Gaining through Goals

I find a new year to be one of the more invigorating times in both my personal and professional life. I have almost always used the turn of the calendar to examine, evaluate and reinvest in the things for which I am passionate and responsible. Usually this means setting some goals.

In his book EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey shares that goals should:
• Be Specific
• Be Measurable
• Have a Time Limit
• Be Your Goals (not someone else’s)
• Be Put in Writing

Often our goals fail because they are too fuzzy or vague. This usually means we haven’t spent enough time thinking them through, or come to own the exercise for our self. The above criteria are a good marker by which to judge if you’ve truly set a goal or just offered yourself a suggestion.

In my own practice I try to set both personal and professional goals for the year. This year I’m using the following categories: Relationships, Finances, Health (physical, emotional, intellectual), Spirituality (faith), and Work or Vocation.

Now, how about some examples? I’ll use some I’ve arrived at. I have an intellectual health goal to read a minimum of 24 books in 2015. That comes out to 2 books a month (specific, measurable, with a time limit). I am keeping a book list with 3 categories (spiritual growth, leadership/professional, and pleasure/personal interest) from which to pull these books as I move through the year. When I become aware of an interesting book, I write it down. Something tells me I’m going to surpass this goal, there are so many interesting books. If so, I’ll revise it mid-year.

One writer, commenting on a similar reading goal, said he keeps an empty shelf in his office and puts the books read on it to have a visual reminder of his progress. Since I use a kindle and borrow from the library, as well as purchase books – my list will have to suffice.

This goal also crosses categories, because some of my reading will relate to my spiritual goal of using written resources for a regular (at least five times a week) connecting with God time. Think about how that differs from just suggesting to yourself: “I want to grow deeper in my faith.” That’s a great new year suggestion, but how will you go about helping that to happen? You might join a small group, have a conversation with your pastor about spiritual direction, or read through the Bible in a year. The more specific you become the more you move from suggestion to goal.

Here’s one more example from my goal work. One of my passions is writing. I love to write. But in the busyness that is my life writing often gets bumped in favor of other obligations and responsibilities. So I have set a goal to write a minimum of two blog posts per month in 2015, and I have identified three times in my weekly schedule when I will devote myself to writing. And, since I want to become a better writer, I’ve identified a writer’s conference I plan to attend in 2015. Oh, yeah, and I’ve written all that down – along with my other goals – so it will be readily accessible for review.

Those are just a couple of my goals for the new year. Just working through the process has once again brought me new energy for my work, my relationships, my health, faith and my passions and interests.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate in my years of living is that we are all a work in progress, but unless we work at it, we seldom make progress. Think about it.

How do you define goals for a new year? What’s your process?

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