Businesses engage in a formal and organized goal-setting process. It involves strategic planning that takes into consideration time horizon, opportunity, and threats. This process demands constant updates.
Do you set goals? Do you follow a goal-setting process?
The impact of setting goals is undeniable.
In 1979, recent grads from Harvard’s MBA program completed a survey on goal setting and here’s what they found:
- 84% had no specific goals
- 13% had goals but they weren’t written
- 3% had written goals and plans for accomplishing them
12 years later, the students were once again surveyed and here are the findings:
- The 13% who had goals (but weren’t written) were earning twice as much as the 84% without goals.
- The 3% who had written goals were earning ten times as much as the other 97% combined.
I’ve been aware of that research and the value of setting goals for a long time. But that doesn’t mean I set goals.
Despite my knowledge, it took me until I was 35 to actually sit down and write out my goals. Sure, I had goals for my business, and passing ideas of what I wanted for my life. But I never put pen to paper to write my personal goals.
Today, I’ve been going through an organized goal-setting process for almost 10 years and it’s had a profound impact on my life. I want to share it with you hoping it will have the same impact on your life.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Goal setting overview
- Word association
- Five whys
- Goal setting
- Time horizon and action
- Making it real
Let’s get started
Goal setting overview
We, as humans, have many amazing superpowers. One of my clear favorites is our ability to create the future we desire. It’s truly amazing if you think about it. When you take the time to reflect on what you want your future to look like, when you create a plan of action, and then execute that plan, most any reality can be yours.
When thinking about goals, I like to focus on six key areas: family, community, money and career, wellbeing, personal development and peace of mind.
I’m going to help you get clear on the future you desire. You’ll decide how you want to feel and think deeply about what you want. And you’ll set your goals and put plans in place to make them your reality. We’ll go through five sections and at the end, you’ll have greater clarity on what your future’s going to look like.
Word association exercise
“Once I get that new job, then I’ll be happy.” “Once I get that car, then I’ll be happy.” “Once I
“I’m married and have a family, then I’ll be happy.” Do any of those sound familiar? We have an odd relationship with goals and happiness, and too often, we think about them the wrong way.
So, instead of thinking “once I get X, then I’ll be happy,” decide how you want to feel, then think deeply about why you want what you want. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll set your goals.
I’ve found word association helps me to get clear on how I truly want to feel. For example, when I hear “good parent,” I feel present, fully engaged, locked in and focused. I have strong feelings about being a good parent. This is a clear priority for me
When I hear “good neighbor” I have feelings of pride, commitment and ownership. I have strong feelings about being a good neighbor. This is a clear priority for me
When I hear “financial success,” I feel comfort, security, and control. I have strong feelings about financial success. This is a clear priority for me.
When I hear “healthy,” I think feeling good, strong, rested, and having a clear head. I have strong feelings about being healthy. This is a clear priority for me.
When I hear “self-improvement” I get feelings of seriousness, importance and commitment. I have strong feelings about self-improvement. This is a clear priority for me.
When I hear “contentment,” I feel calm, relaxed and at peace. I have strong feelings about being healthy. This is a clear priority for me.
Now, as you go through the prompts, you’ll resonate with some, and others you won’t resonate with at all. That’s the whole idea.
It’s designed to help you determine how you want to feel, and set goals around making those feelings your reality.
For each of the six areas, read each prompt and write what comes to mind.
Our first area is Family
- Happy family
- Good sibling
- Good significant other
- Good spouse
- Good Child
The next area is Community
- Active member
- Good friend
- Good neighbor
Next is Money and Career
- Financial success
- Debt free
- Good with money
- A career you love
- Dream job
- Love your work
Next is Wellbeing
- Good foods
- The right amount of sleep
- Stress free
Next is Personal Development
- Lifelong learner
Finally, we have Peace of Mind
- Peace of mind
- One with the universe
I’m sure some of these really resonated, and some didn’t or were not applicable. Go back through and circle the one prompt that most stood out in each of the six areas.
Great work writing how you feel about those prompts. Before we jump to what you want in each of the six areas, let’s dig deeper and think about why you want what you want.
There’s a lot of value and utility in asking “why.” If you’ve ever been around little kids, you’re familiar with how they use that question to dig deeper.
There’s also a business improvement process known as six sigma that uses “why” as a means of problem solving.
We’re going to use it to dig down to the root of why you want what you want and to get really clear on what your priorities are.
Here’s an example of how it works, using my desire to be a good dad.
- Why do you want to be a good dad? Because I want to raise self-sufficient sons.
- Why do you want to raise self-sufficient sons? Because I want my sons to have good lives.
- Why do you want your sons to have good lives? Because I want them to be happy and content.
- Why do you want your sons to be happy and content? I want everyone to be happy and content.
- Why do you want everyone to be happy and content? Because that would make the world a better place.
So the second question is in response to the answer to the first question, the third question is in response to the second answer, so on and so forth.
In each area, I want you to pick at least one of your desires and put it through this framework.
This may be difficult, and you may have to think hard. It’s designed to help you really think about why you want what you want.
In the word association module, we focused on our feelings. The five whys focused on our thinking. In the next section, we’re going to put them together and crystallize what your goals are in each of the six areas.
We all know how important goals are. We’ve all heard that having goals is essential, and that writing them down dramatically increases our chances of achieving them. While I’ve known this to be true for most of my life, it took me until 35 to actually do it.
