Every December, when the snow starts to fly and the current year winds to an end, I set about reviewing my previous year’s goals and the progress I have made toward them.
2011 was in some ways a tough year for me. Of the nine goals I set last December, I achieved only three. This year, with a fresh mindset and better tools in place to attack the New Year, I have again set my annual goals, and feel confident about the progress I am sure to make.
As Steven Covey wrote in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, setting goals gives long-term vision and short-term motivation. “SMART” goals need to be specific (or significant), measurable (or meaningful), attainable (or action-oriented), relevant (or rewarding), and time-bound (or trackable).
What went wrong in 2011? I certainly made progress in my personal and professional life, and find myself a better person for the efforts. The issue, though, was poor goal setting. Examples of these poorly construed goals included: Pay off my car, accrue $5,000 in a savings account, shoot one round of golf under 80, weigh 185 pounds, and bench press 250. These may not seem like terrible goals, but they are all bad for real reasons.
Why was it a bad goal to shoot one round under 80, for example? I’ve done it before, but it does not amount to an improved golf game, just a great day on the course. Significantly changing my game and bag required a prolonged time period for acclimation, even though I believe my game is better today than it was this time last year. This goal was not meaningful, nor action-oriented.
It is important to set goals that are both measurable and realistic. I thought it was likely that I could bench press 250 pounds within the year, and get to 185 pounds in weight, but did not have the systems in place to track my progress. Having started the year at 174 pounds, I now find myself at 175. I had 110 weights-only workouts, and the failure was not a product of these, but of my diet. I had wrongly diagnosed the crutch.
Setting bad goals not only encourages failure, but also discourages positive behavior and the habits that arbor improvement. There is little worse than seeing the huge influx of people in the fitness center every January dwindle come February. “This year I will get in shape” is not a good goal if you lack the plan of attack and commitment to stay on track.
Final numbers are not always the most important thing with goals. What is important is the journey. What actions will improve my lot in life? What habits do I need to develop to be more capable and competent? If I come up a little short, will I still be better than I was? What can be learned from the efforts?
I now have spreadsheets of all my workouts, runs, eating habits, rounds of golf, and softball games, which provide benchmarks for the progress I am committed to make.
Entering 2012, I have fourteen key goals, with only one being immeasurable. This year I will run over 150 miles, have 110+ workouts, increase my diet to average more than 2,500 calories per day, play 25 new golf courses, run my first “obstacle” run or 10k+-plus race, take two or more vacations, take advantage of two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, write at least 36 blog articles, read at least 12 books for fun and four business/sales books, and hit my year-end sales budget (or earn a promotion), among others.
Chasing these goals in 2012 will result in better salesmanship, and will make me a more productive writer and more finely tuned athlete. At any given time during 2012, I will be able to report how close I am to achieving each one, and always hold myself accountable to complete success (with the possible exception of the one about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – it’s hard to say when these come along). My immeasurable goal is to be a better Christian person. At the end of 2012, I will know if I succeeded.
I recommend that you all invest the time this week to sit down and seriously consider your place in life. Take stock in your abilities and shortcomings. What do you need to improve on? What will a successful 2012 look like for you? How will you keep yourself on the right path toward accomplishment?
I wish you all a very happy, safe and prosperous New Year. May you find what you are looking for in life, eliminate the crutches that hold you back, and improve yourself personally and professionally. Oh, and try to enjoy the journey along the way.