These 5 Steps Completely Changed How I Approach My Goals
I love to write goals but a couple of years ago, I learned I had been doing it wrong all along.
Have you ever set goals and failed?
Well, I can tell you that I have. Not once, not twice but plenty of times.
As a matter of fact I have written down goals for at least a decade now. BUT there has been a fundamental flaw in my goal setting process and I don’t know if you can relate.
The problem I encountered is that I set the goals, I try to stick to them then I get busy and they get forgotten. Sometimes I also just get discouraged along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, goal setting has done wonders for me, even in its imperfect state.
The other day I landed on a journal from about 5 years ago and I had pretty much knocked out 90% of all the goals I had set. But that is not the point.
Thing is, the goals that I had knocked out were for things that had small meaning to me today. They were good, nice to haves but not things I could jump with victorious pride.
I was thinking small even then.
And that is not even the biggest problem.
The real issue is that I had not yet figured out then, that I had to first sort out what made me tick – the kerosene to my fire. I wasn’t even always sure if my fire was really MY fire.
Let me explain.
A few years ago I set some goals for myself. I wrote down my income goal, described the house I will like to live in and even wrote down how many kids I wanted to have. It seemed like a big deal at the time because I was jobless and at a low point in my life. But then I accomplished all three with the exception of the number of children (I wanted 3 but am good with just 2 – I have since thanked God for the two and asked him not to worry about sending me a third. I think I have my hands full as it is).
When I set those goals, I did not bother to understand why. I just knew I wanted more money and a certain lifestyle.
So did I get all warm and fuzzy when I hit my goals? Not at all. I did not feel the gates of accomplishment open up and shower me with twinkles of satisfaction.
Funny thing is, I thought I knew what I wanted but I had never really sat down to dig deep to truly understand myself to know why.
It didn’t help that I was fast approaching the end of my thirties at the time and felt a lot of pressure to get my act together.
To be honest with you, I didn’t just get up one fine morning and say, ‘hmmm this is a good day to address goal setting’. Nothing as insightful as that.
I got up frustrated. Really frustrated with my life. It was around one of my birthdays and I am sure some of you can relate to that voice in your subconscious reminding you of all your failings and misses each time a birthday is around the corner.
The nag in my case was so disruptive that I was forced to take notice and take action.
But before I could do something, I had to clear the decks and hit reset to get clarity on what it is I really wanted.
So I grabbed pen and paper and got to work. I wrote down what I thought I wanted but every time I wrote some things down, I felt there was a deeper gap that was still left unaddressed. A layer I had to dig deeper to uncover.
That’s when it hit me. I was out of alignment with my core desires.
See, for some time, I had just stumbled around identifying some things I wanted and sometimes those things were in alignment and got done but many other times, they were just things and did not quite align to any core value so they quickly fell to the side and were forgotten.
A simple thing really, but it took me running in circles to wake up to the fact. On the surface, I was living what seemed like a good and successful life but I knew there was more for me to contribute than just having a comfortable existence. Something so simple it was almost ridiculous I had missed it all along.
I needed to align my goals with my core values because that is what will help me get to my authentic self.
And therein lay the missing piece to my puzzle.
This was a huge discovery for me. How could I have missed this small thing?
Here I was, year after year, setting SMART goals but not realizing that I was putting the cart before the horse. I was down in the trenches when I really needed to be on the mountains looking at the big picture first and aligning it with who I was deep down.
With This New Insight, I set out to correct the problem
I started off by changing my approach. I revisited my goal setting process and made some adjustments.
The result was a simple process that required focus and quiet. Since that time, I have now condensed the process that took me a couple of years to figure out into 5 simple steps.
I’m going to be sharing that simple process with you all today. You don’t even have to go through the fuzzy cycle I went through. You can just use these 5 step approach and get your compass back in order.
So Let’s jump right into it.
Step#1 – Identify Core Values
First you need to identify your core values – what drives you and why. This will make sure you stay in alignment with where you are headed. Your core values are buried deep within you. It is your deep desire of who you either want to become or who you believe you are.
