The Art of Goal Setting

So my thoughts have left the holiday craziness and turned to planning for 2014. I admit, this snow storm that has hit the Midwest has me a little stir crazy so I’ve been planning and organizing like a crazy woman.  I’m a strategizer at heart and love to create plans, organize, and set goals.  My Barbie dream house would be covered in Post It flip charts, white boards, and calendars.  There’s just nothing like a paper calendar on the wall.  Now that I think about it, I really miss shopping for the paper calendar this time of year.

The key has been to learn not to overdue or set goals that aren’t really attainable.  Goals should make you stretch yourself personally, professionally, and spiritually but not be so pie-in-the-sky high that you can’t attain them.  One of my former bosses, Kent Burns taught me the art of goal setting and the joyous feeling that comes with crossing off the goals when they are complete.  There’s nothing like a red sharpie when it comes to checking off the list!  Suddenly I have images of my Barbie dream house covered in flip charts, white boards, and calendars and beautiful bouquets of Sharpies everywhere.  Yes, it’s a sick obsession but one I love.  There’s just nothing like a post it and a sharpie.

Enough about my Barbie Dream House.  What I really want to share with you is how I go about goal setting and how I’ve applied it to my life.  Here are the basic steps I’ve gone through for almost a decade now to set my goals and attain them.  I used to do this on a pink legal pad but these days, I do it online.  Sometimes going back to the legal pad just feels good and provides inspiration of it’s own so don’t be afraid to go offline for this project.

  1. Be quiet.  Find some quiet and uninterrupted time to think, pray, meditate, or simply breathe as you begin this project.  You may never have an hour or two by yourself so start with 5 minutes (or even just 2 minutes) to meditate on what your intentions should be for the upcoming year.  Ask your higher power to direct you in the way that you should go in your planning.  Note:  DO NOT OVER THINK THIS JUST BECAUSE I SAID MEDITATION!!! Relax and just let yourself be still.  The rest will come.
  2. Segment. Determine the most important areas of your life.  On my pink legal pad I would write down the various areas of focus in my life.  They might include personal goals, spiritual goals, professional goals, parenting goals, intimate goals with your partner (important note: I did not share those with my old boss-keep those between you and your partner), health and fitness goals, friendship goals, etc.
  3. Write your goals.  In each section begin to write down everything that comes to mind.  I always ask myself what my goals would be if money, time, and circumstances were perfectly aligned.  Write it all down. At this point nothing is off limits.
  4. Visualize.  After you’ve done this for each section you’ve created, stop and reread what you’ve written.  Take it all in and begin to visualize yourself reaching all of these goals.  It’s important not to let yourself get overwhelmed by them.  Go to your happy place and imagine life a year from now with these goals complete.
  5. Create a plan. One of the great practices Kent taught me was to begin with the end in mind.  Start from the vision you have of your goal completed and ask yourself what you did to reach that goal.  Work backward from the point in your mind where the goal is complete.  Here’s an example.  One year I wanted to improve my reading skills so I was determined to read a minimum of 12 books that year.  I visualized myself sitting next to a stack of 12 books that had been read with the satisfaction and knowledge that came with this completed project.  I then ask myself, what kind of books had I been reading?  How did I go about choosing the books?  How often did I read them?  As I walked “backwards” through the history of attaining my goal I realized that I wouldn’t obtain the goal simply by reading business books so I selected a list of books that would bring me pleasure.  I choose to read 12 biographies of women who influenced history.  I researched a list of influential women and found their biographies at the library (this was pre-iBooks).  I also decided I would read one book a month and would read 25% of each book each week.  I know it seems really simple, but this made the goal of reading 12 books (a Herculean task at the time for me) easier to attain.  I was eating the preverbal elephant one bite at a time.
  6. Evaluate the plan. Now that you’ve created a plan, evaluate it and ask yourself if it can realistically be done.  If the plan requires hard work and effort on your part, GREAT!  If it requires others to move mountains and you don’t think they’re on your same page, reconsider that goal.  Here’s an example.  My goal as a Momish is to have the perfect Summer vacation with the Sonish.  My goal would be to have him for the entire summer, schedule lots of time off to be with him, travel, and create an album full of picture perfect memories.  Ok, reality check time.  The Sonish has Scout camp, vacation with Mom’s family, and maybe even a summer job or internship.  Did I mention we both have full time jobs and budgets to concern ourselves with?  So the goal becomes something more like, “Plan time to spend with the Sonish that fits everyone’s schedule and provides a stress free (or close to) experience no matter where we are”.
  7. Push yourself.  There’s a big difference between being realistic with your goals and letting yourself off easy. If I set a goal to read 12 books in 2014, I’m letting myself off easy as I probably read 2-3 books each month today.  Instead, my goal was to read the complete works of Maya Angelou.  It pushed me and kept me focussed.  The same may be true for your family goals.  Having dinner together as a family every night at the table might not be realistic if everyone has after hours commitments.  However, having family night on Friday nights or dinner together on Wednesday nights might be more realistic.
  8. Share your goals.  Share your goals with a friend, colleague, partner, etc who will gently hold you accountable.  Kent would ask me about my goals and encourage me throughout the year.  This made it so I didn’t forget the commitment I’d made to myself.
  9. Keep your goals where you can see them.  I’m all for streamlining and using less paper, but I don’t see my goals daily if they’re saved in Dropbox.  Print them out and keep them near by.  Some people place them on their bedroom or bathroom mirrors.  I’ve put them in a clear acrylic frame and put them on my desk before too. Seeing them every day is another way to stay on task.
  10. Revisit your goals.  As you’ve created a plan for attaining your goals, revisit your goals to make sure your staying on track.  Essentially, your plan becomes a set of mini goals that get you to your larger goals.   The more you revisit your goals the more likely you’ll be to achieve them.
  11. Get out the red sharpie.  Check off the list as you’re completing it.  There’s something so satisfying in drawing that red line through a completed task.  I’m sure there’s some physiological reason for it, but bottom line is that I LOVE it.  So the more tasks you complete the better you’ll feel.  This is a great way to share your success with those holding you accountable too.
  12. Reward yourself.  Rewards don’t have to be anything extravagant but take the time to treat yourself nicely for a job well done.  All too often we don’t reward ourselves.  If a hot bath is a reward for you, take one.  If it’s an afternoon to go fishing, go.  Maybe it’s something as simple as a downloading someone’s newest album.  Whatever it is, reward yourself when you’ve earned it.

Wishing you the best and brightest 2014 you can dream up!

Michelle

 

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