I have never really set any proper goals in my life. Not goals that I’ve sat down with, effectively analysed, set in concrete and then acted on. My goals have been more like dreams – things I’d like to have one day, but only, really, if they somehow, by chance, fall in my lap.
At forty years of age I realise that’s pretty average. Some may say that’s probably why I still live in a small town and spent more than thirteen years working for the same company…but that’s another story for another day.
So my goal now is to set some proper goals. Goals that shape the way I intend to live my life for the next forty years. Goals that will help me achieve what I want to achieve.
But, first things first. What is it that I want to achieve? That is the most fundamental thing of all. And that’s where I’ll start.
Just a second
Before we start; a brief explanation. This post won’t go into the specifics about what my goals are. Maybe I’ll reveal them later. Maybe I won’t. What I intend here is to explain the process I’ll use to set my goals. This process is something I’ve pieced together from the best stuff I’ve read by some of the most interesting achievers I’ve come across over the last year or so.
These include people like Chris Guillebeau, Jonathan Fields, Michael Masterson & Craig Ballantyne at ETR, and Verne Harnish. I’m sure they won’t mind me borrowing their ideas and mixing them into something I can use for me.
My approach is heavily influenced by a system used by a company called Results.com, who I worked with for several years when I was on the management team of Metso New Zealand Limited. In my experience, their Strategic Execution Plan (SEP) model works well in the business arena so I’ve adapted it to suit me.
Okay, here’s what I’m going to do.
Step 1: Set and confirm my vision and values
What do I want and what do I stand for? For many of us, visions and values are worthless, empty corporate babble, designed by the suits in the boardroom for their own vain purpose. I guess the reality is that many (most?) companies are just really bad at working them out then implementing this stuff, so it gets a bad rap.
Through experience (having been in the boardroom myself) and years of rationalising, I’ve come to the conclusion that this stuff is very important and so important that it must implemented correctly. And that’s just for an organisation. For an individual the importance is staggeringly more significant, I now believe. Given people are blessed with free-will and the capability to imagine and create, I’d suggest that for an individual this is vital. What we want and what we take personal responsibility for going after we will, eventually, get. If we don’t then we drift. On and on and on. That’s my belief, at any rate, so I’m going to run with it.
I’ve never really thought about all this in depth and on a personal level before. Most of us, if we’re honest, never do. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to feel a little directionless. Maybe that’s why most people, in far too many countries, drift through life. Believe me, I’ve been an expert at it. It’s time for change, so I need to craft for myself a vivid picture of where I want to be, and how I want to be, on this day in the year 2022.
Whew! That’s a long way off. But it’s important to have a target sufficiently far away and sufficiently powerful that it pulls you towards it each and every day.
My values will be the rules I live by. In some shape or form, negative or positive, we all have these. I know I do so all I’ll really have to do is reflect a little, pluck them from my head and then put them down on paper. This will make them properly, indelibly real. This process will involve some fair amount of self-evaluation and reflection, which in itself will be a valuable exercise.
Step 2: Set one main annual goal and annual theme
What is the most important thing I want to achieve this year that will lead me towards my vision? It’s a simple question but, I’m sure, has the potential to be quite complicated to answer. More self analysis will be required. If I’ve nailed the vision, however, this should appear relatively obvious when it arrives.
I also quite like the idea of setting a theme for the year. This isn’t a specific goal, but more a statement of how I want to describe the year. I guess this is a way to combine the values and vision and make them relevant for a period of time that is much shorter than a decade.
Step 3: Set annual goals for the three most important areas in life – health, wealth, and personal enrichment
These three areas – health, wealth, and personal enrichment – will feed in to the annual goal. Basically I will ask myself what is the most vital thing to achieve in each of these three areas this year. Health may be a weight or fitness goal. For wealth, I’ll likely have a dollar figure I want to achieve in terms of income. With personal enrichment we’re talking about learning, family and general life experience – the things that help you grow as a person in this world.
It’s quite a simple task, but one that is filled with complexity given the many different and competing things I think I want to achieve. Only by going through the right amount of reflection and self-analysis will I be able to move from a nebulous list of things I ‘think’ I want to achieve to a concrete list of things I ‘know’ I want to achieve.
Probably the best way to do this, and the method I’ll be using, is to draw up a simple three column A4 page, with one column devoted to each area. Then start writing under each. I’ll include anything remotely associated with each goal area. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Don’t judge, just write. I’ll spend some time on it then, when my head starts hurting, I’ll walk away and leave it for a few minutes, or hours, or days (whatever feels right) then come back to it and continue. Now, I’ll have to be careful not to let this go on forever, so I’ll need to set a time limit for this brainstorming phase. A week will be long enough.
Once the week is up I’ll come back to my piece of paper (which may have become many pieces of paper by then…) and analyse what I’ve got. I’ll use my gut to eventually choose one annual goal for each of the health, wealth and personal enrichment areas my life. And if I can’t choose I’ll ask my wife. She usually knows what’s best for me!*
Step 4: Set one three month goal for each important area
We’re starting to drill down even further here. What I now need is to find the one thing, for each of my three goal areas that will help me the most over the next 90 days to move towards achieving my annual goals.
This process may require further in-depth analysis or the goals may well be pretty obvious. I expect it will be somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, the three month goals I end up choosing will have to feel right. That will be the only way I can commit to them and make them happen.
Step 5: Set three action priorities for each three month goal
The action priorities are the things that I must get done in order to achieve my three month goals. The test for setting each action priority is to ask: “If I do each of these things will I achieve my 90 day goal?” It’s a simple analysis. If the answer is yes, we’re golden. If it’s no, then I’ll keep going until I get a yes.
Once I’ve been through this process and filled out my spreadsheet (a basic one-page spreadsheet I’ve designed to help me) I’ll be ready to go.
The tools for getting the things I need done to achieve my goals will be weekly and daily actions that are specifically relevant to the goals, along with the setting up of a daily routine. The routine will, as much as possible, block out time periods in each and every day and have them dedicated to the most critical tasks, from writing and business development, to family, football and travel.
Also included will be some dedicated leisure time, which will be open and available to do whatever I please. I’ll have a regular session at the end of each week to assess how I’m tracking towards each of my goals.
I will incorporate an annual review and preview in this process. This will take place at the end of the year over the course of several days. I’ll take some time away from the day to day to analyse what worked and what could have been improved during the course of the year just completed. Then I’ll feed this information into my goal setting process for the following twelve months.
And we start the process again.
Another tool I’ll use is a simple question to ask every time I’m unsure about whether to do something: “Will this take me closer to or further away from my goals?” Quite powerful, that. Thanks guys.
So, that looks like quite a comprehensive process. I’d better get cracking.
* Seriously, though, I won’t abdicate the responsibility for making this choice. It’s mine and mine alone to make. If someone else makes it for me then I have a ready-made excuse for failure.