This post was originally published on (1/30/2018) and updated on (2/2/2019).
I didn't always have crystal clear long terms goals I can describe in rich detail. Yet those times were were some of the most productive and successful times I had. It didn't mean I was a loser with no direction, wandering aimlessly in life, zero ambition, constantly being pushed around by whatever circumstances in my life existed at the time. I still knew what to do...I just didn't know where it would take me if that makes sense...let me explain:
Don't Know Where I'm Going But I Know How To Get There
I may not have had GPS precision for where I was headed but I knew for sure what I had to do to get to where I wanted to be. Sometimes creating goals is tough.
I'm not a fortune teller, I can't tell the future. I don't know the exact dollar amount I need to feel content. I know I want to make more and need to do things to generate more revenue. I don't know the ideal body weight where I'll feel best. I see a spare tire creeping in that I want to get any bigger. I don't know exactly the formula that will make me utterly happy. I do know I like to play sports, spend time outdoors, and hang out with friends.
Predicting exactly what state you want to be in is hard and can complicate things. Knowing what steps you need to do isn't too hard. I always focused on those and found my self in a place that I was happy with.
Just because I don't know the ideal weight I want to be at doesn't mean I don't know what to do - go to the gym, eat clean, drink water, get plenty of rest. I can set mini goals for those:
Go the gym 4x a week
No junk food 6x a week (hey, I like a cheat day)
Drink at least 64 oz of water everyday
No electronics half hour before bed everyday
No caffeine after 12pm everyday
Keeping track of these mini goals will get me in shape and make me a healthier me. I can keep track of weight as I go, but randomly picking a weight I think is good isn't going to cut it. I need to do these things daily and having mini daily and weekly goals to crush is what moves me forward and results in progress.
And maybe I didn't even want to hit a particular weight. Perhaps I just wanted to fit into old clothes. What weight is that? I don't know. But I do know I have to do these healthy actions daily to get to that goal. Then I can weigh myself and figure it out. But at the point the exact weight wouldn't even matter - just that fact I can fit into old clothes is the goal.
The overall goal, however written gives you an idea of where to go.
Goal Setting Is Direction Setting
These are a few ways goals can be written. Some are immediate, some will take years, some are specific, some are vague. In any case they all provide direction. Whether general or vague they give you a sense of where to go.
Want to go to the Superbowl? Cool - right away you know you have to save up money to buy the ticket, the flight, the hotel.
Surf in Hawaii? Maybe you want to show up and be ready to surf. So maybe that means you have to take lessons first. And that may mean practicing daily. Then you have to plan the trip.
So goal setting helps give you direction, but I'm a fan of structure. So let's talk about the steps to set up a goal that'll give you direction.
Plan. Do. Check. Act - Simple Steps To Goal Setting
A long time ago I knew I was in too deep when I had a goal to learn how to write good goals. Something had to change. The internet is great but it can be a monster - I googled examples of good goals and up popped all these articles on how to write good goals. There were so many rules, and right and wrong and correct ways and bad ways.
I’m good bro. And to be fair, some of it makes sense, S.M.A.R.T. goals have merit as do OKRs, or sharing for support is cool too. Visualization and affirmation are good tools I just don't like to confuse them with goals. Totes man I get it. But conflating tools and tactics and adding rules - it makes it super complicated and that’s not my thing. I like simple. It shouldn’t be work to write a goal. If you have a goal it should be something you're comfortable with, excited about and it shouldn't feel like work make it official.
I Said I'll Do Some Things and Then I Did Those Things
I looked back at how I accomplished things before, did a little research with my peeps on how they were successful and it’s quite simple. Here it is, the four step framework, Plan. Do. Check. Act - to setting goals:
- Plan: What do you want to accomplish?
- Do: What specifically actions will you take?
- Check: When will you check in and see if you are on track?
- Act: What changes will you make if any?
The plan is what you want to do or achieve and the Do are the actions you will take to get there. The Check - this is when you check in, and see how things are going towards your coal. The Act is essentially a revised plan based on what you learned from the Check.
Bang. Simple. Let’s look at an example.
Lose weight and get down to 155lbs
Work out four times a week; eat clean six times a week.
At the end of each week I'll review to see if I'm going to the gym four times and eating clean six times.
If I'm finding it too difficult to make it to the gym 4 times a week, I'll change my goal to go to the gym 2 times a week and do a home workout 2 times a week. If I find I'm slipping on my diet during the week, my action will be to meal prep on Sundays.
To Be Specific Or Not
Goals come in all shapes and sizes. Being specific gives you more clarity on what you want to accomplish but they don't have to be specific. In fact sometimes they shouldn't be specific because you may not know exactly what you want to achieve, but you do know the direction you want to go.
If you're goal is to get in shape you may not know your target weight, but you do know you need to lose weight. Having a simple measures like "fit comfortably in my old jeans" as a goal is ok.
Fit in my jeans is vague, but you know what it feels like to you to fit comfortably in your old pair of jeans and so it's clear to you and that's what matters.
More often than not, having a general measure for a goal is true. Most people don't know the exact weight they want to reach, or the exact amount of money they want to increase by and it's cool. Most of us don't know and we won't know until we get there.
It's The Little Things
We know the things we need to do to get to that place where want to be. Big goals give you the general direction and that's all you really need from them. The action plan and mini goals are what really work.
Mini goals, i.e. weekly goals help keep track of those actions. These are things like "go to the gym 3x this week" or "pack my lunch 5x this week". I may not know the exact weight I want to achieve but I do know I need to eat clean and workout. It's the perfect balance of not having an exact picture of where you want to go but knowing what you need to do.
This is where real power happens. Use this as a mini goal: work out 3 times a week. It's easy to measure and something you feel confident in. And the best part is, if you find out 3 times is too much or too little, you can adjust come next week.
Big goals are great in giving you general direction and focus, the action tells you what to do to achieve what you want to achieve.
Goals Are Dynamic
Goals are dynamic. As you grow and change so will your goals. You may realize you don't want to travel to 50 countries, you really want to hike all the best mountains in the world instead. Maybe you realized money isn't everything and you don't want to retire rich, but retire happy.
Maybe you now fit comfortably in your old jeans and now want to add 5 pounds of muscle in one month.
Plans can change, goals can change, it's all good.
The Most Important Thing Is To Do
By far the most important part of any goal setting is the doing. You have to take action to get to where you want to be. All the goal setting, writing, talking about doing things will only get you so far -- and if you take no action, you won't get very far at all. You have to put in the work, you have to take action. Stop talking and thinking and trying to craft the perfect goal and start doing.
Downloadable worksheets for setting Goals each month
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