by Debra Hewitt, author of The Celebration Journal
For some of you, goal-setting may be the most challenging part of your planning. You don't fall into that group of people who've already identified projects they need to accomplish in the coming quarter and can easily describe what they hope to achieve. This part of the system leaves you stymied. You stare at the blank space where you're supposed to record your goal and have no idea what to write. Nothing feels big enough to refer to as your goal. Or it feels too big and you hesitate to commit it to the page where it will live to mock you for your failure. You need to get over those feelings. By writing your goal every day you will be giving yourself permission to change your mind, to focus on the big or small, long-term or immediate. But you need to write something.
Read on to consider four options that will help you conquer goal-setting.
Option 1 - Go Big
If you choose to go big, you might list a life-goal such as learning to play the piano with confidence. Recording that goal day after day in your journal will remind you to find time to practice your sight-reading, to look for opportunities to play in front of your family and friends, to use the metronome with tricky passages. Any of those actions could be listed in your tasks or could even be used as your goal for the day. Other life-goals might be to start your own company, adopt needy children or publish a book. You might even try, "make a difference." This is rather vague, but if you write it daily and ask yourself what you are doing to make a difference, it could turn out to be a very powerful life-goal indeed. By definition, life-goals are broad. You will want to aim for a goal that gives you scope to dream without ending up so vague that you have trouble picturing it.
Option 2 - Not So Big
Instead of writing down a life-goal, you might choose a goal that is only for the ninety days you use The Celebration Journal or Road to Success Day Planner. The shorter the time frame for your goal, the more specific you should be. Perhaps you want to learn a Chopin waltz on piano. Instead of writing, "work on Chopin waltz," include the details of success in your goal: "Learn to play Waltz in A-flat up to tempo from memory with accuracy and style." I don't think it's necessary to define the number of mistakes you will tolerate in your definition of accuracy. You are aiming for a performance where the mistakes do not detract from the overall effect and can judge this subjectively or ask the opinions of your listeners. But you do have something measurable in the tempo. You can track (and celebrate) how close you come along the way by timing your performance or recording what metronome setting you can keep up with. (Those are the numbers you will put into the # box next to your goal.) Other examples of ninety-day or quarterly goals might be to sign X number of clients, get your real estate license, find a new job, prepare and launch an advertising campaign or help your son catch up in algebra.
Option 3 - Think Short-term
There may not be a large goal in your life right now. In that case, focus on your priorities for the week or day. Are you responsible for a meeting or special event taking place soon that requires extensive coordination? Then your goal is to complete preparations by a specific date. Keep track of the number of remaining days until your deadline right next to your goal. Other short-term goals might be perfecting your omelet technique, reducing clutter in your office, sleep-training your child or standing up for yourself in a toxic relationship. Put what you want to achieve front and center, and it will remind you to set aside time and energy to accomplish it.
Option 4 - Work Backwards
Still feeling lost? It's possible the minutiae of your day is keeping you from ever focusing on the big picture. You can work backwards then. Carefully note how you spend your day by recording your tasks and schedule. Once the day is over look back at what you've done and play detective. What's the theme you see? If you had to guess someone else's goal from seeing that they had done these things, what would you come up with? If your day was spent responding to other people's requests for help, perhaps you can describe your goal as providing support to your co-workers and family. If you feel you squandered your time with boring errands, perhaps your goal was to catch up on family business so that you are free to focus on a big project in the coming days. And if you can't put a positive spin on what you've done? Well, that tells you something, too. You've learned a valuable lesson about how you're spending your day which may help you set more satisfying goals in the future.
It's Up to You
What you accomplish is not a matter of luck. Your focus and determination are key to your success. Those will only come into play as you learn to set goals that truly matter to the life you want to live. Try one of these options today and see how it goes. Each day you get another chance to try again. And one day you may feel that goal-setting has become automatic, the easiest part of your day.