A Fresh Look At Goal Setting
A fresh look at goal setting -- the new year is an ideal time for deciding where we want to focus our new aspirations
I love the automatic structure the calendar year provides in terms of a time line for reviewing our progress.
Perhaps you're already familiar with the Yale study (although some say it never took place), which reported that the 1953 graduating class at Yale was interviewed and only 3% had written specific goals for their futures. Twenty years later, that same 3% was found to have a higher net worth than the other 97% combined.
This story illustrates the power and importance of goals. They provide us with targets—something to aim for. In other words, they give life direction.
In addition, goal setting is a method of anticipating and preparing for the future. It is an effective way of picturing what we want to achieve and what we want our lives to be like. We can then move towards those images in an intentional way.
We derive many other benefits from having goals as well. Here are several examples:
- Goals provide a positive expectancy of the future.
- Goals stimulate your personal growth and development.
- Goals help you to “keep your eye on the prize” and give you the motivation you need to bounce back from setbacks and disappointments.
- Goals facilitate “future thinking” — a way of looking ahead and anticipating future needs and wants.
- Goals give you a framework for making decisions.
- Goals help you to take control of your life by carrying out your own “agenda” and not one that someone else has set for you.
We may not question the value of goal setting but we mostly don’t follow through.
What we all need is a fresh perspective on goal setting. In this article and the next one, I’ll introduce you to a three tiered model that will help you to understand and harness the power of goals. After that, I’ll provide several suggestions to guide you in effective goal setting.
Three Levels of Goal setting
It’s possible to view goal setting on three different levels: doing, learning and way-of-being. These levels are nested, which means that the first levels are included in the later ones, but not other way around.
The first level, or the “doing” level of goal setting, deals with the “what” of our goals. This is the level we are most familiar with and operate in most frequently. This is the “Just do it” universe where we set the objective and then plot out a time frame to accomplish the goal. The well-known method of making sure the goal is S.M.A.R.T--specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely--falls into this category.
However, this type of goal setting, while essential, is not the whole picture. Because a Level 1 goal is often fueled by brute force, powering through, and self-discipline, most people stop pursuing their goal before it’s achieved. In other words, this level of goal setting may work in the short term, but usually fails in the long run because fatigue and burnout are unavoidable
Level Two involves developing competence. It can be exciting to learn something new and explore new possibilities. If you still don’t know where all your money is going, learn how to use Quicken, Mindful Cash Flow, or any excel spreadsheet quickly and effectively. If you want to retire, determine the amount of money you’ll need, devise a strategy to acquire and grow it and monitor it regularly. This level of goal setting deals with building competency through learning new skills.
The third level of goal setting is a process of shifting our Way of Being. At this level, attention shifts from learning a new skill and becoming competent to actually developing specific qualities of the self that will support positive and enduring change. At levels one and two, we deal with our relationship or interaction with a set of objectives. At level three, we deal with the relationship we have with ourselves, intentionally looking beyond the desired outcome to include a more holistic perspective of what we want to achieve.
However, qualities are more difficult to develop than a linear goal that is specific and measurable. A change in the capacity for patience, for example, may be observable by others and yourself, but it’s not specific and can’t be measured. For this reason, it’s important in Level 3 goal setting to work with a specific person or coach in order to create new distinctions and self-observation practices. If, for example, you want to be able to live within your budget instead of accruing credit card debt, talk to some people who are able to do that and ask how they developed that quality.. You might also work with a coach who offers self-observation exercises and practices to explore your relationship with money and buying.
Once you have selected a quality to develop, you will actually be working on two tracks simultaneously. With this method of goal setting, you will have your external goal, (which is specific, measurable, and can be broken down in appropriate timelines), but you will also have your internal goal that targets a quality or qualities you’d like to develop. Surprisingly, the more focused you are on developing the internal quality, the easier it is to accomplish the external goal. After all, the bottom line is not the goal itself, but the personal growth and sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that you achieve.
About the Author:
Judi Martindale, (www.judimartindale.com), a certified financial planner as well as a certified coach and author, was named as one of American's top 250 financial planners for three years in a row by Worth magazine. She specializes in working with women's concerns all over the country.