Goal setting is powerful. No doubt about it. Research shows you are likely to perform at a higher level if you set SMART goals.
But how do you know what are the right goals to set?
Goals are milestones that mark the way on your journey. If you set the wrong goals, you will get sidetracked.
Too often, after working hard to achieve a goal, people discover they have been chasing the wrong goals.
The right goals line up with where you want to go.
When your goals are connected to a larger purpose, you see why they are important and it helps answer the question “What’s next” once they are achieved. When you see a clear line of sight between your goals and your personal vision, it’s easier to stay motivated.
If you choose a goal because you think it’s something you should do, it will be difficult to stay committed. This is why so many diets fail. It is easier to stay committed to a diet if you see exactly how it will help you live the life you really want.
When you are clear about where you’re going, your goals become the means to get there.
What really matters to you?
The kinds of goals you set usually depend on the needs and desires that are most pressing in your life currently.
Your priorities are likely to change at different points in your life. They will look different in your 20’s than when you’re in your 50’s. But if you look back, it’s likely you will see a common thread – that the most important drives in your life have remained consistent.
Knowing your key drivers helps you set the right goal.
For example, if one of your priorities is around a career, first identify why career is important to you. Is to achieve wealth? Recognition and appreciation? Meaning or personal satisfaction? It might be all of these, but one is primary. If you’re not sure which, try rank ordering them.
If your key driver is for wealth, your career goals will focus on increasing earnings. If recognition is your key driver, you might take a job that pays less but has an important title. If meaning is your key driver, your career goals might focus on contribution.
Three steps to choose the right goals.
1. Identify your current priorities in relation to what really matters.
Consider these areas of your life in relation to your vision for where you want to go. What are your priorities right now, and what are the key drivers? For example, if education is one of your priorities, what is the key driver – financial, intellectual stimulation or career?
Home (where you live)
Physical Health (exercise, nutrition, medical)
Financial (wealth, savings)
Work/ Career (paid or volunteer)
Emotional Well-Being (happiness, equanimity, resilience)
Intellectual Stimulation (thinking, learning)
Intimacy (love and deep personal connection)
Social Relationships (friends, colleagues and people you are involved with)
Fun (recreation, hobbies, play, creative pursuits)
Community and Global Citizenship (your relationship with your community and globally)
Environment (your relationship with the environment and nature)
Spiritual (where you find meaning, purpose and connection)
2. Identify some actions you could take around your priorities that would advance you toward your vision.
You might want to set goals to obtain stability or for growth and development, depending the priority. Consider actions that are:
– Most desperately needed right now,
– Will leapfrog you forward, or
– Will give you some quick wins.
3. Choose 3-5 of these actions for goal setting.
You can only effectively focus on 3-5 goals because it’s hard to keep more than that front and center. It doesn’t mean that other areas of your life are not important.
Make your goals SMART – specific actions that are observable and measurable, a stretch and yet attainable, and with a deadline.
Set Up Your Goals For Success
Once you’ve identified the right goals and made them SMART, use these tips to set up your goals for success.
1. Write your goals down and put them somewhere visible.
The act of writing goals is important. It’s not enough to just keep them in mind. The act of writing them helps you make them more clear and crisp.
Put your written goals somewhere visible, where you’ll see them everyday.
Goals that are filed in a drawer are likely to be forgotten. You don’t have to study them each day. If they are somewhere visible, you eyes will glance over them regularly, giving you a gentle subliminal reminder.
2. Don’t keep your goals a secret.
Make your goals visible. If you share them with others, they will be able to point out opportunities you’re not aware of. They might have some suggestions you haven’t thought of. And they will be able to offer support as you proceed.
3. Set up processes and practices that support your goals.
Supporting processes and practices are the engine that enable you to take continued action on your goals. What regular practices and routines are needed to develop the habits that will support your goal? For example, would it help to set up a regular exercise time?
4. Track progress and revisit your goals.
Goal setting should be an ongoing process. Some of your goals might be accomplished sooner than others. And in that case, set a new goal for the next milestone. Or you can add an entirely new goal as your priorities change.
Set aside time for reflection on how your goals are aligned with your vision – At a minimum, once a year, and ideally more frequently.