The Why, How, and What of Goal Setting

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It is that time of year again when you start hearing about New Year's resolutions and making the next year better than the last. Goals are essential to being your best not only in the clinical setting but in life, and they are not hard to do at all. All it takes is a little time with yourself or your significant other.

Honestly, I was surprised I didn’t have an article devoted to goal setting on the blog yet.  So, this article is way overdue, and early December is the perfect time of the year to write it.

This post talks about the why, how, and what of setting goals. I believe these questions should cover most of the questions people have when it comes to setting goals for their lives. I think reviewing your goals on a daily basis is a key to successfully implementing your goals, although I have not always reviewed my goals that frequently until recently.  So, let’s start with why. Great book by the way.

Why – Why is goal setting important in the first place, because it helps you to be intentional with where your life is going. As Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”  You need to have a destination and a plan to get there down in writing, and that is where setting goals comes in handy.

According to Briantracey, “based on the best research, only 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review them daily.”  I heard this many years ago, and I have been writing my yearly goals for almost a decade now.  However, I cannot say I was reviewing them on a regular basis, and most certainly not on a daily basis.

You want to set goals in early December and preferably sooner next time. This allows you to have enough time to sit down for a few hours and think about the different areas of your life and where you want them to go. Do this before you are inundated with Christmas parties and family commitments. 

How – I am sure you have heard of SMART goals.  I like to take it a step further than this and use what Michael Hyatt calls SMARTER goals.  This is the criteria you should use to evaluate a goal you have set for yourself.

·         Specific – clarity on what you want to accomplish

·         Measurable – allows you to track your progress

·         Actionable – you can take steps towards achieving the goal

·         Risky – puts you slightly out of your comfort zone

·         Time-bound – has a deadline

·         Exciting – it inspires you. You will need this to be persistent.

·         Relevant – is meaningful to your current life situation

For example one of my goals for 2019 is: I will graduate with an MSN in organizational leadership by December 2019. This meets all the SMARTER criteria. In other words, it is specific, measurable, actionable, risky (scares me a little), time-bound, exciting, and relevant to my life.

What - I set goals in eight areas of my life. I know it seems like a lot, but most people call themselves goal setters when they are only setting goals in a few areas of life. Those are usually career and finances and maybe physical.  Well, we all know there is more to life than a career, finances, and physical. It is important to make sure your life is balanced and that you are not consistently giving attention to only one or two areas for extended periods of time. You could say that is what our culture is mainly focused on.

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Zig Ziglar describes this as the wheel of life. He uses a circle or tire, and ask you to rate each area of your life from one to ten. This is a great little exercise to see how each area of your life measures up. If you rank one area low and everything else is high, then you have a flat tire and need to put some attention to that one area to keep your life in balance.

We all know what happens when one area gets neglected. In other words, you can be a ten in career and finances and be a two in health. You will not be able to sustain this because your body will break down on you and you will “lose your wealth to try to regain your health.”  This is played out all the time in our culture and is the reason I chose not to become a financial planner earlier in my career because one major way to help people financially is to keep them healthy.

Here are the eight areas of life: Rate them on a scale from 1 to 10. Your categories may be different from mine.

·         Spiritual – If you have a religious or spiritual belief how do you want to grow in that area? Do you need to devote more time to study or to surround yourself with people who believe the same? For example, I have a Bible, devotions, and prayer time that I am committed to making a part of my morning.

·         Career – What is the next promotion you are going for and what is your plan to get there?  This could also be presenting at conferences or writing a research article.

·         Financial – I think we are all familiar with this one. For example, how much do you want to pay down on your debt, or save this year?  What salary do you want to make?

·         Health – My favorite, of course!  Maybe you want to get certain lab markers to a healthier level, or you want to do a certain level of activity per day.  One of mine is to lift weights three times a week throughout 2019. I had trouble staying on track with this throughout 2018 due to some of my other priorities. 

·         Family – This one is often neglected. Think about how you want to improve your marriage or spend more time with your kids in 2019, and if you are not married or do not have kids think about how you can improve your relationship with your parents or other close relatives or friends. We all know someone who focused all their energy on career and financial for years and then wondered why their family and marriage fell apart.

·         Relationships – this one is similar to family but is more of your distant relationships. Your friends, neighbors, people you know at church. One of my wife’s goals for 2019 is to get to know our neighbors better.

·         Intellectual – this is similar to your personal development.  Intellectual is about how you want to grow mentally in 2019. Is this through reading books, going to conferences, going back to school? Anything where you can grow and become better. It does not have to be in your field.

·         Lifestyle – This is a fun one and one often not thought about. This is where you think about doing something for your home, or maybe you want to purchase another vehicle. Lifestyle is like a reward you give yourself. For example, my wife and I want to convert our dining room into an office. This will take a few thousand, but we want to do it in a smart way. We will forgo other purchases so we can make this a reality that is why it is one of our goals for 2019.

So, there you have it, the basis of how I set goals in my own life. I wanted to tie up some loose ends on this.  I do keep all my goals in an excel spreadsheet, but whatever works for you is awesome. Just make sure you have them written down and visible.

I would only have between five and ten personal goals to achieve in 2019. Studies show once you get past ten most people will lose focus and their ability to achieve their goals goes down.

Share them with your significant other or someone who you trust.  I would not recommend throwing your goals out to people who are negative, or you do not trust. They may not be supportive of your ambitions.

Lastly, if you do not meet all the goals you set for yourself in 2019, or you only get part of the way on one of your goals, let me say it is OK.  You should be setting your goals out of your comfort zone, and that means you will fall short sometimes, but I will guarantee you will be much further than if you had never set that goal in the first place.

Don’t be afraid to set your goals high and dream big. Have a plan by setting your goals NOW for 2019 and take ACTION on your plan. This might make 2019 your best year ever. I will be right here cheering you on and celebrating your success.

To recap, I talked about the Why, How, and What of goal setting. I hope you enjoyed this article and are inspired to set your goals for 2019. Please share with me and others in the comments below on what you are doing to set goals for 2019 and to make next year your best year ever.  Until next time, have a healthy week.

Nurse Brian