Livin' & Learnin'

Posts tagged ‘goal setting’

Driving Towards Goals


January is flying by and any resolutions that were promised at the beginning are becoming distant objects in the rear view mirror. Every year I promise myself that I’m not going to let that happen, but it still does. Again, I’m making the promise to get those things done that I want and to do it in this new year.

Something needs to change this time and I went looking for the solution. Other than a strong resolve, there isn’t a lot of innovative thinking when it comes to achieving goals.

Nearly everyone who pontificates about goal setting tells us to write them down. OK. Done that. Now, where did I put that list?

For me, it isn’t enough to just write the goal down. I need more help.

Of course, goals must be achievable. That hasn’t been my problem either. I think we all know that there are some things we can never achieve no matter how often we write it down. We can’t find talent we don’t have in the pages of a loose-leaf binder.

My problem is not thinking things through in detail. For instance, I want to do some redecorating in my home. What am I going to do to achieve “redecorating?” In the past, I would have some ideas in my head but they flitted in and out and, often, never made it into the real world.

The goal for goals this year is to write details. I found I need some detailed guidelines to stay on track, so that’s what I’m working on. I know I want to recover the throw pillows in the living room and repaint the front door. My redecorating goal is becoming itemized. I’ve already bought the perfect fabric for the pillows and I know what color paint to buy. (I had to convince my spouse that the color I wanted to use would look good. Thank goodness for pictures on the web.)

I will add things to my “redecorating” goal and I will get specific on all the other goals, too. Some will need just a list, like my decorating projects. Others will need a complete road map with the first step clearly spelled out. The amount of detail depends on the goal, of course. Think of how tedious it would be to do a step-by-step about recovering my throw pillows.

Step 1: Decide to recover
Step 2: Decide on a color or theme
Step 3: Decide to go to the fabric store
Etc, etc, etc…

This is my answer to keeping up with all those New Year’s goals. Yours may be different. The key concept is to find something that works for you. I’ll get back to you with a progress report later this year.

Here are a few more ideas to ponder. You can use one, two, all or none:

Rewrite your goals daily
Tell your goals to someone else
Align your goals with your dreams
Use affirmations
Have only a few goals at a time
Take daily action
Track your progress
Celebrate milestones

Throw Out the Bucket List

Do we need to call a list of goals a bucket list? That has a desperate connotation to it and goals shouldn’t be pursued just because the end is near. Any list should be positive as well as useful.

Many years ago, I wrote out a list of 100 goals. My list of 100 was random, at best. I did it as part of a challenge from someone’s website, the name of which is lost to history. The point made in an article on that website was: Why stop at 1 goal or 5 goals? Why not create 100 goals to follow? I bit. Why not? I didn’t date it, but my earliest notation of reaching a goal was in 2002. I’ve completed about 40% of the list without really working at it.

Some of the remaining things on the list pertained to household projects that I wanted to do, such as landscaping and remodeling. We sold that house in early 2009 and our new house didn’t need those upgrades. Do I count those things in the undone column or the completed column? I was able to sell that house without everything that I had hoped to do, so does that count as anything?

Some things I will never complete because they are too vague. I was running out of ideas and put down “Be Happy” as one of my goals. There is no way to achieve that unless I define it. I guess it’s like pornography: I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

It’s possible to have 100 goals but it was clear that I did not. In my frenzy to reach 100 entries, I wrote down “be happy” and “find meaningful work.” No wonder I still have so many outstanding goals because those goals would never really be achieved without a clearer definition.

I’m ready to create a new list of goals but I’m going to tame the chaos of my original list. What I should have done at that time was to separate my goals by category. Some I categories I could have used are:

Physical items

Rather than my shotgun approach, I will now take each category and determine if there is something I want to work towards in that area. Some of the categories won’t have anything to pursue while others may have many goals. It’s not permanent, either. As a human, I have the ability to change my mind and change directions.

I know that fluidity is sometimes detrimental to my success. It’s that ability to change my mind that forces me to write things down or I start to wander. I’ll admit that shiny objects distract me from my path but the written task keeps me focused. I explained one of the lists that I keep for myself here. It has always worked for me as long as I work the list. Writing my goals down keeps me on track, too, if I remember to look at the paper occasionally. That is really the secret to success with lists and written goals. Never put the paper away and forget about it. If it’s in front of my face, I remember. If it isn’t, that shiny object holds my eye.

A quick search online for the benefits of written goals brings up many, many sites referring to a 1953 study of the Yale graduating class. It’s bunk. Not the written goals part but the existence of the study part. It didn’t happen, yet even well-known gurus cite it as gospel. A study done at Dominican University does support concept that those who write down goals achieve more than those who don’t write them down. (This study actually exists.)

Personally, I find that my written list serves several purposes:

  1. It forces me to clarify what I truly want to achieve
  2. It provides motivation to take the action I need to achieve the goal
  3. It helps me resist the shiny objects by keeping my focus on my goal
  4. It allows the great satisfaction of crossing something off that I have completed

There are still plenty of things I want to accomplish in life. A bucket list screams that death is nigh. It might very well be just around the corner, but I want to focus on living instead. No bucket list for me. I’m calling it a life list.