‘If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?’ ~ Steve Maraboli
Early in the new year is the perfect time to set goals for the year ahead. The new year is a refreshing and inspirational time where twelve whole months are laid out clear in front of you, and anything can happen. From this point on, there are two possible courses to take over the next year. You can choose to drift and go with the flow, set no goals and see where life takes you. Or you can set a clear direction of the course you want your life to take over the next twelve months. There is no right or wrong answer, but to help me get where I want to be I choose the latter. Annual goals are set rather than new years resolutions, which are often forgotten by mid-January. The goals need to be clearly defined, attainable, inspirational and most important of all written down and reviewed.
If you have decided that you would like to set annual goals, then what should your next steps be? You need to carefully select your goals, write them down, decide on appropriate rewards for achieving them, and finally start working towards them and review progress.
Step 1. Choose your goals
If you are currently exactly where you want to be in life, and completely content then your only goal could be to remain that way. If there is more you want to achieve, then select goals that will help you move towards where you want to be. The number of goals you pick will depend on a number of factors including the size of each, and your passion for pursuing them. You could pick one large goal, or a range of smaller ones. I find that between 5 to 10 medium-sized goals is ideal for me.
Now to decide on what type of goals to set. They could be related to any number of subjects: personal, career, financial, health, fitness, travel or other. I like to select a mix of subjects to keep balance. It is also important to make your goals easy to measure. So rather than setting a goal of ‘saving more money’, which is vague and hard to track, you would say ‘save X amount in 2013’. That way there is a definite target to aim for. Take the time to dream and set inspirational goals, is there something you’ve always wanted to do?
You may also want to create lists of longer and shorter term goals. They should complement each other, so that the short-term goals lead into the longer step by step. If you wanted to save for a house deposit in three years the goal for each year would be to save a third of the total sum.
Step 2. Write them down
The action of writing down what you want to achieve and creating a record gives direction. You subconsciously take ownership of them, and start to look for ways to implement them when the opportunity arises. It’s not all subconscious though, and you will need to make an effort to review your list at regular intervals to see what progress you are making. Record your goals in your preferred method, whether it is in a notepad, letter, or a text file on your computer.
Step 3. Set rewards
Decide what you would like to do when you attain your goals, although for some of them achieving the goal may be the reward in itself. For example if you manage to reach your savings target, you could reward yourself with a break from saving and treat yourself to a holiday.
Step 4. Work towards your goals and review
Now your goals are set, it is down to you to make them happen. If you put them in a drawer and forget about them, it’s likely they will still be unfulfilled when the next new year rolls around. Setting quarterly reminders in your calendar can help you review them regularly, and the best time to do this is now.
It is important not to start trying to achieve all your goals in one go, take small steps and focus on one at a time. Starting them all at once takes too much energy and will likely result in failure, instead build slowly over the year. Let’s take a closer look at an example. If one of your goals was to swim three times a week, the best way is to focus on that goal alone for the first month until it becomes ingrained in your weekly routine. Start small, and make each swim short enough to leave you will plenty of energy. If you had never been taught to swim properly you may want to book a few swimming lessons to get you started, and give you something to work on. To help you could join a club and spend time with other swimmers which would heighten your enjoyment of swimming. Think about how you could apply this example to your goals.
Finally, Rinse and repeat. You can review, re-use and improve this process every year to help you steer your course through life in a direction of your choosing.
So now you know what needs to be done you are ready to get started. Grab a notebook and pen, or use a text file on your computer/smartphone and start your list. The most important part is to start, even if you are not sure on the best ideas jot some down anyway. It’s best to spend up to a week refining and adjusting your goals until you are happy with the final result. You will find if you make a draft one day after a good nights sleep overnight you will ready to refine and adjust with new ideas that popped into your head whilst you were sleeping. When they are finalised put them somewhere safe and set calendar reminders to review them. With your course set you are ready to take on the year ahead. Good luck and remember to celebrate each goal you achieve and take enjoyment from crossing them off your list.