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5 Ways to Create and Achieve Goals (and Live a Better Life)

As we enter the fourth week of the first month of the year, you may be thinking “why should I read another article on setting goals?” If you’ve already determined what your goals are for the year and you’re on track to hit them, great. But if you’re like me and have a love for learning new ways to approach an old, yet important topic, then read on. Hopefully you’ll discover at least one or two new ideas to help you set and achieve goals that are aligned with your individual style as well as personal and professional interests.

 1.       Goal Setting through Creative Processing Goal bow and arrow

This is a new process I’m trying this year. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I have several new business opportunities that have presented themselves during the last few months. A few of these ideas are game changers and others fall into the category of developing new products and new services. Since the areas require considerable thought to prioritize, select, or eliminate, I needed some time to process ideas, develop marketing strategies, and do some creative brainstorming around each one.  This process is not Here are the steps you can take if this approach sounds interesting to you.

  • On a large flip chart size of paper, write your goals down the right side of the chart.
  • Draw a line from each goal back to the left side of the page.
  • For each individual goal, write a word or two spaced along the line that describes any of the following:
    • The steps that would need to take place to reach the goal
    • The various types of products or services to create to reach the goal
    • The different types of clients or partners to work with to reach the goal
    • The various options for distribution channels to reach the goal
    • The different ideas you might have for creating content to reach a goal
    • …Or anything else that makes sense to you.
  • Here’s the important part. Leave the page hanging on a wall in your office or a place you’ll see it every day.  

What you will likely discover is that by having a visual picture right in front of you every day, you will begin to process and think about the goals on a daily basis. It might take a week or two, or perhaps a month, but your strategies will begin to gel and your priorities will become clear.

For me, this process is really working, and for several reasons:

  1. First, I don’t feel any self-imposed pressure to sit down and write out my goals on a particular day at the beginning of the year. I need time to process and think creatively about each one.
  2. Second, I love the visual reminder that is in front of me. Even if I’m not actively thinking about a goal, my subconscious is. There is something about a visual I walk past often that helps my subconscious process what is needed to achieve a certain goal.
  3. Third, I can easily see how several of the goals are related to each other. This allows me to see the leverage points around each goal, creating a natural selection process around which goals I should prioritize and tackle first, and those I should put on the list for next year.

 2.       Setting Goals to Create a Balanced Life

In my first book, Market Smarter Not Harder, I outlined goal setting in seven main categories to help readers think holistically about goal setting in every part of their life; not just one or two areas like their career or achieving a certain level of financial success. The seven areas are:

  • Business/Career
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Health
  • Intellectual/Learning
  • Spiritual growth
  • Social/Cultural

Setting two or three goals in each of these areas helps people think holistically about their life and whether or not they are living life in balance or not.  Review this list and if you haven’t set goals in all of these areas of your life, consider if doing so would add to the quality of your life.

 3.       Goal Setting to Move You from “Stuck” to “Unstuck”

If you are the type of person who has a hard time deciding what your goals should be, then this next exercise, courtesy of Jack Canfield, should get you unstuck.

  • Working from a list of goal categories like the one above, create two columns under each goal. Title the first column “What I Don’t Want” and title the second column “What I Do Want.”
  •  In the first column, write down what you don’t want in each of the categories. For example, in the health area you might write “I don’t want to be overweight and feel sluggish.”
  • In the second column, look at what you wrote and rewrite the goal in a positive way that describes what you do want in this area of your life. For example, using the same subject above you might write, “I want to exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes so I can feel more energized in my work and with my friends and family.” Stating a goal like “I want to lose 10 pounds” will do absolutely nothing to motivate you.
  • Since you don’t want a reminder of what you don’t want, you can get rid of the first column and focus on only the items you do want in the right hand column.

 4.       Goal Setting to Prioritize an Overwhelming Amount of  Choices (Part I)

If you are feeling overwhelmed because you has so many choices and options (this happens to a lot of entrepreneurs) and don’t know what direction to take your life or career, try this exercise to narrow down your choices.

  • Create a mind map of all your options or categories. Start by writing “2013” in the middle of the paper and draw a circle around it.
  • Now draw lines from the middle goal circle to various places on the paper and write each of your goals or options in a word or two at the end of the line and draw another circle around each of these words.
  • Now brainstorm all the possibilities in each of the areas so you can think through all the steps you would need to take in order to realize this goal. Do this by drawing lines from the circle around each topic, and writing what the step would be on each line. Or you can simply summarize points under each goal. There are several ways to create a mind map so do what works for you.
  • When you are finished, you can stand back and effectively evaluate each goal and the effort –versus- reward for attaining each goal. Now you can make decisions and prioritize what you want to accomplish.
  • If you tend to think in a linear way, you can also do this exercise in a spreadsheet by putting each of the steps described above in a column on a spreadsheet. Label the columns:
    • o Goal
    • o Reward/Benefit
    • o Steps Required
    • o Resources Needed
    • o Budget/Cost
    • o Timing
    • o Priority

 5.       Goal Setting to Prioritize an Overwhelming Amount of  Choices (Part II)

If you suffer from having to choose from so many great options and don’t know which to pursue first (Barbara Sher likes to call these folks “Scanners”), here is another way to make choices.  This one is often referred to as the ‘ol Benjamin Franklin method. It’s been around for a long time because it’s simple and effective.

  • Create a mind map using steps #1 and #2 above.
  • For each of the items on the mind map, make a list of the “Pros” on one side and a list of the “Cons” on the other side.
  • Prioritize your list of goals based on those that provide you with the most positive benefits.
  • When in doubt, just choose one or two of the most important goals and focus on those first. The idea is to do something and get some momentum so you feel good about the progress you’re making. This will likely lead you to the next steps you should take.

I don’t think the process of setting and achieving goals is a once-a-year experience. It’s a process.  If goals are nothing more than a New Year’s resolution, chances are they’ll be all but forgotten by February. This is why I come back and give you new ideas and tips on this topic throughout the year. Stay tuned…and in the meantime, I would love to hear which of these methods work for you. If you use a different process, please share so we can all learn! 

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