Last week we covered five common mistakes many of us make when developing goals for ourselves. As promised, today we’re talking about how to set the right foundation when goal setting. Meaning: how to set the right goals for you.
The point of setting the right goals is success. You want to achieve your goals, feel great about them once done (no disappointment allowed), and enjoy your journey in getting there. That last point is just as important as being happy once you achieve your goal. I strongly believe that, if you don’t enjoy your journey, then you haven’t set the right goal for yourself.
So, how do you know whether a goal is right for you? Implement the following secrets. They’re tailor-made to help you set the right foundation when goal-setting.
Secret #1: Set Purpose-Based Goals
Long-time (and maybe even some short-term) readers know that I place supreme importance on understanding your personal values. Your personal values give you meaning and purpose in life. And using them as a compass or guide for your life by aligning them with your actions, how you make decisions, and even how you set your goals is the best way to find fulfillment, satisfaction with life, and happiness.
Therefore, I want you to develop goals that are connected to your values. This is what I mean by setting purpose-based goals.
So, how do you set purpose-based goals? There are two steps to doing this:
- First, when setting a goal for yourself (regardless of whether it’s a personal goal or a business goal), ask how it’s connected to your core values – and be sure that it is.
- Next, look at your desired end-result and what it takes to get there, and ask whether that would (or could potentially) get in the way of your ability to fully honor your core values.
This process is extremely important – so be honest with yourself when answering these questions.
If you find that your goal (or striving to achieve it) might conflict with one or more of your values, you don’t necessarily have to drop it. But you do need to review your goal, potentially re-frame it, and do some extra planning to ensure you don’t get out of alignment with any of your core values. Be honest with yourself and be flexible.
Putting Purpose-Based Goals Into Practice
Let’s go through a quick example of what I’m talking about. Five years back I set a goal to increase my business by 20%. I had just come back from my cancer battle, and my legal practice had suffered.
First, I ran it through my core values and figured out how to connect my goal with my values. My values are: family, to serve, to be connected, to inspire, and to have fun. I wanted to increase my book of business so that I could connect with new clients, reconnect with old clients, make more money for my family, and serve as many people as possible using my talents. Notice how this aligned perfectly with three of my core values (family, service, and connecting with others).
Next I asked myself how my goal could conflict with my core values (and how striving for it could cause me to dishonor any of them). And there was one red flag. It was obvious that I was going to have to work more (and harder) in order to increase my business, potentially taking me away from my family so much that I would be violating my #1 core value.
But this didn’t mean I had to drop my goal. What it required was awareness and planning – and I knew that I needed to stay aware of this and learn to balance my value with my goal as I worked to achieve it. Additionally, I took my concerns and made a few non-negotiable rules about what I would/would not do when striving to achieve my goal. Rules that I committed myself to throughout that year – and kept my family front of mind when making decisions about how to work toward my goal.
Secret #2: Be specific about the outcome you desire and what you want to learn along the way to achieving your goal
You’ve set a purpose-based goal, now what? It’s time to get specific – about everything. Set a vision for what you want at the end of your journey and the journey itself. And get crystal clear about why you want to achieve your goal.
Getting specific about your end-result will give you the clarity you need to plan properly. You must know where you’re going if you want to get there. So get super-specific about exactly what you want and what it means to you. This will ensure that your goal is measurable (part of the SMART goal setting process), which is necessary to ensure proper planning and eventual success.
But I want you to go further than that. I also want you to be specific about what you want to get out of the journey itself. I’m not asking you to start planning your action steps yet, just envision what the process of achieving your goal will look like and feel like on a big-picture basis. And get clear on what you’ll need to learn, where you want or need to grow, and who you need to be to get you through your journey.
Your journey is where you’ll spend most of your time (and where you’ll learn and grow the most). So get clear on what you want out of it and who you need to be for that to happen.
Finally, write it all down. It will help motivate you and keep you focused. Plus, you’ll review this and use it when planning your action steps.
Getting Specific – An Example
Let’s go back to my example above. Here’s a short summary of the questions I asked and how I answered them:
What specifically was my goal? [Answer: to increase my book of business by 20%, as measured by the amount of money I brought in from clients where I was originating and responsible attorney (which basically meant they were truly my clients and no one else’s)]
How would I feel when I achieved this goal and why would I feel that way? [Answer: I would feel more fulfilled and satisfied because (a) I would be making more money and better able to save and pay off some debt, (b) I would be providing for my family, making me feel useful and of service to them, (c) I would feel like I’m doing a good job of connecting with people (because they would only hire me and stay with me if we made that connection), and (d) I would be using my skills in a way where I was of service to my clients and making their jobs easier] [Note how these closely align with my values?]
