My Struggle with Achieving Set Goals
It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the end of February. It seems like yesterday that I was dreaming up and writing down goals for the new year. I’m a sucker for fresh starts, and it’s exciting for me to take a day in January–away from any distractions (read: three little ones under age 5)– to sit down and think through/set personal goals. (Full disclosure: I’m not fancy. In fact, I’m fairly basic when it comes to goal setting–exercise more, eat better, get up earlier, get in the Word more. You know, all the usual stuff.)
I work really hard at making my goals SMART (lose 5 lbs. by March 2 by running 3 times a week vs. lose weight), and I also write them down. You’re probably already familiar with research described in articles like this that suggest that those of us who write down goals are significantly more successful at achieving them than those of us who don’t put pen to paper.
While jotting down SMART goals is certainly beneficial, the act doesn’t produce results in and of itself. (Duh.) And this is where I tend to struggle. Consistently choosing to jog around the neighborhood at the end of a long day, preparing a meal with healthy, fresh ingredients instead of tossing a frozen pizza in the oven, getting out of bed when my 5:30a alarm sounds, opening my Bible instead of opening Instagram–those things are, many times, a challenge for me. I have good intentions, but I don’t always have accompanying motivation to get ‘er done.
Perhaps it’s how I’m wired or a personality attribute, but a common theme I see in my life is inconsistency. Can you relate? I can go weeks on end, exercising faithfully, only to stop after returning from a family vacation. I can wake up early some days but not others. I can eat nutritious meals all week but turn to junk food on the weekends. Sure, most things are fine in moderation, but I often lack the discipline to consistently make choices that align with my goals day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. So, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this book that has helped introduce regularity into many areas in my life. Essentially, this book takes you through a process coined ‘Life Planning’ that begins with high-level thinking (e.g., I want to be healthy) and ends with helping you develop concrete, specific applications (e.g., I need to exercise for 30 minutes five times a week). Further, it provides a built-in implementation and evaluation system to ensure your goals are more than just pencil marks in a journal thrown in your desk drawer.
Authors Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy compare ‘Life Planning’ to a GPS for our lives. We are humans and are vulnerable to getting off track (They refer to this as drifting.). A Life Plan, much like a navigating system in our vehicles or on our phones, helps us to remember where we are going, and, essentially, gives us some direction on how to get back on the correct path.
There are so many wonderful things about this book (which is why I highly recommend that you grab a copy for yourself), and I could never do its contents justice on this blog post; however, I do want to highlight a few of my personal takeaways:
You Start by Writing Your Eulogy
Eeks. This exercise was a bit strange for me at first. I literally wrote out what I would want someone to say about me at my funeral–the kind of person I was, who and what I loved, my passions and dreams. This activity really gets at the high-level thinking I mentioned earlier. It challenges you to evaluate your life and consider big-picture items such as relationships and your career.
You Create Life Accounts
Instinctively, I do not compartmentalize different areas of my life. Everything kind of mushes together. This isn’t right or wrong, but creating Life Accounts helped me to individually think through and evaluate different components of my life in a very intentional way. The book provides common Life Accounts, but not all of them are applicable to everyone. My Life Accounts include, but are not limited to, my personal walk with God, personal health, Scott, kids, social, financial, etc.
You Take Action
After I created and evaluated my Life Accounts, I made what the authors call “specific commitments.” This is where details come into play. Instead of “I want to be healthy,” I have specific commitments like “be in bed by 9:30p every night” and “go to the dentist two times a year.” This is where, in a sense, the rubber meets the road.
You Get ‘Er Done
As I mentioned before, developing and writing down goals comes more naturally to me, but what I love about this book (and probably what sets it apart from other similar books) is that it provides tools and resources to actually help with your follow through. For example, the authors teach you how to review your life plan as well as teach you how to triage your calendar so you better prioritize your time. I make a note in my planner every Sunday to evaluate my previous week and look ahead to the upcoming week.
Work in progress
If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that it is no secret that I am a mess (quite literally). I, in no way, shape, or form, have this whole life thing figured out, but I can confidently assure you that this book has been life-changing for me. I strongly encourage you to check out Living Forward. Be sure to also visit the book’s webpage for additional, free resources.
Here’s to transforming your written goals into action!
PS: How do you stay on target with your goals? I’d love read what your tricks are in the comments.