I believe the most important thing about goals, is simply to have them in the first place. As Herb says,
You can’t hit a target, if you don’t have a target.
Goal setting can be a somewhat painful process, as it forces us to actually think about what we really want in life. Too often, the process leads us to the recognition that we need to make some significant behavioral changes if we want to get where we want to go.
Here are some helpful rules about goals:
1. Goals should be personally rewarding. This provides your motivation. I’m not necessarily talking about only self-serving goals such as “I’m going to be able to retire by age 55.” Altruistic goals such as serving you church, etc., can be just as motivating.
2. Goals should be challenging, but obtainable. Unless a goal pushes you, you aren’t going to gain much from achieving it. On the other hand, impossible goals are just another form of day-dreaming. It’s fun to think about them, but they make no practical difference in your life.
3. Goals should be measurable. This goes back to having targets. “ I want to have a 5-handicap” is much more focused than “I want to be a better golfer.”
4. Goals should be time-based. If not, they may never get done. Having them time-based is part and parcel of developing a plan “ I want to have a 5 handicap someday,” is not nearly as powerful and directional as “I want to have a 5 handicap by the end of this season .”
5. Big goals should be divided up into progressive, intermediate goals. You can’t go from an 18 handicap to a 5 handicap in one step. It is more logical to have intermediate goals of gradually lower your handicap. If your goal is to be a 5 at the end of the season, set intermediate goals of being a 15 in 30 days, a 10 in 60 days, etc.
In my professional life, I have worked with the staff at my bank to develop daily goals. I encourage them to make a list of goals for the next day before leave the office in the evening. This allows them to hit the ground on the run in the morning. As a further refinement, I ask them to prioritize their goals. I advise them to start each day with a couple of easier, or more enjoyable tasks, to get them in the flow, and then tackle the harder tasks in order of importance. This is not unlike a professional golfer preparing for a tournament round. They invariably start with hitting some easy pitch shots before taking full swings.
It has always seemed to work better for me if I put my goals in written form and review them periodically. There is something powerful about this process, which deepens your sense of commitment.
The most difficult part for most of us is to honestly decide what we really want out of life and stop putting off what is keeping us from getting there. It’s a lot easier to hit targets when you have them.