud, ‘shake well before using’.   So I shook the can vigorously.  When I pressed the button again, a nice thick foamy substance came out of the canister.  The point I was making is that sometimes we have to ‘shake things up’.  We made some serious changes that day.  Changes that worked out for the best.  There is an old saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  So if you don’t like the way things have been going in the past, it’s time to ‘shake things up’!

Don’t just make random changes.  Make specific, measurable changes.  Feel free to start by reading the ’10 Natural Laws’ book.

Good luck with your goal setting.  If you need some help, let me know.  As always, I’m happy to help.

Turn off your computer right now and write out your goals for 2024.  Do it NOW!  In fact, one of your goals should be to stop wasting time.  One of my favorite quotes that Smith makes in the book is (and I’m paraphrasing here):  “When you spend an hour watching TV, you spend an hour NOT doing what?… Everything else!” But now, he would probably say the same thing about reality TV or Facebook or any number of other goofy things that are serious time wasters.

Get your priorities straight.  Figure out what is really important to you and work toward that.

Make 2024 your best year EVER!

Happy New Year.

Peace and Love,

—– Nick

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