The most important thing about goals is having one
– Geoffry Abert
Your change efforts will only succeed if your goals reflect your personal priorities and needs and are at the right time. Discover your goal in three steps:
1. Create 2.Reduce 3. Select.
The following tools will help identify ideas for potential goal topics. This is not a how-to for writing a SMART goal nor a SMARTer goal. This is the step BEFORE the SMART goal. This is the step you need to take to select the goal, to identify which is the right goal for you to work on right now.
Step 1: Create
The objective here is to come up with a list of 10-20 potential goals. Don’t worry about making them SMART at this point, just capture your ideas.
Option A: Brainstorming
For those of you who have no problem identifying your goals, do it! Write down those 20 or more goals. Now go to step 2. For the rest of us there are often so many things we want to do or change that there is no one thing that comes to mind. Take Jill for example. Jill has always been interested in many things. She likes to discover and learn new things but then easily gets bored and moves on to the next. Her family and friends often call her ‘Jill of all trades’ (no kidding). When she wanted to work with her coach, the coach told her to select just one goal (a wise coach). The reason for selecting only one goal is that it increases your chances of successfully implementing positive change. Jill did not know how to select just one. She couldn’t even begin to write down a list of goals. So she and her coach used a different approach.
Option B: The Wheel of Life
This approach breaks your life into different areas (sometimes roles) to help conpartmentalize the goals. Draw a circle on a piece of paper or whiteboard. Now divide that circle by drawing lines like spokes on a wagon wheel. In each section created by the spokes, write in one area of your life (or role you ‘play’). For example you may have family, friends / social, work, finance, health, and so on.
Now ask yourself these questions for each area / role:
- Where are you now in this key life aspect?
- What type of person do you want to be in this area?
- What type of things can you do to reduce the difference?
- What things do you like or dislike in each key life aspect?
Jill reviewed each category in her wheel and listed several goals for each.
Option C: More or Less
Another brainstorming tool includes simple list making but approaches the list by answering the following questions:
- What am I tolerating in my life/work?
- What am I missing in my life/work?
- What do I want more of/less of in my life/work?
Step 2: Reduce
Now that you have a list or mindmap of 10 – 20 potential goals, how do you reduce and maybe even prioritize the list? Just because we are reducing the list does not mean any of these goals is crossed off forever. This list can be used again and again as you determine your next goal and the next. But first things first. For each goal answer these questions:
- What do I want to achieve with this goal? (outcome)
- Why is this goal important to me? (why / value)
When considering what outcome you want from each goal, consider visualizing yourself and/or the situation after the goal is successfully completed. What do you see, feel, hear, do, say, have etc. Not only is this important to reduce your list, it will also get you that much closer to a SMART goal. The value question is a lot more difficult. If you don’t already know what your top 3 values are, review ‘finding your why’ to identify them. Once you know your values, you can align each goal to one of those values. If a goal does not align, put it aside. If you have trouble answering either question, put that goal aside and go on to the next. Only those goals that have answers to both questions make it through this step.
Step 3: Select
At this step your list should be reduced by at least half. If not, then you are probably very good at writing goals – Well done! Whether you have 3 goals or 20 on your reduced list, there is another step to take and that is selecting just one. Create columns next to your list. Each column answers one of the following questions:
- Does your life or livelihood (or someone’s you love) depend on this goal?
- Is there a critical deadline associated with the goal?
- Do any of these keep you up at night?
- Do you get pumped up just thinking about it?
- Is this goal attainable?
- Are you ready and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal?
For each goal, add up the number of ‘yes’ answers to each of these questions. Now rank the goals with the highest number of ‘yes’ answers on the top and the lowest number at the bottom (6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0). Is there one goal with the most ‘yes’ answers? Then this is your one goal. If there is a tie, and you can not select one out of the top ranked goals, it is time to enlist the help of a coach. A coach can help you assess which goal is the right one for you to pursue at this time. The coach will also be able to help you define not only a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Action-Orientated, Realistic, Time-based) but a SMARTer goal (add energizing / engaging and reviewed regularly.)
Now that you have your goal, it’s time to take action with purpose.