When was the last time you wrote out a goals list? If you can't remember or if you've never written down your goals, today is a good day to do it.
Many people tell me "I don't need to make a list. My goals are clearly spelled out in my mind." If that's you, I say, "That's nice - write out a list."
Others will say they wrote their goals years ago and don't need to repeat the process. If that's you, I say, "That's nice - write a list."
The principle here is that you will go where you're focused, and the process of writing goals gets you focused. If you ever rode a bicycle up a hill and saw a small rock in your path, you most likely told yourself mentally, "I'm going to miss that rock."
But it doesn't matter what you told yourself, if your eyes were locked onto the rock, you probably ran over the rock. In other words, you went where you were focused. This truth applies to work, home, and every aspect of life.
Being a management and leadership coach, I've taught goal setting for several decades. But darn it all, recently I realized that I was falling into a mild funk, and that my funk was a result of me not reviewing my goals. (Once I realized this, I wrote out a list!)
This dilemma of taking our eyes off our goals is actually fairly common. When it comes to goal setting, many managers and leaders have "seen it" and "heard it" and "done it all before," and goal setting is "old hat." So when someone brings it up we'll say "yeah, yeah, been there, done that."
I've written about S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measureable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-constrained) in my books, so I won't dwell on that here. Besides, it's easy to do an Internet search if you're unfamiliar with the term. Instead, I want to cover the bigger picture of goal setting.
Start by identifying five accomplishments in your life that stand out as admirable or praiseworthy and write them down. It doesn't matter if they are related to work, sports, hobbies, or family, just write them down.
This first exercise subconsciously activates your "project planning" memories and jump starts your "accomplishment thinking" mode. Don't skip this simple exercise. It powerfully activates your big-picture thinking.
After listing five accomplishments you're proud of, it's time for an all-out brainstorm. Imagine yourself ten years from now, and list 50 things you'd like to have (or have accomplished), regardless of the money, time, effort, or logistics involved. Don't worry about how you'll do them, just rapidly brainstorm a list of 50 end-results that you want.
Would you like a vacation home in Hawaii? Write it down. How about a 1,000-acre ranch in the mountains? Write it down. Want a six-figure income? An annual visit to Europe or the Caribbean? Author a book? Race horses? Sail your own yacht? Write it down.
Perhaps you want a personal housekeeper, a private education for your kids, or to be able to fund ministries or college scholarships. Write whatever comes to your heart, with no limitations. If you hit a wall, stimulate your thinking by considering the following categories: physical, spiritual, social, education, financial, family, and occupation.
After you've got your fifty, go back and write a 1, 3, 5 or 10 next to each one. This represents the number of years you think it might take to achieve each item. Again, don't get hung up on logistics. Just give each item a quick estimate.
Once that's done, go back over the one-year goals and circle five that energize you the most, the five that fire you up just thinking about them. But then comes an important step that many goal-setters miss: You must write out why each of these five is important to you.
Don't skip writing out these why's because they are your motivators - your magic keys. When you take time to articulate a powerful list of "why's," the "how's" are much easier. In other words, the stronger you can connect with your personal motivations, the easier it is to move past the obstacles that will inevitably appear.
From there, turn your five items into S.M.A.R.T. goals and plan accordingly.
Really, when was the last time you wrote out your goal list? Also, ask yourself why some people are more successful than others. Consider Bill Gates, Katherine Hepburn, Michael Jordan, Kristen Armstrong, Warren Buffet, and anyone else you consider successful. Each has 24-hours in a day, the same as every one else.
I'm willing to bet that each has a clear picture of what they want to achieve - and are equally clear about why they want it. Why not you?