Annual Goals Don’t Work – Do Personal Goal Setting

Annual Goals Don’t Work - Do Goal setting

Goal setting is the first step towards effective lifestyle design. Let’s dive in.

Why Personal Goal Setting is Important

There’s a saying that “what gets measured gets done.” That’s to say that if you aren’t measuring something… It’s not getting done. The easiest way to uplevel your life is to set goals and check back in on them regularly. Beyond that, if you aren’t setting and evaluating goals, it’s easy to underestimate how much you are accomplishing. Setting goals gives you a chance to celebrate your wins.

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Celebrating your wins is an important and often overlooked aspect of the growth and success journey. Think about this: a celebration is a form of gratitude. What you focus on grows, so focusing on your achievements (thus feeling gratitude) is an extremely simple way to bring more excellence, opportunity, and accomplishments into your life.

When Goal Setting is Harmful

It’s worth mentioning, however, that goal setting done incorrectly can actually be harmful. If you set goals that are too big, unmeasurable, unrealistic, or just plain unattainable… You set yourself up for failure. It doesn’t matter if you know that your goal is likely not reachable. All that matters is that there’s a tiny part of your brain that knows that it failed to hit a goal.

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Your subconscious thinks that you’ve failed, and that’s not good for your psyche or self-confidence. Failing to hit goals makes you less likely to believe in yourself, less likely to set future goals, and less likely to create and build the life of your dreams. So… If you’re going to set goals. It’s important that you do it right.

How to Set Goals- and Crush Them

First, decide on the length of time you’re looking at. If you want to do a full analysis of what went right, what went wrong, and how you’ll improve over the course of a year, this is a great year-end analysis. Grab yourself a Starbucks drink, a comfy chair, and cozy up while you do the year-end evaluation.

If a full-year analysis is a bit much at the moment, or if you’ve already done it, this quarterly goal-setting strategy is fantastic. Use it as a standalone exercise or in conjunction with longer-term goal work.

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An important note… You’ll want to make sure you’re setting SMART goals. Setting SMART goals is a life changer and makes you far more likely to do whatever it is you’ve set out to do, whether you aim to lose weight, smash a business goal, book a role in a Broadway musical, or take over the world.

If you’re not yet familiar with SMART (that’s an acronym, I’m not actually yelling) goals, here is a quick read to set yourself up for goal-setting miracle work. 

Quarterly Goal Setting Strategy

The first step is the simplest: write down the date 3 months from now. Next, we’re going to look at life in five categories: Financial, Health, Personal, Home, and Career. If you want to uplevel your life, it gets done across the board, not just in one area. Select 3-5 goals per category and write them down.

I’ve always liked to keep the list in my notes folder on my phone. Then I can see how my goals have evolved over time. You can also write or type your quarterly goals and put the list where you can see it regularly. Both handwriting the list and seeing it regularly help commit it to memory.

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The idea isn’t necessarily to memorize your list, but having it in the back of your brain does make you more likely to perform actions that will bring you closer to reaching (and surpassing) your goals.

The last step is to evaluate where you are in regards to each goal when you reach the date at the top of the list. Then, repeat.

Example Goals

If you’re at a total loss for where to begin, here are a few starting ideas per category.

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  • Financial goals could include opening a savings account, setting up an automatic savings plan, creating a budget, saving a specific amount of money, increasing income by a specific amount, or filing your taxes.
  • Health goals could include purchasing a workout plan or membership by a specific date, doing a specific number of workouts weekly (2 weekly equals 26 workouts in a 13 week quarter, so then you’d see if you reached your goal of 26 workouts), lowering your body fat percentage by a specific amount, or building up to run a 7-minute mile.
  • Personal goals could include reading two new books a month, trying a new social activity each month, doing a specific activity you love, going on a date (or dates- be specific) with your significant other, or completing an educational course.
  • Home goals could include organizing a specific room or closet, hiring someone to do a task you really don’t like doing, decorating for a holiday or company, a home improvement task, or upgrading an aspect of where you live.
  • Career goals are entirely dependent on what you’re pursuing, but it’s especially important that these goals are SMART.

Evaluating Your Goals- What Happens When You Fail?

At the end of the quarter, you will have accomplished some of your goals and missed others. After all,  not every goal is a home run and failure is part of the journey to success.

So, what happens when you fail to meet a goal or deadline? First off, don’t beat yourself up. Whether or not you’re actively processing it, your subconscious takes notice of the miss.

The last thing you want to do, then, is beat yourself up further. Acknowledge that you didn’t hit the goal while granting yourself grace, and move on to the next step.

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Once you’ve acknowledged you haven’t hit your goal, look at why. It’s important to be as objective as possible. (This isn’t an opportunity to self-flagellate!) Is it the first time you’ve missed the goal or have you failed to hit this same goal repeatedly? If it’s the first time you’ve missed the goal, perhaps you needed more time.

Perhaps you needed more skills. Or, perhaps the goal was just too large (break it down into a smaller goal for this quarter). Or too vague. Come to a determination on which of those is most likely so you can correct the goal for the next quarter.

Goal setting is a form of lifestyle design, so you don’t need to continue to pursue goals you don’t like. Change them to goals that fire you up and you’ll be more likely to reach them. …And to reach success on your own terms.

If you miss a goal repeatedly and have determined that it’s not too large and that you have the skills to complete it, but it’s still not happening… Perhaps you don’t actually want to reach the goal. (Yes, as weird as it sounds, people absolutely set goals they have no interest in reaching.)

Take some time with a pen and paper to write down why you haven’t reached the goal. If you REALLY want to get to the bottom of it, complete the following free writing exercise:

Why You Miss Your Goals

Get a pen and sizable notepad. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Turn off all distractions. Begin writing and don’t stop until the timer goes off. At first, you won’t know what to say.

Write that down. Continue writing whatever inane thoughts come to mind, just don’t let your pen or pencil stop moving. Write down why you think you didn’t hit that goal. Then write down whoever thoughts come to mind on the subject.

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Don’t judge your thoughts. Just put them on paper. Throw out or burn these pages after- whatever it takes for you to write with complete honesty. The goal is to get to the truth, and that will come through in this exercise. It may take you 25 minutes of writing gibberish to get there, but as long as you follow the exercise, you’ll get to the bottom of it.

Another very powerful way of making personal goals is to use SMART objectives. Discover why you aren’t interested in reaching the goal you’re missing. Empower yourself to find an alternative solution. Then, create your goals list for the next quarter.

Goal setting is a form of lifestyle design, so you don’t need to continue to pursue goals you don’t like. Change them to goals that fire you up and you’ll be more likely to reach them. …And to reach success on your terms.


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