As we get ready to turn the page for a new year, it’s a great time to reflect on what you achieved, and an ever better time to set fresh goals.
This is a short story on how I changed my approach for goals and New Year’s Resolutions. A few years back, as New Years was approach, I decided that I would do a deep dive on how to set and achieve goals.
I wanted absolute clarity on goals. I wanted to know the distinction between goals and objectives. I wanted to really understand how to create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.) I wanted to know how to really use goal setting as an effective tool to guide my focus, and to move me forward, while reaching for the stars.
So I studied goals. I learned a lot. I found useful metaphors for goals and objectives. For example, one way to think of them is that the goal is the touchdown, while the objectives are the milestones and yards you gain along the way. The objectives are like the mini-goals and the stepping stones. Of course, then I wanted to know whether it made more sense to set SMART goals or SMART objectives, or both.
By the time I figured out how to write goals well, I lost the most important part. Somewhere, along the way, I lost the "Why" behind the goal. I spent so much energy on structuring the goals, that the SMARTER I got about them, the less I wanted to do them.
Since New Year’s was coming, and I wanted to start the year with a fresh focus, I pushed my goals aside, and asked a simple question:
“What are three wins I want for the year?” …
Instantly, I responded with three things:
- Get to my fighting weight.
- Finish my book.
- Take an epic adventure.
I was surprised by how clear and compelling those answers were. What I realized is that when I was first working my goals, they were based heavily on things I thought I should do, or things that I thought were important. And maybe they were important, but they weren’t compelling. But, my new set of three wins for the year was.
I then designed my year, with those three goals in mind. I picked a specific month where each one would be the main focus. Meanwhile, I would do little things along the way, throughout the year, to support hitting my goals.
The most significant thing was that now I had compelling goals, I had clarity in priorities, and I had wins that I could look back on, if the year were over, and find fulfillment. If those three wins weren’t enough for a compelling year, then I would have to do a rethink and find new ones to inspire and drive me throughout the year.
In the end, what I learned was that the most important thing about goals is the "Why" behind the goals. Instead of a "push", it’s a "pull." Your goals lift you. They inspire your daily action, and they get you back on track, when you lose your way. But if, and only if, you have a compelling "Why" behind them.
So I do things a little differently now. When it comes to New Years, instead of a New Year’s resolution per se, I come up with three compelling wins for the year. And to really make things happen, I use 30 Day Improvement Sprints from Getting Results the Agile Way to pull it off. And if it’s a really tough challenge, or a tough habit to change, I can throw multiple 30 Day Improvement Sprints at it, until I find my breakthrough.
This little recipe so far has been the most effective way I’ve found to make big things happen, by taking little actions along the way.
If you really want this year to be different, identify three wins you want for the year, and pick a 30 Day Improvement Sprint to do in January. It’s a simple way to bootstrap your success for the New Year.