Getting clear on your core values will help you stay convicted when the course you are taking becomes rocky or tough. It serves like the gimbal does in a compass.
You need to come up with no more than 5 values that properly capture your drive – the motivating factor behind your actions. The keywords that could in a nutshell answer the question ‘WHY?’ in every goal you set. To do this, I recommend doing these 3 exercises.
- Self Reflection: Take a plunge and first attempt to describe your ideal self. Write down as many personality attributes you can think of. Use the core values list below to help you come up with words that resonate with the person you will like to become.
- Your Heroes: Next, identify 3-5 people you admire greatly. People who have qualities you will like to emulate in your own life. Go through the core values list and write or circle the words that capture the attributes that you admired in these people.
- Your History: Finally, look back at your life experiences and identify moments that stand out strongly in your mind. Experiences that left a strong impression – both good and bad. As you look back at these experiences, write each one down and reflect on how you were shaped by it. Think about how they have impacted the choices you make today and the ambitions you have. As you go through this exercise, you will be able to draw parallels of the experiences behind the attributes you have written down in the first two exercises. You might also identify some additional attributes you had not accounted for.
The above exercise may take a few iterations to complete and are not set in stone. This exercise helps you get a deeper understanding of the influences that drive you.
Now that you have a list, identify the 5 top values from your list that you will like to live by. These values may evolve but for the moment, they should be the values that if your life were to end, you will like for people to strongly identify you with them.
Sample Core Values
Step#2 – Look into the horizon
Next, you need to set some far-reaching goals … these should be HUGE goals. These goals are without limit. Don’t restrict your thinking.
Be unrealistic, outrageous and grand in your wish. Don’t try to be reasonable or to limit this to what you think is possible. This is one time when you have to drop what you think you know is possible and just free yourself to be childlike and wish away. Imagine the life you will like to have if anything and everything was possible.
Give yourself permission to wish big. As you go through this exercise, keep in mind you can wish for ANYTHING. One interesting observation I have had with some people I have helped with this is that they feel embarrassed to say some things they wish for. They self edit their wants because they question their right to dare want something so big. I just want to caution you to NOT do that. If you want to become the richest man in the world, say so OR better yet, you may have a strong desire to live on another planet. Say so. So please shut up the inner chatter and just wish away.
If you are still struggling, there is one exercise I use when helping people with their goal setting. You might find it helpful in this step.
The Genie Exercise:
Just Imagine you have come across a genie who could grant you up to 5 wishes regardless of how outrageous and outlandish those wishes are. This genie has all the power in the universe to make your wildest wishes come true instantly. All you need to do is to write down your 5 deepest desires that you wish to see fulfilled. However, there are three conditions you must meet with each request.
condition #1: The wishes could only be about you and your wants. You cannot ask the genie to make someone love you or ask for something generic like world peace. You have to be in the driver’s seat of your wishes.
condition #2: You have to be as descriptive and specific as possible without leaving the genie to interpret your needs. For example, you can’t tell the genie you want to be rich because that can be subjective. You have to describe to the genie in detail what ‘rich’ means to you. Your wish has to be something that is very clear and measurable. It does not need to seem realistic (remember, this genie can do anything).
condition #3: With every wish, you should answer two questions. “Why do I want it”? and “What does this give me”? For example, someone may say they want to be a multimillionaire with $50 million in the bank BUT what they really want is more than the money. The money to them may represent financial independence and freedom from their current job to do the things they are passionate about without compromising their family’s financial needs. To another with a similar goal, the money represents influence … so you have to be clear about WHY you want what you want.
Now that the ground rules are clear, you have to think carefully about what you want. Below are some questions to help you going.
- Who will you like to become?
- What will you like to have?
- What will you like to experience?
- How will you like to give back?
For every goal you write down, identify the core values that it supports. If you are unable to map your goals to your core values, then it means either you did some self editing when picking your core values or you did so when picking your goals.
Be careful to write down what you truly want – without judging yourself.
Step#3 – Distill and Prioritize
Now that you have a sense of the kind of person you will like to become, and a compass to help you in your life’s journey, you need to distill it all into bite size goals that are actionable in the shorter term.
