Ed. Note – This is the third in a series of posts in which I’ll deal with the main purpose of this site: Life Design.  This will be an encapsulation of my thoughts on the subject, and the foundation for everything else that’s written here.  You can find the entire series here.

Goals are tough to see sometimesIn the first post of this series, we discussed values, which is just another term for “priorities”.  Priorities are the one or two (that’s all; no more than that) things in your life that you love above everything else.  Those values will shape your dreams (part 2).  If you have dreams that don’t serve to advance your values, I said that they were probably inappropriate dreams for you to have at this point in your life.  You don’t necessarily have to give them up forever, but unless your values change, it’s not going to do you any good to try to achieve them.  You’ll only end up frustrated.

So, how do we reach those dreams that we’ve set for ourselves?  With goals, of course.  A goal is something that you’re trying to achieve.  I’ve often heard the definition, “a goal is a dream with a deadline”, and I like that.  Deadlines tend to create forward motion on the part of the person who has them.  They provide a frame of reference through which a person can create, in this case,  a personal development plan to achieve.

A lot of people are down on goals these days.  If you read a lot of the same blogs I do, I’m sure you’ve seen a backlash lately toward productivity and “lifehacks” (things people do to simplify and streamline their daily tasks).  If you don’t read the same blogs I do, let me tell you there’s been a backlash. 🙂  While I agree to a certain extent (people can get so caught up tweaking with their productivity system that they become less effective and efficient than they were before they started), I’m hardly ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater, which I think is the direction these “anti-hack” people are going.

When I suggest that you set goals, there are some specific guidelines that you need to put in place in order to make them work for you, not against you.

  1. Your goals need to be actionable. That means that you need to have specific, evident actions associated with everything you want to achieve.  Many people think “Climb Mt. Everest” is a goal.  It’s not; it’s a dream. Goals are mileposts along the way to achieving your dream.  So, if you want to climb Mt. Everest, but you’ve never been hiking before, your first goal should probably be research of some kind, not strapping on crampons and booking a flight to Nepal.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  3. Your goals need to be incremental. You’re going to want to read accounts of people who’ve climbed Everest previously, to see what they did to prepare.  You’ll want to know the kind of training they did, what they packed, how the application process works to get a visa and a permit, the medical screening they went through, etc. etc.  Each of these areas (and probably plenty of others) have sub-tasks associated with them that  build upon each other.  For example, if you’ve never even hiked before, then you can’t very well start training for Everest by climbing Mt. McKinley.  You can’t start in the middle; you’ve got to start at the beginning.  So, you’ll want to find someone who’s good at hiking and have them show you how it’s done.  Once you’ve become proficient at hiking (from a fitness and technical standpoint), you’ll want to take that experience and transfer it to learning to mountain climb.  Some of the same skills will apply, and others will form the basis for new skills that didn’t come into play at all when you were merely walking trails.

  5. You need to have a mentor. Each goal should be self-contained.  Only one task at any time.  Try not to do things in parallel.  When you try to accomplish multiple things at one time (especially in relation to a big dream that you have only the foggiest idea of how you’ll accomplish it), you tend to get distracted.  Focus on one thing at a time and do that one thing the best you can.  It’s very helpful to have someone assist you in setting priorities if you’ve never done something before.  If you’re able to find someone who’s a skill mountain climber, they can help you determine what you need to work on in order to achieve the status that they have.  These people are out there, you just have to look.  They might be someone you know, or you might need to find a discussion board on the internet somewhere and ask for advice on how you proceed.

Goal-setting provides clarity and purpose.  It eliminates distractions along the way, because there’s always a task for you to accomplish to move ahead.  A lot of people’s problems with goals stem from the fact that they really don’t have clarity on how to get from where they are to where they want to be.  What’s that old saying?  “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do,”.  Something like that.  But, if you know where you want to end up, then you need to have a map that lists the route with all the twists and turns.  This is a crucial part of your personal development plan.  The “map” provided by your goals gives you an orderly procession from one task to the next until you almost magically arrive at your destination.  You can’t help but get where you’re going if you follow the directions and actually move forward.

Photo courtesy: coxy

2 thoughts on “Goals”

  1. Hi Jason! Just wanted to drop a line – loved the guest post on DLM. In so many ways I felt like I was reading something I wrote (same age, love for baseball, new personal development blogging, fear of failure and embarassment, etc.)

    On the topic of goals, I’m seeing the same things you are with backlash. To be honest, it feels like it’s more about starting a blogging trend and having fantastic post titles than it is about finding the truth. I blogged about it a few weeks ago if interested: http://www.refocuser.com/2009/05/does-goal-setting-hold-us-back/

    Keep up the great work!

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