Setting AND achieving personal growth goals sets exceptional people apart from average people. This article gives you every resource for you to set attainable goals (and to accomplish them!).
Setting personal goals is essential to achieving anything in life. That's a great first step, but unfortunately, most people fail to achieve their personal goals because they don’t plan and execute properly. The management of those goals is where the achievement comes from.
Before we get started, let me know if this sounds familiar. You set a few goals in January as a new year's resolution, including things like losing weight and starting my own business. Then sometime between the end of February and the middle of March, you realize the scale hasn't moved, and you're no closer to starting your own business, so you passively give up on those goals. Let’s talk about how to change that!
Let’s begin by talking about the types of goals we need to set. They include Vision Goals, Long-term Goals, and Short-term Goals.
Vision Goals are exactly what you think. They are big goals further out in the future, typically three to five years. These are goals that change your life and require work and dedication to achieve. In general, I recommend setting no more than five Vision Goals at a time.
Examples of Vision Goals could be:
Become a Vice President in my field
Earn another degree
Be the CEO of my own company
Buy or restore your dream classic car
Own a vacation home
Long-term Goals start to shape the reality of what needs to be accomplished in the next one to three years to achieve your Vision Goals. Long-term Goals are strategic and represent key, high-level goals that need to be completed within that period of time. Each Vision Goal could receive one to three Long-term Goals at given times.
Examples of Long-Term Goals could be:
Get accepted to graduate school
Earn a promotion to Director
Expand my subject matter expertise by completing a professional development program
Solidify my direction for starting my own company
Save X amount of money towards the purchase of the car and/or vacation home
Finalize where the vacation home will be located
Short-term Goals are the action items that need to be accomplished in 90-day increments to ensure progress is being made towards your bigger goals. Short-term Goals are more tactical and represent smaller, high-priority, and laser-focused outcomes, all in support of reaching the nearest Long-term Goal.
Examples of Short-term Goals could be:
Take the GMAT, LSAT, GRE, etc
Submit applications to schools
Volunteer to lead a new initiative at work
Complete an industry analysis of three areas of entrepreneurial interest
Identify another area of professional growth
Spend a weekend in three possible vacation home locations
Write the business plan for your new company
Find a workplace mentor
Are you SMART when you set goals? I'm not talking about your IQ or your problem-solving prowess. I'm talking about a framework to help you describe, break down and accomplish the right goals. SMART is an acronym that has been adapted for use in different applications, and I created a variation that applies to personal goal setting.
This is where you define the objective and the desired outcome – What do you want to achieve, and why are you doing it.
How will you objectively determine the progress and ultimate achievement of the goal? What metrics and milestones need to be tracked and reviewed regularly to achieve your desired end result.
This is the gut check that prevents you from setting yourself up for failure. I am a massive believer in setting big goals and expanding the comfort zone to achieve them, but they need to be realistic. If you are 5'4" with bad knees, the goal of playing professional basketball wouldn't be realistic, and setting that goal would likely result in failure.
What resources do you need to accomplish the end goal? Resources include but aren't limited to time, money, people, training, materials, tools, etc.
When does the goal need to be accomplished; 30 days, 90 days, one year, three years, etc.? Without a designated end date, there will be no sense of urgency and no finish line to determine success or failure.
An example of a SMART goal could look like this:
Specific - In 5 years, I want to own a vacation home near a large body of water where I can make memories with my family and earn additional income by renting the property when it’s not being used.
Measurable – I will need to finalize the location and have $150,000 available in cash as a down payment and to cover any additional expenses.
Achievable – Yes. This goal is achievable based on my current income, career path, and savings.
Resources – Income, Real Estate Agent / Broker, mortgage, input, and buy-in from my family.
Time-Bound – 5 years.
By now, you have probably noticed the pattern of starting big and narrowing down to focus on smaller pieces of the overall intended outcome. Remember the old saying – “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Once you have created your Vision, Long-term and Short-term SMART goals, it’s time to add a regular structure that will guide your actions and decision-making to ensure your success.
With your Short-term Goals defined for the next 90 days, now you will reverse engineer your action plan. If I have a Vision Goal to turn your side hustle of building custom furniture into your main job in 3 years and have determined that you need to earn $X revenue this year to achieve it, what needs to happen between January and March to be closer to that goal? They could be things like filing paperwork to formally establish the company, launching a website, developing a marketing plan, etc. Those are the actions you focus on for the next 90 days.
From there, you break down those 90-day Short-term Goals into measurable action steps by month that I call milestones. These milestones are short-term accomplishments in 30-day chunks that build upon each other toward reaching the destination at the end of 90 days. Milestones are essential checklist items that take a little time to get done because they have sequential smaller steps that need to take place.
With your milestones laid out over the next 90 days, you identify the items that must be accomplished each week to reach that milestone successfully. Those weekly activities should be set at the end of each week and written in the form of a to-do list that is used to schedule your time and resources in the week ahead.
Your weekly to-do list will be used to identify critical daily tasks on something I call the Winning List. The Winning List is simple; it is five action items focused on your goals, not day-to-day work activities, to be completed in a day. Using the last 5 minutes of your day, you review the weekly to-do list and choose five items that you will complete tomorrow. Also, during that time, you reflect back on the day and whether or not you completed the items on today's list. When you complete all five items, you win that day. You have lost the day if you don't get all five items done. I don't know about you, but I like winning much more than losing, and that mindset makes this list extremely effective.
Now that you have a structure in place for managing the achievement of your goals, it’s time to measure and reflect at each point along the journey like this:
Weekly – Take 15 minutes at the end of the last day of the week to review what was and wasn’t completed on your to-do list. With your milestones in mind, you create the to-do list for the following week. Any items not completed this week should be evaluated and possibly moved to the following week or another point in time.
Monthly - Take 30 minutes at the end of the month to review which milestones were or were not completed. With your Short-term Goal in mind, you create a list of sequential actions to be taken in the following month. If any milestones were missed in the previous month, you need to dig in to understand why and adjust the actions in the upcoming month accordingly.
Every 90 Days - Take 30 - 45 minutes at the end of the 90 days to review which milestones were or were not completed, along with any new information that was learned to see how it affects your plans moving forward. With your Short-term Goal in mind, you create a list of sequential actions to be taken in the following months. If any milestones were missed in the previous month, you need to dig in to understand why and adjust the actions in the upcoming months accordingly.
Annually - Take 60 - 90 minutes at the end of the year to review your progress and learnings over the past 12 months. Use this time to evaluate your Long-term and Vision Goals to see if any adjustments need to be made. Once you are clear on your goals for the year ahead, you can rinse and repeat the process of setting Short-term 90-day goals and monthly milestones that will be managed through weekly to-do lists and daily Winning Lists.
By taking this approach, you are making continuous progress towards achieving your personal growth goals. Achieving big goals that change your life is not a set it and forget it type of thing; it takes conscious and deliberate work and reflection along the way.
The final piece of setting and achieving goals is focus and accountability. You should regularly review your Vision, Long-term and Short-term goals, so you don't lose sight of your objective. You can also consider sharing your goals with your spouse, significant other, or a close friend who will help hold you accountable. The way I do this is my annual goals are visible in my office, so they are there to see while I am working. I also share my goals with my wife and kids and ask them to check in to see how my progress is going or call me out if it seems like I’m making decisions that will prevent me from achieving those goals.
In summary, be specific in defining your big goals. Break them down into smaller, more manageable action steps. Make continuous progress every week. Maintain your focus through reminders and accountability.