A real plan for a better life
We’re starting this week by answering a few questions about the posts I did on annual goal setting (here, here, here, here, and here!). H/T to Trent Hamm for his post “Developing a Real Plan for a Better Life.”
QUESTION: Why can’t I skip writing about the current state for each area of my life and just focus on my envisioned future?
ANSWER: Two reasons: first, we want to be crystal clear about the gap between where we currently are vs. our envisioned future. This way we leverage the power of our subconscious mind, which goes to work closing that gap. Second, by writing about where we are currently in each category, we will likely generate ideas about actions or projects we’d like to take.
QUESTION: Why spend time thinking about where I want to be five or ten years from now? It seems so far off. Why not jump in right away with my goals for the coming year?
ANSWER: We aren’t fortune tellers. No crystal balls. But, it’s wise to stretch our thinking. What’s possible? Where would we like to end up in this area of our life? It’s “smart” to make our annual goals “SMART” – i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. But that’s not the goal with the five or ten year vision. We want to give ourselves license to dream, to think big, to envision what might be possible. For this longer-term vision, it may be helpful to think about what we’d like to be doing, thinking, and feeling.
I also like Trent’s question: What would be possible if I were to spend two or three hours a week for the next five or ten years focusing on this area? The answer is: a lot! As Bill Gates says: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
QUESTION: Why take the time to brainstorm 10 of 15 possible actions or projects in each category?
ANSWER: Our best ideas are rarely the first things that pop into our minds. It’s time well spent to think of as many possible actions we could do. We’re not committing to do all of them. Rather, we’re simply generating a list of possible goals for the year so we can identify the best ones.
QUESTION: Is ten goals for the year too many?
ANSWER: Perhaps. There’s no magic to ten other than it’s a nice round number. Since we have the entire year to work on them, we will likely want to schedule when during the upcoming year we will take on our different goals. For example, for one of my ten 2020 goals, I decided at the start of the year I wouldn’t take it on until Q4. I had several other goals I started in Q3.
QUESTION: Can I change my ten goals after I select them?
ANSWER: Absolutely! First, my number one goal for 2019 ended up being something that wasn’t on my original list. Second, half way through this year, I decided I had taken on too much and dropped one of my ten goals.
QUESTION: What about having an accountability partner?
ANSWER: This is a GREAT idea! I’m part of an accountability group where we all review our goals once a quarter. In fact, the two changes I mentioned in the question above were both the result of discussions with this group. Including our spouse or significant other in some or all of the process is also something to consider. As I mentioned in a recent post, I got married on New Year’s Eve. Carey is also interested in goal-setting and we did much of the process together this year. We brainstormed on the different questions, writing down our answers, and then shared. It was super fun.
QUESTION: Any other suggestions to help with achieving my goals?
ANSWER: Stephen Covey tells us in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation.” It’s important to be intentional about coming up with a great set of goals for 2021 (first creation). But, it’s even more important to have a strategy to follow through (second creation).
As I outlined in my blog post Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work, journaling about our ten annual goals on a regular basis ensures we stay focused on what we decided was most important. Questions we can journal about include: Where do I stand on each goal? Why is each goal important to me? What am I planning to do next and by when?
Reflection: Have I taken time to set my goals for 2021? If yes, how do I feel about them? If not, what’s in the way?
Action: Commit to journaling about my goals and goal setting process tomorrow morning.