What would I get out of the journey/process of trying to achieve my goal and who did I need to be/how would I need to grow and change to get that? [Answer: I wanted to learn to stop being a perfectionist and worrying so much about the “how”. I had a tendency for perfectionism – which often ended up stopping me from doing everything I was truly capable of. And I knew that needed to change if I was to see the results I desired. So, I wrote down some “commandments” to live by and get me doing instead of overthinking and trying to be a perfectionist. And I kept them visible in my office (and looked at them often).]
Secret #3: Be Positive About Your Goal, What You’ll Get Out of Achieving It, and the Process of Getting There
It’s no secret that we’re much more likely to get things done when we’re happy and in a positive frame of mind. And that applies to achieving your goals too. You need to have a mindset that’s positive, resilient, and helps you stay focused on what you want and why you want it – especially when it gets hard.
At the end of the day, your mindset is the biggest indicator of whether or not you’ll achieve your goal. And that means that you’ll want to set your goal in a way that helps you keep a positive and resilient mindset.
How? Be proactively positive about your goal, what you’ll get out of achieving that goal, and how you’ll get there. This is plainly a mindset trick – but one that can make a huge difference. Be sure to think through some of the “how” (on a big-picture level) when going through this step, because that’s where the hard work comes in (and where discouragement can stop you in your tracks). Do this by asking yourself what will be required of you and what you’ll need to do that might be uncomfortable or difficult and ask how you’ll benefit from it.
How to Be Positive – An Example
As an example of what I’m talking about, let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. But you tend to hyper-focus on deprivation (and all the foods you aren’t allowed to eat) and how much you hate exercising.
Instead of focusing on the negative, identify the benefits of what you’re getting out of changing your diet and an exercise plan. These benefits must be meaningful to you and motivate you. Be specific about how you’ll feel, look, think, fit into your clothes, etc. And then re-frame your goal using those benefits.
Here is how I would re-frame this goal:
I will lose 20 pounds by eating foods that will nourish my body and give me lots of energy. This will make me feel powerful and good about how I’m treating my body. I’ll also exercise regularly and gain physical and mental strength through these workouts. My plan will empower me to make great choices, help me fit into my clothes more comfortably, and make me look and feel great.
The Benefits of Goal Setting the Right Way
Hopefully, the benefits of going through this process are obvious to you.
Achieving your goals requires work. And this work isn’t always easy or simple. It takes mental and physical energy. And time. Implementation of the secrets above will help you stay motivated – even when the process is difficult. That motivation will help you push through and achieve your goals successfully (and maybe even more quickly).
And, although some people are naturally more focused, most humans are not designed that way. We get caught up in bright shiny object syndrome.
But setting the right foundation (by setting the right goal for you) will help you stay more focused on your goal and the outcome you want. So that it’s easier to say “no” to the bright shiny objects that try to distract you along the way.
Put it Into Practice
It’s time to set your goals for the year. Go through the process above and come up with a few key goals for the year. If you want some guidance on what goals to set, review the 10 Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of Each Year (sign up for it is below). These are the same questions I referenced for setting your annual theme – they are helpful for goal-setting too.
One final note (it’s Secret #4 if you set a theme for the year): connect your goal to your theme. The point of the theme is to provide some overarching guidance and focus to your year. So use it when setting your goals. A well-set theme should easily connect to a purpose-based goal. If it isn’t easy to connect the two, consider whether one (or both) should be changed.
In my example about increasing my book of business, I could easily connect that to a theme of growth, connection, or service (all 3 of which have been past themes). I could even connect it to this year’s theme of being fearless. And I could connect losing weight to each as well. Losing weight would help me to grow mentally stronger, increase my self-confidence (enabling me to better connect with and serve others), and empower me to be more fearless about my new wellness plan.
I can’t promise that setting the right goals will predestine you to achieve them. But I do know that you’re more likely to achieve your goals when they’re the right ones for you. It will be easier to stay motivated and focused – and you’ll have more fun while working towards your goal.
If you want to get started with your action plan, don’t get ahead of yourself. Setting the right goals for yourself is your foundation – so give it the time it deserves. Besides, we’ll talk about the process of how to plan for and achieve your goals next week.
Let me know what you think
Before you go, I’d like to know which of the above secrets is the most meaningful to you. Which one do you think will make the biggest difference for you and why? Let me know in the comments below.
I can’t wait to hear from you.
Until next time…