Live by Design, Not Default

Posted by Todd Smith

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Goal setting is fundamental to any type of achievement. If you want to live a life of purpose, setting goals will increase your odds of reaching your desired outcome.

The process of setting goals helps bring clarity to the things that are truly important to you. Absent a clear picture of what you want to achieve in your life, you will be left wandering aimlessly through life like a ship without a rudder, without ever achieving anything worthwhile.

When you set clearly defined goals and create a plan to achieve them, you will begin to live your life by design, not default. You will feel motivated and empowered.  Your self-confidence will grow and you will begin to feel like you are in control of your life. When you are crystal clear on what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to focus your efforts on the things that will help you reach those goals.

Six Basic Elements to Goal Setting

1. They must be important to you—Goals are not casual wishes and things you simply desire. The only way you will achieve any goal is if the goal is truly important to you. If the goal is only slightly or moderately important, it’s highly unlikely that you will follow through and do what is required to achieve it.

2. They must be specific—You must know exactly what you want. Your goals cannot be vague or ambiguous. For example, if you want to lose weight, you would not set a goal to simply lose weight. Instead, your goal must be specific, such as I want to lose 30 pounds.

3. They must have deadlines—What is the date or deadline for when you want to have achieved your objective?  If you do not establish a date to achieve your goal, you won’t feel any urgency, you won’t be motivated, and you won’t be able to draft an action plan to achieve it.

4. They must be measurable—Whatever it is you want to achieve must be something you can measure.  If you cannot measure your goal, how will you know if you are making any progress toward its achievement?

5. They must be realistic—Goals should make you stretch and push yourself, but they shouldn’t be so high that you set yourself up for failure.  Once you achieve a goal, your confidence will grow and your desire to set and achieve new goals will follow.

6. They must be in writing—Goals are not dreams in the back of your mind that someday you hope to accomplish.  Instead, goals are definitive objectives that must be written down and reviewed on a periodic basis.

Goal-setting Categories

To live a balanced life where you enjoy all the benefits life has to offer, goal setting in the following key areas is important.

  • Career—What would you like to accomplish in your career? What level of success would you like to achieve? What’s your timing for job advancement?
  • Financial—How much money would you like to earn?  How much would you like to save each month?  How much money do you want to have saved by the time you reach retirement?
  • Family—What would you like your family life to look like?  What types of things would you like to be able to do with your family? What type of relationship do you want to have with your children?
  • Spouse—Do you want to get married?  What kind of relationship would you like to enjoy with your spouse?
  • Spiritual—Do you believe in God or some other higher power?  If so, what is your objective to grow yourself and your knowledge in this area?
  • Health—How important is your health?  What is your desired weight? What health issues do you need to address?
  • Personal—Do you have some personal things that are important to you? Do you want to improve your tennis or golf game, travel to the Great Barrier Reef, or remodel your home?
  • Social—What types of things do you want to do socially? With whom would you like to develop a better relationship?

Take a few minutes to evaluate some of your most important objectives and if they don’t fit within these categories, create some new ones and add them to the list.

The Goal-setting Process

I’ve used various techniques for goal setting throughout my career, but after 30 years I’ve determined that it really comes down to a simple three-step process.

Step 1. Make a list of the categories important to you. Identify the areas of your life where you need to establish goals. Use the category list above and add others that may be unique to your situation.

Step 2. Follow the six basic elements. What are the BIG-picture goals that are important for you to achieve?  Make sure they are written, specific, measurable, realistic, and have deadlines.

Step 3. Put together your plan. A well-designed action plan clarifies the things you need to do in order to achieve your goal, outlines a prioritized sequence of steps, and serves as a method of measuring your progress to ensure that you are on the right track.  I strongly encourage you to read these two prior blog posts to help you design your plan.

If you want to feel like you are in control of your life and increase the odds of achieving the things that are most important to you, please take time to complete this exercise. Don’t blow off this lesson. Goal setting is FUNDAMENTAL to achievement.

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results. If you are not where you had hoped you would be at this time in your life, then why not take the time to set your goals and put together a plan to achieve them?  What have you got to lose?

What’s more important to you: watching TV, communicating with your friends on Facebook, or taking the time to design your future? What you choose to do with your time will tell you the answer.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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