After a wonderful conversation with a good friend this past weekend, I realized once again the positive impact that clearly defined goals bring to our lives. I shared that there were three goals I was working on and that I seemed to be failing at all three. Perhaps I’m spreading myself too thin. Perhaps I’m not recognizing the interconnectedness between the three. Or perhaps I have simply not been effective at setting goals that I can measure and are producing results.
Setting goals is a practice that I feel the millennial generation does not implement effectively. Far too often I find my students, friends and myself believing that as long as the calendar shows I am “busy,” I am being productive. This is typically far from the truth. Filling up your days with meaningless work may project the appearance that you are being productive, but spending your time on tasks that are not urgent and not important are counterproductive to making progress. The focus should be placed on the effectiveness of our progress, not on the efficiency of responsibilities that reinforce the status quo.
Goals provide direction in our lives. I was confronted with the question, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and I hesitated with an answer. We should be visiting the answer to this question on a regular basis.
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
'Which road do I take?' she asked.
His response was a question:
'Where do you want to go?'
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the cat,
'it doesn't matter.'"
-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Being specific in our goals will allow us to stick with them. If your goal is to “run more” because you feel that increasing the frequency of this exercise will increase your overall fitness, it will be hard for you to observe and measure if you have completed this goal. However, if your goal is to “run a 5k in under 25 minutes by June 20th,” you will know by June 21st if you have accomplished your goal or not. I like to think about short-term and long-term goals. What am I hoping to accomplish in 5 years? As well as, what do I want accomplish this week, month or year?
Another strategy that I use is visually identifying (and writing down) where my goals intersect, thus creating “micro-goals” to help me accomplish both. If I am setting goals in relation to losing weight or increasing my fitness ability and I am also interested in saving money or getting out of debt, there is a nice intersection of strategies that can be identified to help me work towards both goals. For example, I can choose to cook my meals at home. Cooking at home is typically better for you (helping me make healthier diet options) and it is typically less expensive than eating out (helping me save money in my food budget). Therefore, I could create a “micro-goal” of “eating dinner at home 5 nights a week.” This micro-goal is specific, attainable, has a time component (I will know at the end of the week if I accomplished this or not) and helps support my two broader goals of a healthier lifestyle and saving money.
Here are a few areas of our lives that we can consider setting goals in:
- Personal Development
Think about these areas and pick one or two you would like to work on, use the tools that I have provided, and write down some goals! I referenced above that I am failing at the three goals I have been trying to accomplish simultaneously. My goal is by the end of the week to pick two of these goals to work on, reformat them to ensure they are effective and then get back on track.
What goals are you currently working towards?
What strategies have you put in place to help accomplish your goals?
How do you stay motivated with your long-term goals?
Where do you want to be in five years? Close your eyes and picture how you want your life to look. What do you need to do to get there?
Where do you want to be in one year?