While I understand where some people may be coming from with these arguments, I think they have missed some of the fundamental attributes of goals. One of the first is that having goals helps you take control of where you are headed--you can still go with the flow of a day but do so with purpose. That, to me, leads to a much more fulfilling life. To move from drifting to purposeful is to embrace your own agency and power to make a difference your world.
Goals are also not necessarily restrictive if you set them knowing that your goals can evolve as you do. You might have a the goal of being an Olympic gymnast but find that as you grown and evolve as a human, you might actually enjoy coaching more than competing. Goals, in this way, are not restrictive but liberating. You are giving yourself the freedom to aim for something that makes you happy and that also helps you create a life filled with meaning rather than happenstance alone.
If I have you convinced of the value of goal setting, but you've never done it before, here are some tips for getting started.
1. Understand your purpose.
The first step to setting any kind of goal is to understand your purpose. Personally, I read two books that really helped me begin the process of finding mine. The first book was Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I wrote about my experience with this book in a previous post. You can read that post here. The second book was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen. R. Covey.
Reading these books helped me figure out what I feel like my purpose is. Even if you don't have this figured out, you can still set goals! Start by thinking about what your perfect day would be. Then understand what needs to change for you to have that perfect day and write those down as your starting long term goals. Keep in mind these can, and probably will change as you continue to figure yourself out.
2. Consider writing a personal mission statement.
Stephen Covey recommends developing a personal mission statement. This mission statement can help guide you as you are setting goals. You can write your mission statement in any way you want and, like your goals, your mission statement can change as you do. You can see my own person mission statement here.
3. Start with your long-term goals.
Once you have some of these big life, deep ideas figured out and set some goals, think about your long-term goals with a timeline. Long-term goals generally have a timeline of 5-7 years.
4. Break long-term goals down into short-term goals.
Once you have your long-term goals set, you can start breaking them down into smaller more manageable goals that will lead you to those big goals. Short-term goals typically have a timeline of anywhere from a month to a year. I like to set both yearly and monthly goals.
5. Be SMART about it.
SMART is an acronym many people use to set goals. Some people break it down to mean "specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound." The version I work with is "specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, recorded, and realistic, and time-bound." I like to use "actionable" as the "A" because goals often work best when set using verbs.
When you work through these steps, let me know what goals you've set! Telling people about your goals makes it more likely that you will meet them!
Happy goal setting!
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