How To Set Better Goals

I’m in the process of overhauling my business. When you’re in start-up mode, things change – a lot. But you get used to it.

Unfortunately, things changed so drastically for me that I had to call into question my original vision of what I was trying to build. That’s when I realized that my vision for my life needed some serious work. This week has been a focus on resetting my vision and my goals in light of new information and insights. If you feel like life isn’t turning out how you expected, I suggest you do the same.

Don’t wait until the new year to set a bunch of useless resolutions. Set a big vision for your life, create your goals, make a plan, and go after it. Right now.

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.” – J.C. Penny

So how do you create better goals? Here’s a high-level overview of the process I use. There’s much more to my process, but this should help you get a great start. If you feel like you need help, keep reading to the bottom of the post for how you can get a free 30-minute consult with me.

Step 1 – Begin with the End in Mind

I’ve written on legacy before and I’m a big believer in having huge dreams for your life. What are you trying to create? What legacy do you want to leave to your family? How do you want to be remembered by the people you loved or worked with?

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18

Be as detailed in this phase as possible. I’m currently only working on the business aspect of my vision as it’s changed so much since the beginning of the year. I cast a vision that was about two pages long for just my company (I went out 20 years). The more detailed it is, the more capable you’ll be of working backwards.

Areas you should cast a vision for:

  • Career
  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Family
  • Spouse (Create a whole category for them if you want a strong marriage.)
  • Health/Physical
  • Intellectual/Education/Growth
  • Friendships

Step 2 – Work Backwards to Shorter Time Frames

Once you know where you want to be, it will become much clearer which steps you’ll need to take along your journey. Some people get really intense with this part and do 10-year, 5-year, 3-year, 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, 1-month, and weekly plans.

I’m not that person. I first list out major milestones for what I want to accomplish. Then I put them in the following ranges:

  • 1 Year or Less
  • 2-5 Years
  • 5+ Years

After you’ve set your ranges, make sure you don’t have too much in your “1 Year or Less” category. By all means, be aggressive. Just don’t be unrealistic. If your long term vision is to have a nest egg of $5 Million dollars, don’t put “Save $250,000” in the first year if you’re starting from $0. Unless you make a lot more than that or are a drug dealer, this won’t happen.

Step 3 – Get Specific With Your 1-Year Plan

Do you know why I hate New Year’s Resolutions? They’re arbitrary and they don’t really bring about change. We all know this, but so many people create them anyway in an effort to feel better about themselves.

Here’s an alternative: take your 1-year goals and map them out over the year. For example, if you want to start a business in the next year, figure out what steps you’ll need to take and the order you’ll need to do them in. For example, you can’t (or shouldn’t) quit your job without first lining up some clients. Don’t try to do it all in a single month. Here’s what it might look like:

  • January: Write out vision for the company and discuss it with my spouse. Create a household budget. Create a quickie business plan.
  • February: Launch a simple website/blog and let friends and family know what I’m doing. Ask for referrals. File legal documents.
  • March: Speak at 3 clubs or events that have members in your target audience. Have 1 month of expenses saved in an emergency fund.
  • April: Speak at 2 clubs or events that have members in your target audience. Offer a new service to your existing/previous clients.
  • And on it goes…

Be realistic with your time and the steps you need to take. These are obviously just examples and your steps and time frames may be substantially different.

Step 4 – Create Weekly or Daily Action Items

Now you know what you need to do each month, right? So create your weekly or daily action list that will propel you forward toward each step along the path.

This is where most people fail. It’s where I can go wrong if I’m not careful. We don’t control our schedules and our time. We aren’t deliberate. Therefore, it’s our schedule that controls us. We become victims of time.

“Don’t confuse activity with action.” – Zig Ziglar

Life is busy so make sure that what you’re working on is what you should be doing, not just on the tyranny of the urgent.

Step 5 – Decide What You’re Willing to Sacrifice

Balance is a myth. There’s no such thing. If you want to rapidly lose weight, you have to give up sugary sweets. If you want to slowly lose weight, you just have to give up some of it. Either way, you’ll need to sacrifice – it just comes down to how much you’re willing to give up. You can’t “balance” a healthy body with an unhealthy diet.

Decide going into what you’re willing to sacrifice. If you want to start a business, plan to sacrifice some sleep, some evenings, and some weekends with your family – at least for a phase.

Prepare everyone for this. Talk with your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends, etc. Make sure you all agree to healthy boundaries. Monday through Saturday are generally work days for me. For my own sanity, for my marriage, and for my health I don’t work on Sundays. An exception might be if we have a function on Saturdays that I feel is important to attend. However, I’ve chosen to sacrifice more “optional” functions as well.

Step 6 – Review Your Goals and Vision Weekly

I screwed this up big time this year. Had I been doing this, I would have caught some course correction a lot earlier and saved myself some frustration (and some money).

Review your vision and goals at least once per month. I’ve now included a weekly review of both my vision and my 1-year goals to make sure they still align with what I’m trying to build. I’d rather correct frequently and slightly than rarely and drastically.

What Makes a Good Goal?

A good goal will have the following characteristics:

  • It will be in writing. If you type it, print them out and keep them where you can see them. We all have those documents we’ve created on our computer and that are lost in some random folder.
  • It will be specific. Don’t create the goal “Start a business.” That sucks. Be specific about what type of business you’ll create.
  • It will be measurable. If you can’t tell if you reached a goal, you set the wrong goal. “Start a business” is a bad goal because you don’t really need to do anything measurable. “Land my first client” is a measurable goal. “Start a business” is little more than a vague vision.
  • It will be time sensitive. Set a date for when a goal will be reached. Be aggressive yet realistic. I’ve heard it said you should create goals that will require you to execute and God to show up. Works for me.
  • It will move you closer to your vision. If it doesn’t apply to your long term vision from the first step, you need to question whether it’s a good goal. You should be able to clearly articulate to someone why accomplishing this goal will get you closer to your vision.

Get a Free 30-Minute Goal Setting Session

Because I believe so strongly in the idea of creating big goals in life, I’d like to help 5 readers get started on their journey for free. Here’s how you can be one of them:

  1. Leave a comment below telling me about your biggest frustration(s) with goal setting and why you’d like help creating a plan.
  2. Link to this post on Twitter or “Like” this post on Facebook.
  3. On Saturday, October 30, I will contact 5 people by email for a free 30-minute phone consult. That’s it! Whether you are selected or not, you will hear from me personally so you’re not waiting around wondering.

So, let’s hear it! What’s been keeping you from setting bigger goals in your life? Leave a comment below!