Thinking About Goals Isn’t Enough

In ten days I will turn 20 years old. And, as with every birthday, I will reflect on the year past.

On my birthday I set aside time to think of goals that I would like to carry out over the next 365 days. In the past, these objectives have ranged from personal to professional, entrepreneurial to academic.

This year, unlike the 19 preceding ones, I intend to write down my goals. As I have recently learned from a mentor, writing down your goals is a difficult but necessary step towards achieving them. Thinking about something you want to do is easy and pleasurable. Writing it down, although more difficult, makes that thought more concrete and feasible.

How to write goals

Fortunately for you and I, many smart men and women have figured out a fairly straightforward formula for goal setting. I’ll be sharing the techniques that I have recently been taught, but keep in mind there are plenty of other good resources for goal setting (I’ve listed some at the end of this post). The most important thing is that you go a step beyond thinking about your goals and take the time to write them down.

Here is the 5 step process I have adopted and use for my personal goal setting.

  1. Visualize your life 3 years from now, 1 year from now, 90 days from now. Write a short paragraph about where you are, what you are doing, what a typical day in your life is like. Describe what you see and feel.
  2. Take your 3 year visualization, 1 year visualization, and 90 day visualization to build goals. Write an affirmative, present tense, quantifiable, and specific sentence (or two) that correlates with the short paragraph you have already written. Start with your 3 year goals, then 1 year and 90 days. A 3 year goal should build on a 1 year goal which should then relate to a 90 day goal. Write down 3-6 objectives for each time frame.
  3. Write down why you want to achieve the goals you have outlined above. Do this for every 90 day goal, 1 year goal, and 3 year goal. What benefit will be achieved?
  4. In a few brief sentences describe what achievement will look like. How will you know you have hit your goal? Again, do this for every time period.
  5. Create a list of steps required to meet your goal. What is the deadline for each step? Do this for every 90 day goal, 1 year goal and 3 year goal.

You will now have an outline for how you can achieve your goals.

Writing down these goals, and the steps that you plan to take to meet them is surprisingly challenging. Yet, it is by writing your goals down that the next step, actually implementing them into your life is made easier.

By planing and attaching deadlines to specific actions you will find yourself more dedicated and focused while being less stressed and worried. Going beyond thinking about goals is not easy, yet the long-term reward is well worth the struggle.

Goal setting resources

Groove blog

UC Berkeley – goal setting

NPR – writing down goals

Michael Hyatt – goal setting

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Ted Talks – goal setting

SMART goals


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