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Do This One Thing Before Setting Goals

With a new year comes a big push from everyone to set new goals and actually achieve them this year.  Everywhere you look people are talking about their goals, plans, new workouts, etc. Have you felt the pressure? Have you set some goals yourself? I’m sure you have, and that is great! I am all for knowing where you want to go and setting some goals to get you there.

BUT there is a but…

Do this one thing first. And it’s a BIG thing. Ready?

The one thing you should do before setting your goals is to KNOW YOURSELF well enough to know how you respond to goals and what actually motivates you to accomplish them.

For example, I know this about myself: if I write something down, with a due date, and a little check box that I need to check off (I must!), then I will do whatever it takes to get that thing done.  Sounds like a great thing, right? All I have to do is write it down and it gets done? Amazing.

Except sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it means I’m sacrificing other things that are really important to me in order to get it done, like sleep, time with my family, other work deadlines, things that I enjoy, taking a shower…the list could go on. And when I sacrifice those things that are important to me, I get stressed. I might even get burnt out. Or have a mental breakdown.

And you know what? That goal that I wrote down with a little check box – it is almost never as important as my mental health, my family, or my cleanliness.

So, since I now KNOW this about myself, guess what I did this year? I set very few goals, and I only set them for 3 months out. And here are some reasons why I did this:

  1. A lot can change in 3 months, but not that much changes in a year. My long term goals are set for 5 years out. They a big and awesome and I need 5 years to get there. I don’t know exactly where along that path I can get to in one year.  But my 3 month goals are more manageable. They are working toward the 5 year goals, but I have a better feel for what can get done in 90 days, so I focus my attention on that increment.
  2. My highest priority is staying in a place of peace and fulfillment, not stress. So because goals with check boxes tend to stress me out, I’m staying away from them.
  3. The goals that are most important to me have already become habits.  If there is something you need to do regularly to meet your long term goals, you need to figure out how to make it a habit.  To me, a habit is something that you don’t have to write down on your to-do list because you are going to do it automatically.  For me those things include working out, eating well, meditating, journaling, and spending time with my family. They are already built into my schedule.

What do you need to KNOW about yourself before you set goals? Maybe it’s that you need a reward or ramification if you don’t complete your goals because that is the only way you will really do it. Then build that into your plan.  Maybe it’s that you need another person to ask you every week if you have been working toward your goals. Then find that person and have them call you every Sunday.

Whatever you KNOW about how you get stuff done, you must incorporate into your goal setting process. I don’t believe that one template works for everyone – you must find your own best way. Otherwise, another year will pass and you’ll wonder what happened to all your grand plans. Don’t let that be you – you are better than that!