This article is part 2 of 3. To read part 1, click here.
To read part 3, click here.
PART II: The How
Usually, goals fall into one of three categories:
Become/Develop: You want to become fit, lose weight, or develop a certain skill or attribute.
Have: You want to have something that you don’t currently have. Example: a new house, new car, etc.
Experience: You want to experience something again or for the first time. Example: travel to Iceland, attend four Super Bowls, climb the seven summits.
All of these categories of goals can be motivating and exciting, but before even diving into it, I highly suggest following Simon Sinek’s advice of “Start with Why.” While that sounds somewhat ethereal, let me try and make it more tangible. Why do you want to become, have or experience? It’s easy to get caught up on starting with the ‘why’ because to answer it generally takes some serious self-reflection and analysis. But if you remember that time is your most limited resource, then answering this it is worth the effort and knowing it, or at least having some answer directionally, can help get you through the rigors of habit-building that are required in the pursuit of new goals. To use a Stephen Covey example from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,
“It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busyness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
If you think you have already solved for your ‘why’ then proceed to the section below called "Setting Your Goals". If not or if you want to refine and see me really go all vulnerable, then read below.
Finding Your 'Why'
Let’s face it, many, many mission statements never get used, reread or end up having an impact on a person or an organization. Finding a nice sounding three to four sentence mission statement isn’t really the goal of finding your ‘why’. You could write a treatise on the topic or a lyrical limerick but the output is actually less important than the process of really discovering what matters to you, what drives and excites you. And by the way, what most people don’t say is that it’s completely okay and normal for your ‘why’ to evolve over time AND you don’t have to conform to what you think the societal norm is. But what you do have to do is create a thought or series of thoughts and verbalize it to the point of clear understanding so that you can you reflect on it again and again, and even more importantly, use it as a filter for whether your ladder of becoming, having, and experiencing is leaning against the best wall as far as you can tell.
Sometimes it is hard to generate a central ‘why’, and I admit, I don’t have a secret formula. Inspiration hits when it will and it’s not always when we look for it.About seven years ago I locked myself into a room without food or water, turned on an hour-long timer, put all distractions away, beside a pencil and paper, and just waited. I started by writing what mattered most to me. That was an easy and predictable list. I then started writing down the moments where I felt the happiest or most fulfilled. That was a much longer and harder list to generate substantively. I then started trying to identify patterns: what really made me happy and what got me excited? At the end, I scribbled down a few lines. I then put them next to my bathroom mirror and read them every morning for a month, occasionally making a few edits until finally, it just felt right for me. It felt like me. Here is what I ultimately turned it into and what is still on my bathroom mirror to this day:
I am far from perfect at living this standard. But it is a centering point for me to go back to again and again and identify whether or not I am living in a way that is consistent with what feels right to me internally. What is right for me is most certainly not going to be perfect for you and as embarrassing as it feels to share this in a more public setting, I simply share it as one output of this exercise and how it grounds me in taking the next step. My hope is it serves its purpose.
Some Do’s and Don’ts of Finding Your Why.
- Don’t assume you have this figured out if it’s not written out. It’s not okay to have a general idea of your ‘why’. It needs to connect with you and really decide what matters and what doesn’t. Otherwise, it will frankly be useless as a filter mechanism for your goals.
- Don’t feel like you have to follow my process outlined above. Inspiration can come when you are ready for it. This is simply what worked for me.
- Don’t rush or panic about making it perfect. Just get started. Put something down and refine over time.
- Don’t limit yourself to what feels possible today. Most of us overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. Just because you don’t see a path today doesn’t mean one won’t open up down the road.
- Do plan to spend real time on this. Remember, you are determining a path or set of paths to follow. The more detailed and dialed in you can get on your vision the more helpful it is to know if you are headed in the right direction.
- Do share it with people you know and trust to see if they have comments or suggestions knowing you the way they do. This also helps in other ways as I found if you tell those you care about what is important to you, it makes it easier for them to help you get there. It’s just like sending your Aunt Judy that Amazon link for Christmas vs. “Surprise me” and expecting the perfect gift.
