Six Steps to Setting Effective Goals


“A goal properly set is already halfway reached.”  – Zig Ziglar

When is the last time that you sat down and really took a look at your goals?  We are approaching the halfway point of 2018, and six months into the year is a great time to evaluate those goals and resolutions that you set for yourself back in January.  I personally really love goals.  I have been setting goals for years.  However, over the last few years, I have found that there is an art to properly setting goals.

Setting goals, establishing a plan to achieve those goals, and making decisions that move you toward your goals is vital.  Goals provide a framework to help us get from where we are to where we want to be.  I want to challenge you to revisit your goals and adjust them using the six steps below.

Step 1 – Reflect

The first step to setting effective goals is to reflect on what is currently working and what is not.  This step is tough.  It requires some brutal honesty with yourself, your work, your family life, and your dreams.  How are things going?  What successes have you had over the last year or six months?  Are there areas that you desire to be different?

I prefer to reflect on my life as a whole when I begin this step.  I look at my health, work, finances, relationships, and spiritual life as one unit when I begin my reflection.  After I look at everything together, I begin to break out each department of my life.  I reflect on each one, finding the good, the bad, and the ugly…things that I can celebrate and things that I can work on changing.

The key when you begin to reflect is to be honest.  It’s easy to start making excuses when you start reflecting.  “I didn’t put xxxx amount of money into savings because __________.”  “I didn’t make time to focus on my health because ___________.”  The reflection time is not a time for excuses.  It’s a reality check.  Don’t get caught in the trap of excuses.

Step 2 – Create your Ideal Day

The task of creating my ideal day is probably the single most powerful exercise I have ever done to begin setting goals that will take me where I want to be.  Take out a pencil and paper (I find this more powerful than typing) and write down your ideal day.  

I’m not talking about writing down your ideal day based on your current situation.  You don’t want to just create what would be ideal with the job you have right now, the responsibilities you are currently committed to, or your financial situation at this moment.  Write down your ideal day from wake up time, work, family time, meals, exercise, and everything in between.  Get specific.  If you could do anything each day, what would your day look like?  When would you get up?  What would you do to support your physical and mental health?  How would you make money?  What would your time with your family look like?  Be realistic…chances are, you will have to do some sort of work.  The key is to identify what your day would look like according to your dreams.

Write this day down from start to finish.  Once you get it written down, you can start to set goals that line up with your ideal day.  What’s the point of setting a goal that doesn’t take you toward what you really want?

Step 3 – Break out your Life into Departments

If you look at your life as a company, you can reflect on the “company” as a whole during your reflection.  Then, you can look at each “department” of your life and evaluate each one separately.  It’s overwhelming to look at your life as a whole and set effective goals.  It’s too broad.

For me, I break down my life or company into the departments of Health, Family / Relationships, Spiritual, Work, and Finance.  This allows me to drill down and see exactly how I am performing in each area.  I can also look at my current situation and define exactly what I desire for each department to look like.  I can define what I want my ideal work day to look like or what a strong spiritual life looks like for me.

Step 4 – Get Specific

Now that you have your departments, it’s time to get specific.  So many times, we make the mistake of setting goals that are too broad.  The goals of get healthy, improve your marriage, or save money are not specific at all.  What do you really want?  What does it really look like to you to improve your health or your marriage?

Look at your reflection of where you are right now in a department, look at where you ideally want to be, and then set a few goals that will get you there.  If your ideal financial scenario is to have six months of savings, put a goal in place of saving xxxx each month.  Being specific about how much you need to save in order to get to your goal of six months of savings will help you stay on track.

Once you have set your specific goals, WRITE THEM DOWN!!!!  Writing down your specific goals allows you to come back to them.  If your goals are out of your sight, they will soon be out of your mind.  By getting specific with your goals and then writing them down, you are actually committing to your goals.

Step 5 – Develop Tasks and Rules

Awesome!  You have set some specific goals, but now you need to develop your path to achieve them.  Goals take action.  What small tasks can you write down that will move you toward your goal?  These tasks do not have to be large.  

Maybe you have a goal of running a 5K.  One of your tasks could be to run 3x per week.  Another task could be incorporating one strength workout per week.  A third task could be actually committing to and registering for a race.  A final task could be adding mobility and tissue therapy to your bedtime routine to help you avoid injury.

Once you get some tasks in place, find some rules that you can make for yourself that will support your tasks.  Think simple here.  Your rules should support all of your goals.  They should help you move toward your ideal day.  A few examples could be drinking a cup of water before you have your morning coffee, giving up the snooze button, eating only off of a plate (not straight from the bag, box, or leftover container), or turning your phone on airplane mode when you are working.  These rules should be easy to do.

Write down your tasks, and then write down your rules.  Start incorporating them NOW.  Know that there is always something you can do right now to move you closer to where you want to be.  Time doesn’t stand still….we can’t pause….you are either moving toward your goals or away from them.

Step 6 – Measure your Progress

With each goal comes a measurement.  If you set specific goals, you should be able to easily develop a system to measure your progress.  If you set a goal that you can’t measure, how will you know if you are on track?  If you aren’t evaluating or measuring yourself on a regular basis, six months goes by and you are right where you were when you started.

If you go back to the example of running a 5K, you could measure your progress by the number of runs you did per week, the amount of time or distance you can run without stopping, or by your pace.  If you are measuring your progress consistently, you can adjust your tasks or rules as needed so that your behaviors align with your goals.

Get Going

This is your life.  You are in the driver’s seat.  Figure out what’s important to you.  Don’t let the “busy work” of life get in the way of things that matter most.  This is why it’s so important to set goals.  If you have a clear view of what you want and a plan of how you will get there, the things that matter the most will stay at the forefront of your mind.

Get your pencil and paper out and start creating your map.  Need some help?  Our next FOF Health Coaching program will launch in September 2018.  The wait list for registration is now open.  You can find out more about the program and get on the wait list here.


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