What’s the best way to set goals to help you achieve your visions and build on your strengths?
There are actually four different kinds of goals that you can set depending on what appeals to you the most.
Some people do not like setting goals at all, perhaps because they feel it limits their freedom of choice. But setting and pursuing goals is really essential for you to achieve the best success you can. Goals help you focus your time and energy. They help prevent wasting time and drifting. In my 40 years of experience setting goals for myself and my clients, I have learned there are four kinds of goals worth setting and pursuing, depending on how much information you have and your personality.
How to Set Goals that Work for You
The best goals to set if you have sufficient information are called SMART goals. This means they are:
A SMART goal for your life could be something like this:
I will be earning $100,000 a year by the time I turn 45.
Now whether that is achievable and realistic depends on how much you are earning now, but you can adjust the amount and year as needed to create a SMART goal.
The second type of goal is what I call Vision goals. Some people call them process goals, as explained below. They place more emphasis on process or activity than on outcome or result. A Vision goal for your life could be like this:
I am strong and healthy, exercising vigorously 30 minutes a day.
You can see how this has a visionary quality, which can be inspiring, but it would be worthless unless you defined what “vigorously” means. You would need an exercise program that might alternate brisk walking 30 minutes with lifting weights for 30 minutes – you decide.
Vision goals are different from affirmations, which tend to be feel-good “I am” statements that may not have much goal quality. Making your goal statement specific will help make your Vision goals valuable for your life.
If you want to achieve the goals you set, make them as specific as possible while keeping in mind what you can control and what you cannot control.
Now, refer back to your vision statements created earlier and make a list of 6 to 12 goals you would like to accomplish in the next one to four years, more or less, according to what best suits your needs.
Product versus Process Goals
There is one major problem with goals which have a specific end point: once you accomplish them, there is a brief moment of pride or joy, then often a feeling of disappointment. The pursuit of that goal is over. Now what?
End-result goals are sometimes called product goals because they end with a specific product or something produced.
An alternative which some people find valuable is a process goal, also called a system goal. Here the idea is having a routine or system where you do something over and over again, like going to the gym three days a week or walking two miles five days a week. This process becomes a part of your life which never ends in a final product or termination point.
Many of my personal Vision goals are process goals – things I do every day, or whenever I am in a situation like a relationship with someone I care about.
If you took the Myers-Briggs, you scored somewhere on the J-P continuum, where J stands for judging (or organizing), and P stands for perceptive (or possibility). If you have a strong J tendency, you are more likely to prefer product goals because of the satisfying end result. If you have a strong P tendency, you are more likely to prefer process goals because of the flexibility they allow. But of course, the choice is yours.
It can be difficult for people with one preference to understand others who have a different preference – the old “Why can’t you be normal like me?” So if you are going to share a goal with a spouse or significant other, it will be very helpful for each of you to know the other’s preferences regarding product versus process goals.
So go ahead: Set your goals for success, using whatever form of goals seem best for you and your life.
Ideally keep the list to one page. Then you can rate each one A, B, or C in priority and 1, 2 or 3 in urgency. If you use a spreadsheet, you can sort on the priority-urgency column and keep it constantly updated. I use a spreadsheet in the free Notion app which I can access with any type of computer device, check my priorities and decide what to do next. But any widely available software you choose is fine as long as you use it constantly. Good luck setting and achieving your goals!
Top Image by Simon from Pixabay