3 Questions to Ask When Making Goals That Matter

Some people don't like the word resolution because the common assumption and water cooler joke is that most resolutions get broken by the end of January. So goals it is. I think a lot about goals. Make them less frequently. Accomplish them so sporadically I can hardly chalk achievement up to anything but the power of passively having thought about the vague notions of what I want to be or do without any further planning or execution. There's a place for mindset in goal achievement, but if you're actually looking to accomplish thing, it's best to not count on it. Thinking your way to success isn't recommended by any life, success, or become a millionaire motivational quotes I can find. I'll keep looking, though, because I do think there's something to the inching along that comes from just thinking about it.

ANYWAY, to be more proactive this year, I've made and followed a goal-making process (and blogging it because that makes it real)- one I've amalgamated from dozens of goal experts and fakers on the internet to suit my needs. It involves asking yourself three involved questions:

1. What is important to me?
You can make goals for anything. And if you think goal-making is time-consuming and exhausting, the regular expression of actually following through on said goals is even more of at time and energy suck. Fact is not all categories of goals are most important to you right now. Best to pick categories, weed out ones that don't feel as important (or combine, as seems to make sense), and rank them in order of weight. Ties are allowed. Some categories to consider:
  • Family 
  • Friends
  • Marriage/relationship
  • Parenthood
  • Health
  • Beauty
  • Spirituality
  • Service
  • Career Development
  • Personal Development
  • Creativity
  • Wealth creation
  • Fun and Exploration
  • Lifestyle
  • Productivity
  • Travel
2. What do I want to become? What do I want to achieve?
This breaks down two pretty standard types of goals: Outcomes and Processes. Outcomes end up fitting nicely onto a to-do list, some items checked off in the near term or long term (Hike Mailbox Peak, Write and publish a book). The other type is much more amorphous and harder to set goals around because it's things like 'Be a good person' and 'Place the right amount of emphasis on things I deem important'. SMART goal junkies hate these goals because setting measurable outcomes is almost impossible and when they are possible, picking apart outcomes often dilutes the more potent meaning of the goal in the first place. 

I've heard it recommended to think about what you want written in your obituary. Or how you want to look back on your life at retirement. Or next New Years Day. Take your pick. Focus on character traits, accomplishments, defining characteristics. Who do I want to be? This is where the categories from question one come in handy. Otherwise there's just too much life to be picked apart. 

Over and over and over: "In regard to my Marriage (or whatever category you're on), I want to be someone who is/has ______ " until every category is exhausted. Or you're exhausted. And if you're the exhausted one, skip it and come back for more later. 

3. What can I do in the upcoming month or year to become that person, to do those things?

Coming back to the whole mindset idea, I'm a firm believer that just having thought about where you want to be going and written something down about what that means for your day-to-day, you're more likely to make some sort of progress. So the final part of the process is figuring out what the year should be filled with to move you closer to that person who has done whatever and has become whatever. Things, activities, attitudes, don't hold back. Don't get too hung up on measurables, timing, and all that "This is how you actually succeed at goals" business. You can't do that for every way you want to be better and if you try your brain will explode or you will have a mental breakdown. It's just too much and then you can't focus on the big picture of personal progress.

So it's just a brain dump.

I do recommend taking 5-7 of the 'how am I gonna get there' items and really dig into the how, when, why and all that SMART jazz. But we've all gotten that tutorial before, and this is bigger and better than that (so I keep telling myself).

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