As our new calendars arrive, it is natural to want to set goals for the upcoming year. [Note: this was originally written in January 2021, but the content can be applied to your goals regardless of the year.] This is especially true now, as so many of our plans have had to take a back seat during the pandemic. This year, I am excited to travel to see friends and family that I missed last year.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you set goals to help ensure you’ll reach them this year.
First, forget about the dead goals. If you haven’t made any significant progress on your goal, just ditch it and get a new more exciting goal instead. Why waste time flogging a dead horse? Bury those goals and let’s start the year with fresh goals. For most people, this means you can immediately discard the very old, very dead goals: Lose weight. Hooray! So boring!
Now that you’ve cleared out the deadwood, you already feel lighter. What would excite you this year? Life is too short for dull goals.
The second step is to distinguish between the end result you want, the target, and the process to get there. Most people focus on result goals. However, you might find it more motivating and effective to focus on the process goal. In fact, why not pick a process goal that guarantees you’ll reach your end result? Most goals that have been achieved by fellow humans have a fairly clear path that has been well trodden and is very likely to produce the end result desired.
Let me clarify with a few examples:
|End Result:||Process Goal:|
|Lose 15 pounds||Walk 15,000 steps a day, eat 1500 calories a day|
|Become a millionaire||Invest $833.33 a month for the next 30 years|
|Have more family fun||Play games with the kids every Friday night|
|Get closer to spouse||Have a weekly date night|
|Achieve $500,000 sales target||Call three prospects a day|
|Write a book||Write the first hour of every day before opening email|
|Beautiful, clean and organized home||Hire a weekly house cleaner or spend 30 min a day cleaning|
I think you get the idea. For most people, it helps to have set goals in two ways: process and results goals. Set your target goal and then figure out how others have gotten there. Then focus on the actions or process that will inevitably lead to your successful accomplishment of the target goal.
Leo Babatua, the author of The Power of Less, recommends that you only choose one or two big goals for the year. A big goal is one that would take six months to a year to accomplish. You break your big goal down into milestones or projects. For example, if your goal is to buy a house in five years, then you’ll want to save for the down payment. The end result is the purchase of the house. The process goal could be to save $833.00 a month for five years to get a $50,000 deposit. A project might be to research the best neighborhoods or places to live.
If your big goal is to write a book, your supporting projects might be to write the outline, do research, or write a chapter. Your process goal might be to write an hour a day. If your goal is to get closer to your spouse, a supporting project might be to identify your personal and emotional needs. Your process goal might be to automate a weekly date night by arranging a babysitter for permanent bookings on Saturday nights to ensure that you don’t get too busy to forget it.
If your goal is to have a beautiful, clean and organized home, then your supporting projects might be to hire an interior designer or professional organizer. Your process goal might be to hire a weekly cleaner or spend 20 minutes a day tidying and cleaning.
The end result or big goal, the supporting projects, and the process. This is what it takes to achieve the results you want.
However, some goals are super important, like achieving financial freedom. Thankfully, you can fully automate that goal in about one or two hours. This is why I urge everyone to set up automatic investing to achieve financial freedom. This is a big goal that takes very little time once you’ve set up the process. If you want to learn your own magic number for financial freedom or how to get there faster, take the FIRE course.
Now, before you get carried away with your goals, let’s make sure you aren’t wasting your time doing something that isn’t aligned to your core values. Learn how to identify your values here.
And, if you haven’t had a chance to complete last year’s goals, take a few minutes to do this very satisfying year end ritual. Complete your year powerfully before you leap into the new year.