So whether you’re like me, or you’ve been in the habit of writing goals for a while, we’re going to dig in and clarify and crystallize our goals. Let’s get started.
The first area is family. Based on the work you did in the word association exercise and the five whys, what are your goals for your family life? Take all the time you need to write them down.
Our second area is community. What are your goals for your community life? Take all the time you need to write them down.
Our third area is money and career. What are your goals for your financial and work life? Take all the time you need to write them down.
Our fourth area is Wellbeing. What are your goals for your physical and mental health? Take all the time you need to write them down.
Our fifth area is personal development. What are your goals for your growth and learning? Take all the time you need to write them down.
Finally, Peace of mind. What are your goals for this important area of your life? Take all the time you need to write them down.
Next, let’s apply the SMART acronym to each goal- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and time based.
For example,if a goal of mine is losing weight, how do we apply the SMART framework?
Is losing weight specific? Yes.
Is it measurable? It can be and needs to be. Let’s say I want to lose 20 pounds.
Is losing 20 pounds attainable for me? Yes, I believe it is.
Is losing 20 pounds relevant to my overall desire to be healthy, yes.
Is it time based? I need to give myself a deadline to lose the 20 pounds; could I do that in 3 months? Yes, I believe I could.
So, instead of simply saying “I Want to lose weight.” I’ve given myself three months to lose 20 pounds. I have a lot more clarity around this goal.
So, apply this framework to each of your goals.
In our next section, we’re going to get specific into how you’re going to accomplish your goals and put a plan together for making it happen.
Time horizon and action
It’s important to be mindful of the time horizon when we’re planning. We need to make sure we have our long-term goals like retirement taken care of. We need mid-term goals like funding children’s education and buying a home. And we need short-term goals like getting out of debt and taking vacations.
Once we’ve decided what we want to accomplish, I find it helpful to think about it in three-year increments. Why? Because, as human beings, we have a tendency to dramatically overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and dramatically underestimate what we can accomplish in three years.
Think about it, it may be hard to become debt free in one year, but highly possible to do it in three years. The same goes for losing 100 pounds or starting a business.
What I’d like you to do is fast forward three years. Looking back over that period, what has to have happened both personally and professionally for you to feel happy with your progress?
What are you most excited about?
What are you most worried or concerned about?
Finally, what’s going to get you to that reality?
Take as much time as you need to answer these questions.
Yes, it’s imperative to have long-term goals, but when we focus on the actions we can take over the short term, we set ourselves up for long-term success. Think about it like this: if you win the next three years, you’ll probably win the three years after that, and the three years after that.
Going back to your goals in the six areas, think about what actions you can and need to be taking now that will bring those goals to fruition. The SMART framework we went through will help guide you in this part of your planning process as you crystallize the actions and activities you need to take over the next three years.
The next area is the final and it will go over putting everything into place and how you’ll get the resources you need to make it all happen.
Making it Real
In each area and for each goal, when will you complete and put your plans into action? I literally mean, what day and what time?
The next question is, what normally happens on that day and time?
If you say Saturday at 10 and that’s normally when you spend time with your kids, that day and time won’t work. You’ll need to find a day and time where there won’t be any conflicts and you’ll be able to get this done.
This work will probably take more than one scheduled time, so make sure you find times that will work.
Now that you’ve selected the day and time and made sure there won’t be conflicts, make that recurring in your calendar so it pops up and you won’t accidentally schedule anything else during that time.
Getting things scheduled is an important step to making something real. Finding someone to support you is the next step. You are 65% more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. If you also establish an ongoing partnership, your chances increase to 95%.
Those numbers are too powerful to ignore. An accountability partner can help you track your goals. Call you out when needed if you’re making excuses. They can be a sounding board should you run into a problem you can’t figure out on your own.
When deciding who you should choose as your accountability partner, choose someone who you know, but isn’t a close friend or family member. You should be clear about how the relationship will work. If your accountability partner is a coworker, be clear that personal information shouldn’t be shared in front of other coworkers.
Be clear if you’re looking for feedback, or just someone to report progress too-do you want the person to be active or passive. You should set up an agreed upon and recurring schedule, we’re going to chat every Tuesday at 2pm for example.
When reaching out to your potential accountability partner, be up front and honest. “I’m working on an important goal and I need someone to help hold me accountable. You’re someone I like and respect and I’d like for you to help me through the process, are you open to this?”
Community plays such a powerful role in our lives. It’s where we find a great deal of happiness, contentment and meaning, as well as people who can support and help us.
And a community doesn’t have to be a lot of people. It can be you and one other. It can be a community of two.
If you find you’re wanting help from someone outside of your community, I completely understand. We’ve got coaches who can help you in all six areas.
Embracing goal setting will literally set you up for success; the results of the Harvard survey show that. If you’re like I was- someone who knows the importance of it but isn’t doing it- I implore you to take this seriously. You can thank me later.
If you’d like to speak with one to see if there’s a fit, you can click here, or go to the coaching section of the site.
If there’s more learning you need to make your goals a reality, we’ve also got great resources in our courses section as well.
I truly hope you’ve gotten a lot out of this. If you’d like to dig deeper into this goal-setting methodology, you can access our Goals Course at no cost here.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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