It’s pretty darn hard to get from here to there without a roadmap. Laying out your goals bridges the gap between who you are today and the person you sketched out in your mission statement. Yet when I ask people all over the country whether they write up their goals each year, barely one in ten say they have. But that 10 percent gushes over how spelling out their goals transformed their lives.
With your personal mission statement on one hand, writing down your goals on the other is as easy as filling out a job application. The five steps for crafting your mission statement also apply here—find a quiet place, relax, don’t judge, be patient, and open up to deeper wisdom. Once grounded, take a minute to review your mission.
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Choosing what you want from life shouldn’t feel like homework. For me, it’s like picking out fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market. Or, think back to the childhood excitement of paging through holiday catalogs and making out a wish list. You decide which goodies you’ll get.
Make it user-friendly
Arrange your goals in an easy-to-read, easy-to-modify format—perhaps a bulleted list of items or research-paper outline.
Clarity and precision make goals measurable, whereas vague, moving targets are difficult to hit and easy to abandon. Where possible, add a measurable metric (a profit target, a number of sit-ups) and a timeline (vacation departure date, weekly visits to the gym). The more details the better. Which goal do you think is most likely to produce action?
Shoot for the stars—or not
Goal setters fall into two camps. The dreamer likes to hang a humdinger of a target—your company making ten million bucks, date a supermodel, play polo in the Hamptons— knowing he’ll fall short but looking forward to the adventure. The pragmatist, on the other hand, motivates herself with challenging, accessible objectives. She’s disappointed if she can’t put a line through everything on her to-do list. Which camp are you in?
Examine your motives
Don’t just identify what you want but why you want it. After getting in touch with my mission, I discovered I wanted to build a successful tire company to brighten our customers’ days and provide opportunities for teammates to grow in a healthy environment. Had I wanted to grow my company purely for ego gratification—which was a primary driver early on—the results would’ve been markedly different. Our company didn’t shift into a higher gear until I did, too.
Walk the tightrope
Life is a daily balancing act. A lot of people zero in on their careers and tune out everything else. I can relate. All the late nights and weekends I worked exacted a toll (cancer, divorce). The world is full of hardworking moms and dads who would gladly return the extra money they earned if they could turn back the clock and cheer at a couple more Little League games or boost their kids up a few more jungle gyms. The ultimate gift of time is the moments when you’re fully present, without the faintest thought of anything but what’s in front of you. Yet, success is impossible without hard work. Nothing is easy. Indeed, sometimes circumstances legitimately demand an obsessive focus on work during an extended stretch.
Your list of goals is a companion to your mission statement. Keep them both conspicuous, at work and at home. Don’t lose sight of why you get out of bed every morning. Carry an easily accessible copy in your BlackBerry, planner, or wallet. A quick glance now and then helps me keep my goals top of mind. Sure, you can skip all this. None of it is convenient. But it’s better than being a human Ping-Pong ball—always in the middle of the action but getting smacked in so many different directions that you’re lucky to wind up where you started the year. Unappealing, huh? As former General Electric CEO Jack Welch put it, “Control your own destiny, or someone else will.”
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