- Do try and write it in the present tense. I won't’ get into the psychology as that is documented in many other areas but suffice it to say it is better to identify yourself as there versus hoping to one day get there. The idea is you will start to believe it and thus more likely to take action in ways consistent with that.
Ok, so now let’s assume that you have your ‘why’. You’ve identified it in some form or another. Now what? Practically how do you take the next step?
SETTING THE GOALS
It has become a cliche to say “I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions” and for good reason. It is estimated that 80% of all new years resolutions fail by the second week of February. We should be skeptical of setting massive goals without first linking both the habits required to reach the goal AND the follow-up mechanism to identify when we are off the path and need to get back on. Most people fail not because the goal isn’t achievable but because they believe they have done the work by simply setting the goal or the goal isn’t tangible enough that you realize when you are off course.
So first, I suggest throwing out the idea that resolutions or goals must be annual. You can set five-year goals and 10-year goals, but you should consider three-month goals, six-week goals or even weekly goals. The point is that it needs to be a time frame that can sustain your attention.
Next, establish a categorical approach to setting the goals. I have found two core ways of doing this effectively.
METHOD 1: Break out goals using our above categories: Becoming, Having, Experiencing.
METHOD 2: Break out goals by role: Employee, Father, Husband, Self, etc. Whatever method you choose, breaking out the goals into categories can help you balance what you are going after.
Let’s take a practical example of this. Let’s say that you decide you want to set quarterly goals. You lay out a calendar like the below:
January 15 - April 15
Run a total of 150 miles
Read 5 books. Initial choices are XXX
Reduce indecision by always offering an option
Buy the new Rhone Commuter Pant in every color
What else is there in life?
Research and book trip four-day trip to Iceland for September/October of this year
Block off 1 day a month to have a one on one time with each of my sons
But fair warning, however many goals you may initially want to have, if you have a history of not keeping your goals or not reaching them, I suggest you cut your goals down to no more than three total and build from there. It is generally better to achieve three goals all the way than six a quarter of the way (thankfully this also works out mathematically).
Setting these goals is the easy part even if it is difficult to only choose a few to focus on. Unfortunately, this is where most people stop in the process. Next, you need to determine the habits and at least the initial steps required to make it happen. Let’s take the goal of running 150 miles as an example. That breaks down to roughly 1.5 miles daily or 12 miles per week. If I like to run in three-mile increments that means I need to run four times a week. So now I am going to go to my calendar and block off four times a week where I will run three miles. I strongly suggest if it is a goal you can put in your calendar that you do it. It will help keep you accountable. For each and every goal, identify the habit and the first step.
Next, identify a time period you are going to review these goals. I recommend five-minute daily check-ins (you can do it while brushing your teeth) and 15-20 minute weekly reviews (some templates later on). Do not skip this step or you will not know you are off the path and the uphill battle to keeping your goal will only grow steeper.
Some people find the SMART goal system helpful in getting them started with choosing their goals (link at the end)
Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
Start with Finding Your ‘Why’.
Post your why in a place where you will see it often, ideally multiple times a day.
Agree on a timeframe for your goal setting (I recommend three-month goals that can roll up into annual goals).
Determine a method for breaking out your goals. METHOD 1: Break out goals using our above categories: Becoming, Having, Experiencing. METHOD 2: Break out goals by role. Example: Employee, Father, Husband, Self, etc.
Write down the goals you want to achieve and reduce to no more than 3 to start as a priority —use the S.M.A.R.T. system if helpful.
Identify the habits required and first action steps for each goal.
Calendar the times you will check in on your progress (preferably daily with more time weekly to adjust).
Again, this is what has worked for me. Feel free to make it your own. Focus on the principles, not the methodology. In Part III: The Now, I try to share some tools and even more practical steps for holding yourself accountable and getting started.
Stay tuned for Part 3 coming 2/3.
Nate Checketts is CEO and co-founder of Rhone. To see more uplifting and motivating content, follow him on Instagram: @natechecketts