Gotta Have Goals

The first step to having achievements is to have goals.  Then, when you meet those goals, you can feel that you have achieved something.  Yes, it is possible to achieve things without planning to achieve them.  But it’s not as satisfying.  Without the goal first, you might not even recognize your achievements as achievements:  “Sure I can speak four languages, but it doesn’t really count because I was raised in Switzerland.”

In one of the classes I took once, they taught us that a good goal is SMART, an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  To be honest, I forgot what all the letters stood for except “attainable.”  (I googled the rest.)  I think attainable is the most important one anyway, though.

It’s good to have a big goal or two.  Big goals add focus to your life.  They can also be daunting to the point where you don’t really even try.  Even if they are technically attainable, they rarely feel like they are.

But if you break the big goal up into a series of tiny goals, it all looks manageable.  A method I like is to make lists of little goals and tick them off as I go.  I am almost as passionate about list-making as I am about spreadsheets.  (And lists made in spreadsheet programs, well, pure bliss!)  Ticking things off lists gives me a great feeling of joy and pride.  So much so, in fact, that I always add a few very easy goals to my lists so I can check them off quickly and feel like I’m getting somewhere.  Even more lame, I often add a couple of things that I have already done, so I can check them off before I even start.

Here is an example of one big goal versus several small goals.

Example of One Big Scary Goal

  • Get a degree

Big Scary Goal Broken Into Several Small, Attainable Goals

  • Think about getting a degree.
  • Choose an institution
  • Apply to institution
  • Register for classes
  • Show up to classes
  • Read a chapter
  • Read another chapter
  • And so on.

Notice that the first small goal would be something you would have already done if you wanted to get a degree.  The second goal is also pretty easy.  So there’s one check mark right off and another one within easy reach.  You might even find it gratifying to give yourself small gold star stickers when you complete each of the small goals.  Rewards are a good way to feel appreciated.  And it is sad but true that other people rarely give them out, so sometimes it’s necessary to take that job upon yourself.

Of course, some days are rougher than others, and on those days, you may have to simplify your goals a lot more.  (eg. Small goal #1 – Get right leg out of bed.  Small goal #2 – Get left leg out of bed.  Small goal #3 – Sit up in bed.  And so on.)  I think everyone has these days sometimes, but unless you really aren’t getting enough sleep, the need to break it down this much on a regular basis is probably a sign that you need to make some changes to your life and maybe get some help in doing so.

Me, I have a new Big Goal.  Not to be overly mysterious, but for the moment I could get in trouble if I say what it is and the wrong people read it.  So I won’t.  I can say that I have already achieved five or six small goals in my attempt to get there.  My Big Goal is a little scary for a lot of reasons, but I’m feeling optimistic that it’s going to happen.  Hopefully before the leaves start falling off the trees again.  Stay tuned for updates.

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4 thoughts on “Gotta Have Goals

  1. It is definitely helpful to break things down to baby steps. I always thought getting a degree would be some monumental task that might consume me whole. I just act like each semester is its own, self-contained, entity. One semester at a time, one class at a time. Living in the now, I suppose (but not really in a self-aware, self-empowering kind of way.) I forget the semester past and act like there is no semester future until I’m registering for classes. Easy peasy.

    • Exactly. (Not that I ever finished my degree. That was just an example.) Although, if you are able to forget the semesters past, I assume you must be studying arts? Just thinking that sciences and business tend to build on themselves.

  2. Two thumbs up for lists! My lists always include tasks I’ve already completed, for at least two reasons. 1: It seems to get the ball rolling. 2: If someone else happens to look at my list, I’ll have accomplished at least one thing in their eyes.

    One of the “business-man-self-help” books I have is called “Getting Things Done”. The guy recommends against “to do” lists, and instead encourages people to have two lists – one with major projects and big ideas, and a second with “next steps”. The next steps lists is basically the things that you can do now to get closer to your big goals. I think it’s clever.

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