Have you ever considered how setting the right goals can have an impact on your personal and professional life? Dig down deep and evaluate what you really want in life, and let those goals be a part of your bigger focus on where you want to be. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
Setting goals is one of the best ways to increase your productivity, simply because so few of us take the time or trouble to ask ourselves where we are headed and what changes in direction we might prefer.
Instead we work on the tasks that cross our desks without really considering where these efforts are taking us or how well they are helping us get where we want to go.
All it takes to begin setting your own goals is to clarify your thoughts and feelings and work them out to their logical conclusions. Start with a simple question: "If I had more time, what would I do with it?"
Begin answering this question by listing various uses to which you could put your extra time. Don't hold anything back. Shoot for the stars and write down anything and everything you’d like to accomplish, even if it seems impossible.
As a practical matter, it might take several sittings and several tries at the list before you can comfortably expose all your thoughts and feelings about where you would like to go and what you would like to do.
You may censor the list as you're creating it, or before you finalize it. But try to defeat that internal censor. You'll win if you persevere.
The idea behind making this list is to begin looking as deeply as you can into your hidden dreams about the future. Since this is difficult to do without practice, it's fruitful to start simply, easily, with a basic list like this one that asks a concrete question about what you might do in pursuit of what’s really important to you.
You can also vary the question slightly to dig deeper and elicit more responses, as follows:
- What would you do with one hour extra per week?
- What would you do with five extra hours per week?
- What would you do with one extra day per week?
- What would you do with one extra week per year?
Looking for continuity in your goals
The basic method of establishing these personal goals is to look over the list you put together in answer to these questions. Group similar ideas from among your answers, then distill them down into concrete, desirable, positive goals you can reasonably expect to achieve.
This process takes practice, of course, but it gets much easier and more accurate after a few tries.
As you begin to spot some viable goals (or pieces of goals) for yourself, you'll probably notice they have a certain familiarity. For example, one man I know set himself the personal goal of learning to play chess at a comfortably high level of excellence. Later, he remembered having been in the chess club in high school and having a youthful affection for the game. His feelings for the game and the satisfaction he received from playing it well had been buried for more than 20 years. But once revived, they were as strong as ever.
In another situation, a lawyer I worked with found that setting fitness goals triggered a decision to emphasize defending doctors in malpractice cases. This was an area of law he had always enjoyed, but which he had neglected under the pressures of building his law practice. Now reminded of his interest, he made the decision to commit time and energy to acquiring skill and experience in this area. Over the years, he managed to expand his practice – and his income – while greatly increasing his satisfaction from his everyday work.
What Is your mission?
I find the best way to visualize, organize, and decide on my goals is to think in terms of my "mission."
“Mission" connotes a degree of seriousness, dedication and importance, and your goals should be important – at least to you. Although the words are often used interchangeably, as a practical matter your mission will normally include a series of individual goals, while your practical goals need not include even one complete mission.
For example, you may set for yourself the goal of:
- Graduating from college
- Earning a salary increase or promotion
- Accomplishing a particularly challenging assignment
- Getting far enough ahead of your obligations to take a vacation
But your mission will generally be much larger. You may want to:
- Head your own strong organization
- Write a satisfying novel
- Raise a happy family
Your mission will be something inspiring, something you long for, perhaps it will even be the crowning achievement of many years of effort. The best missions are those that, when you achieve them, provide enough of an accomplishment to satisfy you for the rest of your life.
Identifying your mission is not as difficult as you might think; the harder part is to treat your mission seriously and devote all your energy to carrying it out.
This goal-setting exercise gives you an easy first step toward finding your current mission. Go through this experience several times, perhaps every day for a week. Answer the questions seriously, each time writing down not what goals you think you should, such as: "Spend more time with mom," but the goals you truly desire, like: "Retire at age 40," or "Prove to everyone the value of my idea."
The most valid answers will be those that come from your deepest feelings.
Use this exercise to learn more about yourself. Dig deep, and look within yourself to see what you really want to do with your life.
Didn't you have an idea a while back? Something super you thought of that you wanted to pursue? You were sure it would be great, if only you could iron out one or two little difficulties or find the time to work on it? Sure you did!
Before you dismiss any such notion as too impractical, just remember that those "impractical" ideas and aspirations are the clues you can follow until you reach a practical, satisfying, truly great idea you can and should pursue.
Such an idea may be the "pot of gold" you will dare to strive for, and it may also lead you to understand and recognize your mission. What will it be? Just for fun, spend ten minutes right now daydreaming or thinking about your mission. Include in your thoughts the rewards you will receive for completing it.
Remember, your goals can tie together to form a much larger mission, or your sense of mission can help you identify and define some more immediate goals.
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