Type in ‘personal goal setting’ and everyone’s friend responds with some 33 400 000 results in 0.41 seconds: all the ways to set goals in three, five, seven steps proven to work by anyone, from well-known gurus in the field to Bob working on his thesis.
There really does not seem to be any excuse for not being able to set personal goals, does there? And yet…
I’m going out on a limb here, possibly revealing my age, but I’m pretty sure setting personal goals was never mentioned while growing up, not by my fairly liberal family and certainly not in school. It just wasn’t a done thing. In fact, I’ll go as far as to bet that were I to share my personal goals for, say, when I leave home, said liberal family would think I’m taking after uncle George and lock away the dessert wine.
And I don’t think I’m the only one with that experience. One grew up ‘knowing’ that there’s a certain recipe for life: go to school; if you’re fortunate, go to university; find a job; work without complaining; work hard without complaining; stick with your job; marry and have kids; work hard without complaining; retire; live frugally off your pension while your kids repeat the cycle. Not very appetising, is it?
There are few things as futile and debilitating as regrets. Perhaps shame, but that’s a different topic. I’ve listened to people reminisce about dreams they had when they were younger – and I’m not talking about bucket list-type dreams like seeing the aurora borealis.
No, things like, “I should’ve done black belt as well”; “If only I didn’t give up before the exams”; “We might as well have stayed a week longer” or, the saddest of all, “I should have visited mom more often.”
It might look as if these have nothing to do with personal goal setting, but they do. Because personal goal setting is a lot about planning and follow-through, isn’t it? But it is firstly about recognising that there is so much more to life than planning for your pension, and then secondly, accepting that you want some of the ‘more’ because you’re not a cyborg – there are things to do, people to meet.
So, as result number 33 400 001, here are my top five steps for reaching personal goals:
- You guessed it: Take time and make a list – break it down into short-, medium- and long-term goals (e.g. take mom to uncle Ben’s holiday home for the weekend; finish my degree; see the aurora borealis).
- Write your goals in a positive way, so instead of writing ‘stop eating chocolates’, write (and think) ‘eat at least two portions of veggies a day’. Human nature is fickle when we think we’re being deprived.
- Add a time for completion next to each goal – be specific and realistic.
- Select one goal and plan the how, where, when, who, and what. I would suggest start with a short-term goal so that you can taste the satisfaction of having accomplished a goal sooner.
- Set milestone deadlines (e.g. phone uncle Ben on 15 March and confirm with mom, buy provisions on 22 March, help mom pack on 24 March, etc.) – you’d be less likely to renege on your commitment if you can see progress and if you’ve shared it with someone.
Lastly, make personal goal setting a habit. It will enrich your life – as well as add a bank of good memories with which to regale pensioner friends who opted for the Recipe.