When I set personal goals, I like to make sure I incorporate what I like to call, “the three C’s” into my goals.
I must have total control of the outcome. If I can’t control it, then it’s not a good goal.
This year, I made over $1,000 in book sales and I’d love to increase that next year. But I’m not going to set a revenue goal because I ultimately can’t control over how many people buy my books. Instead I’m setting a goal around writing because that is an outcome that I can control.
If I emphasize consistency in my goals, then I’ll be much better off in the long-run because I’m building a habit which will serve me in the future and not just hustling towards the completion of a one-hit wonder.
My stretch fitness goal for 2017 is to complete 150 workouts, which is nearly 3 workouts per week, on average. I can’t do 150 workouts in one week or even in one month, so I have to be consistent and workout about 3 times a week throughout the entire year in order to achieve this goal.
My personal goals must be congruent with my personal values. I’ll never set a goal around something that I don’t care about. Each of my goals ties back to the things I consider most important in my life, like my health or family.
There is no shortage of advice and resources out there on goal setting.
You may have heard of Jim Collins’ big, hairy, audacious goals approach for organizations which you can apply to personal goals:
Like the moon mission, a true BHAG is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort– often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.
A BHAG engages people– it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People “get it” right away; it takes little or no explanation.
There’s also the notion that goals are actually inferior to systems. One of the best articles I’ve read on this is by James Clear:
This resonates with me a lot. I don’t even really like the idea of setting goals. I prefer to focus on systems. In fact, the “goals” I’ve set for myself this year are really just systems in disguise.
If you decide building systems or habits is more your thing, I recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
James Clear also wrote a scientific guide to setting and achieving goals, which I like because he frames the idea of a goal in a very different way than what we are accustomed to:
Goal setting is not only about choosing the rewards you want to enjoy, but also the costs you are willing to pay.
Finally, there is the popular SMART goals approach, which is useful for goal-setting rookies because there definitely are differences between good goals and bad goals.
This article by Ramit Sethi on SMART objectives is helpful because it gives you very specific examples of good goals, bad goals, and terrible goals.
Once you set a goal, or New Year’s resolution, how can you keep it?
If you want to keep your resolutions, you should narrow your focus, set the bar low, and start before New Years.
Image by William Iven.
Narrow your focus:
If you have more than three New Year’s resolutions or goals, then you’re doing too much. Try to accomplish too many things and you set yourself up for failure.
It’s difficult enough to incorporate one new behavior into your life, let alone five or six.
Think about the one or two areas in your life you really want to improve, identify the lead dominos in these areas, go after those, and ignore everything else.
Set the bar low:
Even if you have only one goal, you shouldn’t set your sights too high because this will also set you up to fail. Be honest with yourself, think about what you can realistically accomplish, and shoot for that.
If you are 100 pounds overweight, setting a goal to have a six pack in a couple of months isn’t realistic.
It’s better to set smaller mini-goals, conquer them, and gain positive reinforcement than to be too ambitious, fail, and get down on yourself.
In fact, it may be better to avoid the entire resolution mindset, altogether, and work on building habits instead.
A resolution, by definition, is absolute. Hit or miss. All or nothing, no in between. No room for error. No points for progress.
You can set modest targets on a daily or weekly basis and actually achieve them. This may not seem productive right away, but it will result in bigger long-term achievements without the pressure of large stakes or burnout from trying to do too much too fast.
If you do set measurable goals (which you should), you may want to give yourself a range and set a minimum goal and a stretch goal.
Working in corporate America, I’ve gotten used to the idea of minimum targets vs. stretch targets and I decided to incorporate this into my personal goals this year.
It might be something worth considering, especially if your goals are centered around consistency, like mine. It’s very possible for you to do a good job, but not a great job over the course of a year.
Here’s one final tip:
Start working on your New Years resolutions BEFORE the new year.
This will give you a warm up period to see how things go and make adjustments, if necessary.
I recently decided what my goals are for next year and started working on the systems I need to achieve these goals in late November. This gives me five weeks to practice and build momentum so that I can hit the ground running on January 1.
December is also the hardest month of the year to accomplish anything that involves health or productivity because of the holidays. So if you can get it done during December, then you know you can get it done anytime.
If you’re interested in my own personal goals for the upcoming year, check out my blog post: My 2017 Goals
Featured image by Thomas Tucker.