Surprisingly, Facebook does spawn the odd pearl of wisdom. A friend of mine made the comment that most people worry about their eating habits between Christmas and New Year, when they should really worry about their eating habits between New Year and Christmas.
It’s appropriate that New Year’s is universally pegged as goal-setting time – it’s a logical bookmarker – but it’s also a smidgeon impractical. Think: impeding hangovers, heavy meals and the disconnect of trying to focus on ‘what I should be doing at work’ during your prime down-time.
So if you were partying instead of setting goals as the clock ticked over into the New Year, don’t fear. This is actually a more practical time to go about your goal-setting anyway. But do ensure that you set aside focused time for it now. Goal-setting matters and the person you will be by the end of this year, including accomplishments checked off, progress made, wealth accumulated and dreams attained, will in large part be informed by how clearly, cleverly and strategically you go about this exercise now.
As you begin plotting your course – laying out the blueprint that will inform who you are by December – here are some useful guidelines, starting with large-perspective thinking, and working down to the practical nuts ‘n bolts of getting things done:
1. Start with a sense of story
Don’t just start by writing down ‘to do’ items. It’s too early in the goal-setting process. Instead, begin by thinking a little bigger. Where have you come from in life? What have you struggled through? What failures have you endured and which achievements have defined you? In the words of U2’s classic song, ‘One,’ “Is it getting better?”
Now, where do you want to go? What do you actually want out of life? Don’t be trivial with the answer to that question; what do you really want out of life? When you look back on the story of your existence, what would you like it to look like? If your story so far seems underwhelming, now is the time to require more of yourself. Honour your own story by thinking sufficiently deeply and emphatically about your unravelling tale in the world. This will give you perspective as you decide what to do this year.
2. Then ask: “Who do I want to be…?”
…Not, ‘what do I want to do.’ When you begin by thinking about who you want to be this year, your thinking will be higher level. We’ll get to specific action items later, but for now, explore identity-based possibilities like:
– I would like to be an influential executive, who travels often, speaks before different groups and moves with the industry’s top names; or
– I would like to be a well-known writer, featured in a wide number of publications, with a fan-base of readers who enjoy my work and a strong complement of editors who continually request my expertise; or
– I would like to be the fittest, most accomplished all-round athlete in my discipline, admired by my competitors, and at the forefront of competitive performance.
3. Write it down
Verbal goal-statements are generally not worth the hot-air they’re pronounced upon. Recording your goals is important. Start with your statement of who you want to be.
Remember that you can change or amend your goals as you go. Think of yourself as a novelist plotting a book. You begin by writing a synopsis that becomes your plan for the writing ahead. But as the writing of your story progresses, you can always edit the synopsis to meet your changing needs. Goals are guidelines. Write them down so that you can measure your progress and so that you can edit them at will.
4. Break it down
Ideally, your goals should incorporate all aspects of your life. So just to be sure you leave no gaping blank holes in the strategy of your existence, divide your goals into the relevant categories that make up your life: Family and Social, Work, Financial, Spiritual, Health and Personal Growth. Now you are ready to start writing specific goals pertaining to each category.
5. Positives statements outgun ‘quit commitments’
The top two most common goals are: Quit smoking, lose weight. Sadly, they are also the world’s most failed ventures.
Part of the problem with these goals is that they are presented in the form of negatives: Cease and desist. They would be much more powerful, and would stand a greater chance of success, re-stated as positives, for instance: My goal is to look the most handsome that I have ever been!’ Then, subsidiary to that positive statement, quitting smoking and losing weight would become steps; steps toward a greater end. ‘Quit’ goals almost always fail. Positive goals, which inspire rather than depress, stand a much greater fighting chance.
6. Get busy with three things
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Break your large goals down into small steps, and then commit to doing just three things each day toward making your goals happen. Three will be plenty, three is an easy framework to remember and operate from, and if you are true to your daily commitment of three, you will have taken an impressive 15 steps per week – 60 per month! – toward achieving your goals. With those kinds of odds, it would be almost impossible to fail!