Just for fun, let me test my mind-reading skills just a little. (It doesn’t work at home, but maybe it will here, at least just a bit!)
Since it is January and we work with highly successful individuals, business owners, and professionals, I am picking up that you created a thoughtful business/financial plan with a number of goals for 2022. I’m also getting the sense for many of you that your 2022 plan got stuffed into a drawer and stayed there most, if not all, of the year.
Am I getting warm?
I’ll stop here since I know there are many New Year’s resolutions already lying shattered by the middle of January … and until four years ago, that could easily have been me!
Haven’t most of us been told that we should be goal-setting to be a high achiever? And isn’t there compelling evidence that those who have written goals and accountability for them have a demonstrably higher success rate in achieving them? (Keep reading if you wonder about that last comment.)
Sweet! But still, I didn’t know where to start – what to do and not do – and how to make it through the “messy middle” when all heck had broken loose, and my goals were truly the last thing on my mind at the time!
All of that changed when I got introduced to New York Times bestselling author and former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, Michael Hyatt. Through him and his company, I learned the importance of creating written goals, not just in business but in all ten “life domains”…“Imagine That™!”
So Tell Me Again … Why Written Goals?
Harvard did a study of their MBA students in 1979. The graduating class was asked a single question about their goals in life. The question was this:
“Have you set written goals and created a plan for their attainment?”
At the time, they found:
- 3% had written goals and specific plans for achieving them
- 13% had written goals but had no concrete plans for achieving them
- 84% had no goals per se, and for sure, nothing in writing
Now, you may be asking yourself, “OK, great…who cares about MBA students from Harvard or anywhere else for that matter?”
Well, here’s the importance. After asking the graduating MBA students the above question about their personal goal setting or lack thereof, they followed up with the study participants ten years later and found …
Do you want to guess? You don’t have to. No one is forcing you.
The 13% of the class with written goals but no plans on how to get there were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had not set goals.
But here’s the kicker…
The 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan were making ten times as much as the rest of the 97% of the class – combined!
What Are Life Domains? The Importance of Setting Goals For More Than Just Work
The Harvard study focused on the financial aspect of life success. And, as my wife likes to remind me, “Honey, I know you love what you do and would do it without charge, but just remember this. The best thing we can do for the poor is to not be one of them!”
Yes … having a stable financial position is important, but as Michael Hyatt discusses in his Full Focus goal-setting program, there are as many as ten different “life domains.” Financial is one, but a wheel with just one spoke will not be useful for traversing life’s long distances.
The ten that Michael lists may not fit everyone, so choose the ones that resonate with you:
If you aren’t married, then marital may not be a domain to consider – unless you would like to be married someday. Same thing if you aren’t a parent – unless you want to substitute being a parent for being the world’s best uncle, aunt, or foster father. Again, this is about you and what stirs your heart to take action, and some domains, like intellectual, physical, etc., apply to everyone to some degree.
There are, no doubt, many wonderful assessment tools out there. We use the free Full Focus one that covers the ten domains above (you can uncheck the ones that don’t apply). I personally take it quarterly as part of my 90-day review and to prepare for my next 90-day “sprint.” It’s a great way to track how I am doing, where I am succeeding in certain life domains, and where there is room for improvement!
FullFocus Lifescore Assessment: https://assessments.fullfocus.co/lifescore/assessment/?track=&brand=
After getting some numbers on how you’re feeling in every area, is there one or two you’d like to focus on this next quarter or year?
Or is there one area that you’re pretty happy with that’s especially important to you, and you’d like to push that as high as possible?
To use the wheel metaphor again, a wheel that has ten spokes – and even if they are not all of exactly equal length – is much more likely to turn more smoothly and traverse a whole lot more ground than a wheel with only 2 or 3 spokes!
So, we have established that written goals with specific plans for how to attain them are critically important. Are there some guidelines on what goal setting looks like – and doesn’t?
Thankfully … the answer is YES!
Michael Hyatt, the New York Times multi-best-selling author mentioned earlier, has tweaked the original “SMART Goals” process formulated in 1981 by Doran, Miller & Cunningham. Hyatt calls his process “SMARTER Goals” to include several other aspects that research now shows are important for effectively setting goals with the greatest probability of realizing them.
Goals must be SMARTER:
- Risky (love this one!)
- Time-Bound & Time-Keyed
- Exciting (really love this one!)
Let’s break them down.
Specific means you have thought out the idea and know exactly what you want to achieve. “Build a social media presence” is not a specific goal. “Create accounts on 3 social media platforms and get 500 followers on each” is a specific goal.
Measurable gives you a way to know if you achieved your goal or not. “Read more books” is not a measurable goal. “Read 25 books this year” is measurable. And remember – you need to track it!
