Why Should I Set Goals?

We typically set goals for ourselves on January 1st and realize we will not achieve these goals by about March or April. Darn carbs. But why do so many of us fall short of reaching our goals? I would maintain it is because we look at goals the wrong way.

Photo courtesy of Lum3n

To Miss the Mark.

The word “sin” can literally be translated to mean “missing the mark.” The Romans likely understood exactly what Paul meant in Romans 3:23. But set aside the sin analogy for a moment. For someone working toward a goal, missing the mark might mean still hitting the target. Sure, it is not a bulls-eye, but a triple twelve is still a pretty good shot. It is far better to take aim and shoot the shot than it is to never pick up the darts. It does not have to be all or nothing. But try not sin, of course.

Steps for Goal Setting:

Setting and achieving goals might seem like a simple formula. And it is. So why is it so complicated? Difficult? Monotonous?

Because life is hard and you are not very good at what you do.

The sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can start working toward a goal. Accept the fact that you will fail, but position yourself to learn from the failure.

If you are at A and you have to get to Z, it is better to go from A to H and fail miserably than it is to just sit at A.

Step One: Develop a Vision.

Develop a vision for your life. Jordan Peterson asks, “If you could have the life you want in three to five years, what would it look like?”

One of the first Peterson videos I ever saw was entitled “How to Stop Procrastinating.” While watching it, I quickly realized that what he was talking about mirrors the framework I use to help young people set and achieve their goals.

This is not my formula, nor do I think the formula is exclusive to Peterson (although, he does articulate it very well). But it is formulated in such a practical way and can be used on a multitude of levels with different people in any stage of life.

I always remind the young people I work with, “These are not my goals, these are not your mother’s goals, and these are not your friend’s goals. No one is responsible for your life but you.”

There is tremendous amount of fear attached to that.

No one is responsible for your life but you.

This can also be incredibly empowering.

When ironing out some of the wrinkles and developing the vision for their life, I ask them: “What do you want for yourself? If you could meet yourself five years from now, who would you want to meet?”

Step Two: Identify goals that build up to the vision.

Within a vision, there are going to be several goals. Every young person I work with wants to have some kind of a career. In order to have a career, they have to gain some kind of work experience. They inevitably set a goal of, “I want to get a job.”

Step Three: Identify why the goal is a goal.

This is an important question. If Billy T. Kid says, “I want to get a job,” it is important to ask Billy why he wants to get a job.

I have had this conversation many, many times. Once young people understand why they have a goal, they feel more empowered to work toward it.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Why do you want to get a job, Billy?”

“So I can earn money.”

“Why do you want to earn money?”

“So I can buy myself stuff.”

“Why do you want to buy yourself stuff?”

“Because I want stuff . . .”

“Okay, stuff is good. But what is it about earning money to buy yourself stuff that seems appealing to you?”

“Oh, well. I guess it will feel good to earn a paycheck and buy things for myself. I could also help my mom out with some bills since she has taken care of me for so long.”

“And how would it feel if you were able to help your mom out?”

“It would feel amazing, honestly.”

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. – Nietzsche

Step Four: Identify action steps.

What action steps are necessary to reach that goal? If the goal is to get a job, the action step is naturally, to fill out and turn in applications. It might not hurt to brush up on interview skills and shine that pair of dress shoes shoved in the back of the closet, either.

Establish a frequency for the action step.

Once a week?

Once a month?

Step Five: Identify responsible parties.

With any goal, some assistance might be needed. You, the individual working toward the goal, is responsible for the goal. But also identify any supports or resources that might help.

Step Six: Set deadlines.

Be flexible, but be specific. 90 days from the day the goal was established is a good start. If at the end of the 90 days the goal is not achieved, ask why.

You filled out applications, had interviews, and are still unemployed, so it might be that you are terrible at interviewing for jobs. And because you are terrible at interviewing for jobs, you have just set another goal for yourself.

Improve interview skills.

Step Seven: Review your progress.

As the deadline for the action steps approach, review the progress. Adjust and refocus if necessary.

Now go and do likewise.

A goal is a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Often enough, that is a challenge for people. Where there is a goal, there is a purpose, and where there is purpose, there is action.

Moving toward something is always better than standing still.

If you are at A, what will it take to move you to B?