“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” ~ Jim Rohn
Today I’d like to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Setting goals changed my life, and can change yours as well. In fact, setting goals is really only done for one purpose in my opinion, and that is to change your life.
One of the misconceptions that people carry when thinking about goals is that it’s the goal itself which will change your life. Not true. It is in fact the reaching of the goal that will change your life; the sense of direction and meaning that your goals give you that will drive you to live your best life.
One thing that is certainly common among those who don’t set goals is that they tend to “drift”. Not in an aimless way, but certainly without direction. People without solid goals find themselves jumping from one idea to another, moving from one plan to another, jumping from one course of action to another. Given the pervasiveness of peer pressure, particularly now with social media so prevalent, an individual without a plan loses identity and focus.
Determine Your Goals
I would encourage everyone to take a notebook to a coffee shop/wine bar/beach or wherever you feel most comfortable. Once there, simply sit and contemplate. Ask yourself: How do I want to spend my time? What sort of activities am I most excited by? What sort of people do I want to associate with? Another simple technique that has existed for a while is to think about what you would like people to remember about you when you have passed. Answering these questions will help you generate goals to meet your needs. Don’t be concerned if you can’t articulate (or even if you don’t know) your answers to these questions. Write down whatever you feel, and then revisit it after a week.
Once you understand your motivations, you are able to work on setting your individualised goals. A common one I see amongst individual investors is “I want to be financially free so I can work if and only if I choose to”. This is a great sentiment, but it is closer to what you desire rather than a goal. In fact, if we determine that financial freedom is an outcome, a more appropriate goal would take the form of “Generate $X per week from dividends by age X”.
Setting Good Goals
I think at this point everyone has heard of SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Sensitive, and this acronym is a great way to make sure your goals are appropriate. Consider the following:
Earn more this year than last year
Earn 10% more this year than last year
This obviously goes to the measurable nature of goals. The second is obviously more useful. A better goal would be: “Earn 10% more this year from my employment than last year”, which adds specificity.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Once you have 3-4 large picture goals, I want you to break them down into smaller sub components. For example, a colleague of mine is currently training for his first marathon, in mid June 2017 (~9 months away). This is a large goal. A smaller goal would be to run at least 20k per week from now until then. In order to do this, an even smaller goal would be to make sure that he runs at least 3 times per week. Working backwards in this manner allows you to generate a series of small steps that will inevitably lead to you achieving your goals. Breaking it down in this way often makes it seem less daunting a well.
Track your goals
Writing your goals down is the easy part, of course. Committing to the plan and taking action is the difficult part. I’d suggest you track your goals religiously. Block out a period of time every month and check in on your progress. This forces you take your goals seriously.
Don’t be afraid to reevaluate. Goals that seemed achievable last month may no longer be achievable, and that’s fine. Remember, the key benefit of this activity is not the goals themselves (although they are important) – its giving yourself a direction in life that you have actively considered and defined.
People may laugh at your goals, particularly those that don’t have similar values as you or those who themselves are living a directionless life. It’s up to you to have enough confidence in your plan to deal with the detractors as they come. You may find some resistance as you get closer and closer to achieving your goals or as people see you making progress – as long as your goals are a true reflection of your values, this shouldn’t bother you. In fact, you might find it enlightening.
I’d love to hear whether you have set goals yourself, and particularly if you are comfortable doing so, sharing them! Leave a comment.