Action-Oriented gives you a way to work toward your goal. For example, many people want to “get better sleep.” But how? The goal might be “be in bed by 10 p.m. every weeknight.” or “leave my phone on the bathroom counter.” (By the way, this has two benefits … you are not tempted to take your phone to bed with you and read too late. Also, if you use your phone alarm to wake up like I do, having it on the bathroom counter requires me to get out of bed to turn it off. Now I am up and not hitting snooze for five more minutes of shut-eye. LOL.)
Risky goals improve your odds of attaining them. Would you believe that? Research shows that easily attainable goals that do not stretch us do not grow us either. Challenging goals are more likely to actually get accomplished, and they grow us in the process. As motivational speaker and author of The Attractor Factor, Joe Vitale puts it, “A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot!”
Time-Bound & Time-Keyed mean deadlines and schedules. When will you finish the goal? This year or this quarter? It needs to be written as part of your goal. Time-Keyed means when will you do it? If you’re trying to improve your sales numbers and decide to do five outreach calls a day, when are you scheduling time into your daily calendar to make those calls? And … how are you going to keep track of them?
Exciting should be its own reward! If your goal is a “should do” rather than “want to,” that means it’s a chore. We’re talking about “not all projects are goals, but all goals are projects.” Picture achieving your goal. Do you feel excited as you reach it? If so, that excitement will help carry you through the “messy middle,” which is where most people lose momentum and quit.
Relevant keeps you on track for where you are in life right now. Having three children under the age of five, putting in 90 hours a week growing your business, and shooting 72 on the golf course might not all make sense this year.
Putting It Together
A SMARTER goal for this year might look like the following two examples.
“Take my spouse out for a date night (at least) the first Friday of every month.”
Specific – date night once a month
Measurable – “(at least) the first Friday of every month”
Action-Oriented – date night
Risky – maybe you only went out four times together last year, so once each month would be an improvement
Time-Bound & Time-Keyed – “the first Friday night of every month”
Exciting – it’s a date! Of course it’s exciting
Relevant – you’re looking to spend more quality time with your spouse
Or perhaps you’ve promised yourself you’re going to read more.
“Read 25 books this year by spending 15 minutes reading each morning before leaving for work.”
Specific – “25 books this year”
Action-Oriented – “read”
Risky – that might be a lot depending on how much you like reading and the density of the material
Time-Bound & Time-Keyed – “this year” and “each morning before leaving for work”
Exciting – hopefully, you’re excited by reading/learning, or maybe this goal isn’t for you!
Relevant – you want to grow in a particular skill set or kickstart your brain for the day
Keeping the Number of Goals in Mind
Productivity research tells us that ambition is great, but setting 47 goals for the year is the best way to ensure that you won’t reach any of them. Well, maybe you’ll achieve the one easy goal.
“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.” -Proverb with many attributions
If you’re looking at how you feel about each of your life domains and there are several you want to improve, pick two, maybe three at most, for each quarter. And, if one of them is a habit goal – such as doing 30 push-ups a day as soon as you get out of bed – focus only on that new habit goal.
And research shows, by the way, that it takes, on average, 62 days to make a new habit stick – not 30 days! Hence the only one per quarter suggestion!
I like to cover all ten of the life domains in my goal setting for the year, but sometimes one goal can cover two or more areas. For example, a trip to Paris can be something for you and your spouse (marital), but also avocational (love to travel!), as well as intellectual, emotional, etc.
Focusing only on a few helps get them moved from the “goal” list to the “accomplished” list.
And remember, you don’t have to set new goals only on January 1st! If you’re like the 25% of Americans that researchers have found don’t make it even two weeks through their New Year’s Resolutions, starting over now with SMARTER goals is a great way to set and attain your goals for the rest of the year.
Wrapping It Up
In the last five years, I have changed 180 degrees from dreading the new year’s arrival and feeling aimless and guilty that I don’t have amazing goals that I am excited about … to having my 8-10 major goals for the year broken into 90-day “sprints.”
I also have a specific review process daily – weekly – quarterly and yearly to track my progress in attaining successful implementation or achievement of the goals identified that matter most to me.
With clarity comes confidence. Having a specific and proven method of identifying, setting goals, and then achieving many of them … has enabled me to live an even more intentionally purposeful life.
Does that resonate with you? If so, let’s have a call or go for a meal together and share the journey. Nothing excites me more than joining a fellow life sojourner who wants to achieve everything possible in the number of days we are each given to make a lasting positive difference in our world and the lives of others…“Imagine That™!”
Imagine That™! is a complimentary monthly newsletter provided by Wealth Legacy Group®, Inc. that addresses various topics of interest for high-net-worth and high-income business owners, professionals, executives and their families. Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter here.
R. J. Kelly, Wealth Legacy Group®, Inc. – January 2023
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