While I believe picking One Word is the first way you should look at goal setting, there are still very concrete things that need to be accomplished and having a strategy for those is necessary as well. Notice I said ‘very concrete goals.’ We run into trouble because we try to apply these steps to vague desires or guilty ‘shoulds’ instead of concrete tasks.
At the beginning of this series we talked about how important it is to know the ‘why’ of goal setting. The overarching reason for why we set goals is to help us grow. It is just as important that we understand our personal ‘why’ for each concrete goal we make. There’s a big difference between ‘losing weight’ because you want to feel healthy and be able to take part in the physical activities you enjoy and ‘losing weight’ because your mother-in-law makes comments or you think your life will be happier then. The first reason will motivate—the second deflate.
My suggestion is to keep the number of these goals between 4 and 7. Anymore and the chances increase that you will do more beating yourself up for failure than feeling victorious about success.
Once you’ve identified your motivation and reason for each concrete goal next you should put each one through the SMARTER test. You may have heard about SMART goal setting. I prefer Micheal Hyatt’s Best Year Ever idea of making your goals SMARTER. As you write the goal down (and you should always write them down) make sure they are:
Specific: there is a very specific concrete thing you are trying to accomplish.
Measurable: there is a way to measure to progress you have made in accomplishing the goal.
Actionable: there are action steps you can take to make progress.
Realistic: the goal is something you can realistically accomplish. It is probably not realistic to think you can go from a sedentary lifestyle to winning the Iron Man competition in one year.
Time-Bound: there is a deadline for when you want to accomplish the goal. Open ended goals don’t motivate.
Exciting: the goal excites you. That enthusiasm will help propel you to take the next action step.
Relevant: the goal is relevant to where you are in life right now. I would love to travel around speaking at conferences and run a business that I invest a huge amount of time in. I have two children (10 & 13) and a husband with a pretty consuming job so these desires are not relevant to where I am currently. Goals should be relevant to where you are in life even as they move your life in a specific direction.
It’s important to write down and put in a visible location both the Word you choose and the concrete goals you set because reviewing your goals regularly increases the likelihood of accomplishing them. As you reflect on and reevaluate your goals, keep a record of what actions you have taken and what you plan for your next step.
Reviewing and reflecting on your goals also allows you to change, adapt or completely let go of goals as life happens throughout the year. Often things come up that cause all the ‘plans’ you had made to change…it’s okay for goals to change too.
If there are 4-7 very specific, concrete things you want to accomplish this year I suggest you:
- Know your motivations for setting the goal…know the why behind each one.
- Make them SMARTER.
- Review and reevaluate them regularly. Recording the steps you’ve taken and allowing them to adapt, change, or disappear as you move through the year.
I hope this series has helped you rediscover or reminded you of the why, what and how of goal setting.
Goal setting can be a very self-defeating process, leaving us feeling worse for ‘failing again.’ Make the only “should” on the list this year be ‘to grow.’ Growth can be frustratingly slow and painful. Thankfully God leads and transforms us with so much more gentleness than we do ourselves…one step at a time, one day at a time, one word at a time.
Happy New Year…may it be the year you let go of striving and lean into abiding.