It’s Not You, It’s Your Goal-Setting System
“You can achieve anything you set your mind too”
You’ve heard the phrase before.
But in reality the truth is… that there’s a lot more to it.
When I graduated highschool, I was at the top of my class. I had put in the hard work and it paid off. I was accepted into a prestigious double degree program in business and computer science. My mind was set and I was ready to kick some ass… well at least I thought I did.
One year later, I was in the Academic Advisor’s office trying to hold back tears as she tried to calmly explain that I had not met the academic requirement to continue into the second year of my program.
I had failed miserably.
I pleaded my case, and by some miracle I was given a second chance. I decided to drop computer science and focused solely on my business degree.
But that wasn’t the only thing that I had to change. Before this, I had never really put that much thought into goal setting. My process would often consist of me coming up with an objective I’d like to accomplish, get super pumped for about 48 hours, start to realize that it’s only been two days and then discretely and quietly give up and go along with the rest of my week.
I started to get scared that I would end up becoming the guy with all the goals and no actual results. And so this fear would fuel my journey to discovering how I can achieve any goal I set for myself.
I would soon realize that…
It wasn’t me, it was my goal-setting system.
A little over 4 years after that insanely awkward meeting with my Academic Advisor, I had completed my Master’s in Management Analytics, received multiple consulting offers at top international firms, and picked up running on the side where I ran five marathons, three 50km races and two 50 mile runs.
As time passed, I was able to continuously toon my goal-setting system into three simple steps:
1. DREAM IT
You can’t expect to achieve anything meaningful in life if you don’t know what you want to achieve in the first place.
This is the equivalent of running a marathon without knowing where the finish line is. But just as it’s important to know your direction, it is also crucial to make sure that this direction and goal you’re striving for is the right one.
It’s very easy to overwhelm yourself with a long list of objectives and to-do lists causing you to lose focus of the ones that truly matter and that have the potential to make a significant impact in your life.
Okay, so how do you set your direction?
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction” — John F. Kennedy
Just like the beginning of any well-executed plan, it all starts with good brainstorming. Take the time to write down ALL your dreams, goals, and passions you can think of.
Take the time to put your dreams and aspirations on paper. Pay no attention to how or when you will achieve these and simply LET YOUR IMAGINATION WANDER. Try to come up with at least 15 different points (you’ll thank us later).
Now, based on our Dream Brainstorm we start to narrow down our focus into Vision Statements. A “Vision Statement” is a short phrase that communicates a state of being or fixed goal that you WILL achieve within the next 5 to 10 years.
There are no restrictions as to what these goals can or cannot be, however, I will encourage you to think BIG, after all, 5 to 10 years is a long time.
It’s completely okay and we encourage you to have some goals that will be vague representing a way of being while others will be more specific representing a clear objective you want to achieve. Make sure to come up with 10 Vision Statements
Identify your Priority Vision Statements
Simple is better.
For this next section, we filter down your 10 Vision Statements from the previous section, to only keep 5.
The key here is to follow your gut. An easy trick is to select the five which you are most excited about with the potential to have the biggest impact on your life.
Prioritize your Vision Statements from the most to least important to you. If you can, try to add more detail to your Vision Statements (this will help you in the later sections).
You now have 5 key prioritized Vision Statements. These will serve as your direction, becoming the basis of your annual, quarterly, and weekly goals, as well as a strong reminder of your WHY!
Two more steps to go, now let’s jump to the PLAN IT section.
2. PLAN IT
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” — Alexander Graham Bell, inventor
You now have your direction, the question is, how are you going to get there.
Now that you have your list of 5 priority Vision Statements, it’s now time to filter and convert these into 3 actionable annual goals. From there you will develop a quarterly goal for each annual goal.
When writing your goals it’s important to make sure that these are SMARTER goals:
- S – Specific: What will be accomplished? What actions will you take?
- M – Measurable: What data will measure the goal? (How much? How well?)
- A – Achievable: Is the goal doable? Do you have the necessary skills and resources?
- R – Relevant: How does the goal align with broader goals? Why is the result important?
- T – Time-Bound: What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal?
- E – Exciting: Is the goal boring to you? If yes, change it!
- R – Risky: Make sure to set your goal high enough to demand your best effort.
From Vision Statements to Annual Goals
Based on your 5 prioritized Vision Statements, develop 3 annual goals for your top three Vision Statements using the SMARTER format.
You are more than welcome to add more goals, however, it is in your best interest to narrow down your number of annual goals so you can maximize your focus on the objectives that matter most. It’s important to remember that this is a dynamic process.
If you notice that you are getting overwhelmed or can take on more then make those changes. Everybody is different, constantly monitor how you feel as you progress, and feel free to go back to any section to make any adjustments.
Ask yourself what you need to do this year to get closer to achieving this Vision Statement. Under each goal next to the “Key Next Steps” section, write down the first few steps you need to take to reach your goal.
From Annual Goals to 1st Quarter Goals
Now that you have your annual goals! Now it’s time to break them down even further into quarterly goals (i.e. 3 months timespan).
Following the SMARTER checklist, write down the 1st quarterly goal for each of your three annual goals. Use the next steps section if you need it.
Almost done, just one more section left. You set your direction, you have your plan, and now it’s time to get it done!
3. DO IT
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Congratulations on making it this far! You’ve made it to the final and most important step.
Once you have laid out your annual and quarterly goals, it’s now time to get working.
You have done the prep and now it’s time to start working towards your dreams. Overtime I developed a Weekly Review word document template that I would and still use to keep track of my own weekly goals. Feel free to visit my website and download the template for free or build your own weekly review template that works best for you.
In any case, it’s important to set your weekly goals once a week (set a specific day of the week and time in your calendar) where you also review how your past week went by writing down what you were able to accomplish, as well as what went well and what went poorly.
This is a long journey and it’s important not to get caught up if you have a bad day or bad week and fall short of your goals. Progress is progress!
Or you could also say… pity the man who has never failed, for he will never learn.
Lastly, find an accountability buddy! Find someone you feel comfortable sharing your goals with to keep yourself motivated and on track (family and friends are usually great options).
AS LONG AS YOU KEEP TRYING – YOU WILL GET THERE AND YOU WILL TURN YOUR DREAMS INTO REALITY.
So if I circle back to the beginning of this article, I would like to make a small adjustment to our opening line:
“You can achieve anything you set your mind to”… as long as you have the system in place to effectively set and achieve your goals.
Congratulations! You’ve made it until the end. Now go on and enjoy the journey of turning your dreams into reality.
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Author: Constantin Sasarman
Constantin Sasarman is the founder of the Goal Setting Foundry. He is a professional M&A Strategy consultant @ PwC during the day and an ultra-athlete at night completing over 5 ultra-marathons in the last 2 years. He is passionate about educating and inspiring the world to become the best version of themselves by setting & achieving their goals. Reach out to him through the Goal Setting Foundry website.