Have you ever completed something you set out to do? Of course you have, it felt good… didn’t it? It doesn’t have to be a huge feat you’re accomplishing to get that satisfying feeling…it’s not necessary to run a marathon, sometimes all it takes is getting your junk drawer in the kitchen cleaned out and organized.
One thing is for certain, that accomplished feeling doesn’t come to us unless we have set up some goals first. Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about the ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality.
The process of setting goals help you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. Even if it’s just about that junk drawer in the kitchen.
Working toward meaningful life goals is one of the most important strategies happy people utilize. I downplayed the importance of meaning during my law practice, but it became evident how much meaning mattered in my life when I burned out. Happy people have values that they care about and outcomes that are worth working for (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2008).
The late, great Dr. Chris Peterson talked about his own journey with happiness as follows: “I spent my young adult years postponing many of the small things that I knew would make me happy.…I was fortunate enough to realize that I would never have the time unless I made the time. And then the rest of my life began.”
Happy people have developed a specific set of strategies over time that causes them to see life differently – a balanced portfolio of skills and emotions. What would you add to this list?
So what’s the difference between a dream and a goal? A written plan! The folks over at MindTools had a great starting point.
Starting to Set Personal Goals
You set your goals on a number of levels:
First you create your “big picture” of what you want to do with your life (or over, say, the next 10 years), and identify the large-scale goals that you want to achieve.
Then, you break these down into the smaller and smaller targets that you must hit to reach your lifetime goals.
Finally, once you have your plan, you start working on it to achieve these goals.
This is why we start the process of goal setting by looking at your lifetime goals. Then, we work down to the things that you can do in, say, the next five years, then next year, next month, next week, and today, to start moving towards them.
The first step in setting personal goals is to consider what you want to achieve in your lifetime (or at least, by a significant and distant age in the future). Setting lifetime goals gives you the overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision making.
To give a broad, balanced coverage of all important areas in your life, try to set goals in some of the following categories (or in other categories of your own, where these are important to you):
Career – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?
Financial – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?
Education – Is there any knowledge you want to acquire in particular? What information and skills will you need to have in order to achieve other goals?
Family – Do you want to be a parent? If so, how are you going to be a good parent? How do you want to be seen by a partner or by members of your extended family?
Artistic – Do you want to achieve any artistic goals?
Attitude – Is any part of your mindset holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? (If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem.)
Physical – Are there any athletic goals that you want to achieve, or do you want good health deep into old age? What steps are you going to take to achieve this?
Pleasure – How do you want to enjoy yourself? (You should ensure that some of your life is for you!)
Public Service – Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?
Staying on course is important too!
Once you’ve decided on your first set of goals, keep the process going by reviewing and updating your To-Do List on a daily basis.
Periodically review the longer term plans, and modify them to reflect your changing priorities and experience. (A good way of doing this is to schedule regular, repeating reviews using a computer-based diary.)
What do you want to accomplish?