This will require some creativity
To do this, you need to take your ‘Genie’ goals and pick a goal that will set you off in that direction. For example, if you had a financial goal genie goal to be a multi millionaire with $50million in the bank but have never managed to save $10,000 then that should be a goal you start with.
Ok I know what you might be thinking. How can a small goal like $10000 take you to a multi million dollar goal? It feels it will take forever at this rate right?
You are indeed correct.
However, I believe in what I call the domino effect. I believe that you have to build up in steps and your momentum builds as you go. It is the same as the compound effect – success compounds on other successes.
If you want to be a multi millionaire but have not mastered money and how it can work for you, then you have to do that first. When you figure out how to generate and save $10000, you can then work on creating and saving $50k and then $100k and so on.
You have to build momentum and that starts with doing the small goals well. Each small achievement will compound its way forward.
Now that we have covered incremental momentum, you need to write down no more than 10 goals for the rest of the year.
Once you have your goals written down, next comes the part that requires discipline and focus.
You need to rank your list.
Yes you need to look at all the items on your list and ask yourself two questions.
- What is the one thing that if accomplished will make all my other goals easier or irrelevant? This should be your number #1 goal if possible.
- However, not all situations will fall neatly into that first question. So you should also ask yourself, “If I could only accomplish one goal this year, which goal should it be?”. Once you identify the top goal, ask again “If I could only accomplish 2 goals this year …” etc. You get the drift.
By the time you have gone through the list, your goals will be properly ranked.
Step #4 – Getting Your Character Right
What if I told you that everything you asked the genie in step#2 is already yours? Yes, it has already been awarded to you. So when you made your request, the genie said “Your wish is my command.”
But wait … you say
‘If my wish is your command Mr. Genie, where are my millions in the bank that I just wished for?’
“I thought you will never ask” says the Genie with a smile. In order for you to receive your wish, you simply need to unlock the version of yourself that is worthy of all that you wish for.
Your success is strongly tied to living authentically. When you realign your goals and ambitions with your authentic self, you are setting yourself up for success. Identifying your core values and big goals is a good compass to help you put together a blueprint that aligns with who you are or who you strongly desire to become.
However, there are some things that you are drawn to but you don’t yet have the information or habits to take you there. So in this step, you will need to identify the following for each goal:
- Who do I need to become to be successful at this goal?
- What knowledge will I need to have?
- Whose help will I need?
What this exercise is really about is for you to identify your deficits and available resources. So lets say your goal this year is to save $10000. You will need to become disciplined with your finances and you may need to identify some good financial education books to help you understand how to better manage your money or even higher a financial planner.
You could also leverage your network if you know someone who is already doing this. Reach out to them for some good advice or to guide you.
If you don’t know anyone personally, you always have google/youtube and all kinds of seminars and conferences at your disposal. The important thing is for you to be honest about your deficits and identify resources you can leverage to help you become the person you need to be in order to get the outcomes you desire.
Step #5 – Systems and Routines
As I said earlier, goals are simply a compass. They help keep us focused and on course. However, what will really get us to our destination are the systems and habits we act upon.
So while it is nice and wonderful to understand what direction you should be headed, your most critical next step is to identify the routines and habits you will need to develop and execute on a consistent basis to get there.
For this last step, you need to put together your daily routines that can help you get going. Routines help you build habits. The secret sauce to results driven execution is to systematize your activities so they can become automatic.
Take what you learned in Step#4 and build habits to help you neutralize your weaknesses. Remember that the habits and actions you have taken so far have gotten you here. To get to where you want to go, you will need to upgrade your ‘operating’ system. Whether you do what it takes or not is what will determine how much you want the goals you set for yourself.
So there you have it. The 5 steps to properly align your goals with who you want to become. When I first did this exercise, I was most surprised when I finally got to the heart of what I believe my purpose to be. It was a journey that gave me a deeper understanding of who I am, what I wanted and why.
My hope is that if you have the patience to go through this exercise, you will be better equipped to focus your mind in ways that will help you accomplish all your goals.