I recently read that one of the keys to happiness is to always have goals that you’re striving to achieve. People typically set goals at the beginning of the year, but that’s so cliché, and breaking New Years resolutions is treated like a national past time. For these reasons, I suggest setting goals on any day other than New Years day–perhaps your birthday, the first day of school, or how about July 1st, which just happens to be next week.
Here is the approach I take each year in setting my goals.
STEP 1 – Write down the high-level key areas of your life. Below is a suggested list, along with a description of each. Your list may include additional areas, such as religion/spirituality or charitable work. Modify the list, if you like, but keep it high level.
- Financial–Includes your savings, investments (including home ownership), debt, etc.
- Career–Includes your current or future career and your writing (unless you feel it’s more of a hobby).
- Interests–Includes your hobbies, recreational interests, something new you’d like to learn.
- Relationships–Includes relationships with your significant other, children, parents, siblings, friends.
- Health–Includes nutrition, physical activity, rest/relaxation.
STEP 2 – Once you have the list written, think about how satisfied you are with each of these areas of your life, and put a plus (+) or minus (-) next to each item on your list. Do not over-think this.
- Financial +
- Career –
- Interests +
- Relationships –
- Health +
Did you end up with a minus (-) next to each line? If so, do it again, and this time lighten up a little.
STEP 3 – Now toss out the ones with a plus (+). In this example, you’d be left with career and relationships.
STEP 4 – Break down the areas with a minus (-) into more detailed components.
- Career—your 8-5 job
- Relationships—significant other
STEP 5 – Now think about how satisfied you are with each of these areas of your life, and put a plus (+) or minus (-) next to each line on your list. You can put a little more thought into it at this stage.
- Career—8-5 job +
- Career—writing –
- Relationships—significant other ++++ (I’m a newlywed)
- Relationships—children +
- Relationships—parents –
- Relationships—siblings +
- Relationships—friends +
STEP 6 – Now toss out the ones with a plus (+) sign next to them. In this example, you’d be left with your writing career and your relationship with your parents. These are the areas that need your attention. Create goals around these areas.
STEP 7 – Now consider each of these areas and determine why you’re dissatisfied with these areas of your life. Take some time to think about it. Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your plotting skills, and perhaps you don’t see your parents as much as you’d like. Whatever it is that makes you dissatisfied with that piece of your life, identify specifically what the issue is. Writing it down is optional.
STEP 8 – Write your goals. Be specific, and whatever you write, make sure you have the ability to make them happen (you cannot control whether you win a contest, but you can control how many contests you enter, which will increase your chances of winning one). Writing SMART goals is a good idea, but I don’t have the space to describe it here, and many of you are probably familiar with the process. If not, you can query it on-line. There’s a lot of information available.
- By August 15th, 2011, I will have read one book on plotting, and by December 31st, 2011, I will have participated in one workshop on plotting.
- Twice a month, between now and July 1, 2011, I will meet my parents for lunch, a visit, a movie, or some other activity.
Don’t write so many goals that you’ll feel overwhelmed. Pick the most important and most beneficial goals to work towards. Once you’ve written your goals, keep the list someplace where you’ll see it on a regular basis. I don’t use the TASK function on my computer’s calendar for much, so I list my goals there. Every time I open my calendar, there are my goals.
There is something very satisfying about fulfilling a promise to yourself. We make and keep commitments to others all the time, but we often don’t show ourselves the same respect. So take your goals seriously and try to meet them. With that said, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t hit the mark 100%. If you miss a couple weeks with your parents or you’re a week late in taking that plotting class, you’ll still be a SCREAMING SUCCESS.