Today, we’re taking a step back. Let’s talk: why should we even worry about setting goals? I think for most people, goals are a bit like new years resolutions. Heck, I think for most people goals and new year’s resolutions are the same thing! But what I mean is: you set them, make a half-hearted attempt, get distracted or discouraged and move on to the next urgent or bright and shiny thing.
Honestly, sometimes I even wonder why bother? I’ve definitely had periods of time where I’ve been ultrafocused (starting with junior high, high school, and college). Then I’ve also been through periods of time where I just float along, just taking care of what’s in front of me. Thinking back, though, I know still had short-term goals or projects – I just wasn’t thinking long term.
So back to the question of why?
I think there are two main reasons.
Live Your Best Life
The first is at a life-level. It’s about taking control of your life, getting maximum results, creating focus, accountability, and motivation. Really, living your best life.
When you’re not thinking longer term, it’s easy to pick up and put down projects and things you want to accomplish. You end up jumping to the next thing that excites you and captures your attention instead of finishing the things you’ve started. In the end, you probably just end up with a string of accomplishments that were easy and fun to do, but all the things that were harder, challenging or maybe not as glamorous? Those get dropped, even if you might have reaped a bigger reward for accomplishing them.
Achieve Bigger Things
Setting goals and learning how to accomplish them means that you have the ability to focus, push through and breakthrough to achieve bigger things. These are things that bring you a bigger reward: whether that’s a financial reward, emotional reward, or just personal satisfaction and the ability to say, “I did this thing that I really wanted to do, even though it wasn’t easy.” Setting a goal keeps you accountable to what you said you were going to do.
Find Your Motivation
I also think that learning how to goal set appropriately means actually learning how to live your best life. You learn what goals you want to accomplish, instead of those things that are expected of you or things you “should” do. Now, I’m not going to say that there aren’t aspects of our life that we set goals around aren’t the most fun or exciting (for me, they’re usually health related; for others, they might be financial or family-related). But, learning how to set goals means that you learn to decide what your best life looks like for you. You learn to figure out what your “why” is – your motivation, what makes you happy. You learn that your why isn’t “because someone said I should or ought.” Instead, it becomes about achieving your best life – having energy to do the things you want to do, the financial capability to not worry about the future or providing the basics in life for you and/or your family, being surrounded by those who love you and encourage you.
But there are other, less “touchy-feely” reasons to set goals as well.
Organize Your Resources
Goals help you organize your resources. We only have so much time, energy, and attention each day, week, lifetime. So many of us have a multitude of things we want to do, and goals help us organize those things so that we have the best chance of getting them done.
For example, perhaps one of your lifetime bucket list goals involves a long trip to a foreign country. Before you can do that, though, you realize that you have to be in a financial position to do so – whether that’s to pay for the trip or to be able to take that much time off of work. This means that you’ll have savings goals to set, or work-related goals to set in order to earn the money you need in a certain amount of time. Perhaps it means you need to be self-employed when you go, or perhaps you need to be at a place where you’re able to take a sabbatical from work. It’s good to know your long-term goals so that you can figure out your shorter-term goals to get there. Without them, you’re just hoping that you accidentally find yourself in a position to be able to take your trip.
Break Down Your Roles Into Actionable Projects
Goals also help you break down your roles and life directions to actionable projects. I gave you one example above in regards to a bucket list item, but we also have roles in life – daughter/son, brother/sister, wife/husband, friend, employee/boss, business owner, father/mother…the list goes on. Goal setting helps you identify what being your best in that role looks like, and then helps you break down the process to get there in to actionable smaller goals, projects and tasks.
Identify Gaps in Knowledge
Goals also help you identify gaps in knowledge. Setting goals and breaking them down helps you determine what you need to learn to accomplish your goal. From there, it’s about figuring out out best to gain that knowledge – a mentor, a class, trial and error, networking.
Handle Complex, Long-Term Projects
Goals help you handle complex and long-term projects. Honestly, if you ask me, I’ll probably admit that a goal is just a large, complex project – which makes my ideas about SMART goals interesting. (I promise – that video slash soapbox is coming.) But, if you’re working on a 5-year goal, you’ll want to be sure that you’re 1-year goals that support that 5-year goal. And, that you’re breaking that 1-year goal in to quarterly goals or projects, and breaking those down further until you end up at the very next action that you need to take.
Goals are like projects and actions – they’re all building blocks to get you where you want to go. If you think about it, even if you’re not doing formal goal setting, you’re still working toward something. Without goals, changes are good that you’re working toward that thing inefficiently and leaving a lot up to chance or luck. I talked about time, energy, and attention earlier – goals help you use those three most efficiently so that you still have some left over to do more.
I think the magic of goal setting is in the review: when you sit down and look at where you are and where you need to go, reviewing how you got to where you are from where you were, and figure out how to replicate what went well and change what didn’t. Then taking that next step and figuring out the next thing you need to do to move in the direction you want to go. That’s where the magic happens.