A goal properly set is halfway reached. – Zig Ziglar
The New Year’s Resolution
The new year is known to many as the season of resolutions. It is the time where we take a look at ourselves and try to picture what changes we want to make. We start off strong in January in a ‘Winter Cleansing’ of sorts. However, by February, we are no longer on the path to our goals; or, our goals have changed. How often do you set a mark on January 1st and think, ‘this is the year I will…’ only to become discouraged a few weeks later? Last year, on January 1st, I made it my resolution to overcome the resolution rollercoaster.
This past week my family and I took a trip to celebrate the great times we experienced in 2016 and dream about what adventures 2017 is going to bring. During the trip, I took some time to review the goals I set last year and assess how well I overcame the resolution rollercoaster. From this process, I ended up learning more about setting goals than about how successful I was at achieving those goals. Here are 6 lessons that I learned.
- Ensure your goals are comprehensive – This is something I did well this past year. Sometimes, our goals are focused in one area of our lives; such as work, fitness, or finances, but we may overlook other areas that could use improvement. In January, I read The Daniel Plan which breaks comprehensive health into 5 areas; Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus, and Friends. From their model, I developed categories as a structure for me to set more comprehensive goals without losing focus on my priorities. I adapted Focus as the category for my work goals and added additional categories of Family and Finances.
- You can have too many goals – While these categories helped to diversify my goals across all aspects of my life, I made the mistake of creating a minimum of three goals in each area. Across the seven areas, I crafted almost 30 goals. As you can imagine, this was too much for me to effectively focus my efforts. Instead of trying to create numerous goals in each category, it is better to focus your energy on a manageable number of goals.
- Write your goals down – The power of a written goal astonishes me. While I did not achieve all of my goals this past year, I did come much closer to them than if I had not written them down. In the past when I developed goals, but did not write them down, it was easy for me to compromise, change, or forget them. When they are well documented, it is hard to deny them and much easier to make steps toward them.
- SMART goals really are smart – SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and a Time-bound. I rushed through writing some of my goals last year and did not follow the SMART rule. My goal for Food was simply written as “eat healthier” and was only achieved due to the support of my wonderful wife. Other goals I wrote were not attainable or time bound leaving me with a list in December that tended more toward dreams than goals.
- Develop an action plan – A direct result of too many poorly written goals is that it is difficult to develop a coherent plan to accomplish them. Without an action plan to clearly define the steps needed to achieve a goal it remains a dream that is less likely to be achieved.
- Habitually review your goals – Once I set my goals, only one or two stayed on my mind throughout the entire year. I looked at them occasionally, but not enough to ensure that I stayed on track. If I had looked at them regularly, I may have recognized the ambiguity of some of them and been able to refine them to have more structure. For the others, regular reviews would have helped to identify action steps to consistently move me closer to achieving them.
The Year of You
As you move farther into 2017, I encourage you to consider these lessons while developing or reviewing your goals. I am confident that through taking the following steps, you will conquer your goals this year.
- Set comprehensive goals that challenge you in all areas of your life. Consider the seven areas: Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus, Friends, Family, and Finances as a format for evaluating your current state and dreaming about your future.
- Limit your goals to less than ten. Take the dreams in each area of your life, figure out which ones are most important to you, and keep the rest as dreams. It is easy to refine one of those dreams into a goal once you accomplish one of your ten original goals.
- Write your goals down to resist the temptation to become complacent with your current state or compromise on the initial intention of the goal.
- Follow the SMART framework to provide clarity for your goals. This will help you to know when you achieve your goal.
- Develop an action plan to provide a clear path to achieving your goal.
- Reference your goals daily to remind you of what is important. This will help you to stay focused as distractions or temptations arise. Weekly reviews of your goals and action plans will help to ensure that you are still on the path to success.
What is your number one goal for 2017?