The first month of a new year has come and gone already and I’m finding myself reflecting on many of the conversations I’ve had of late.
January has traditionally been the goal-setting month, whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution or business goals for the year, many people appreciate the mental “restart” that comes with a new beginning.
From the conversations I’ve been having, though, it seems that many people mistake “goals” with “plans” or “projects.”
If you have ever read about successful people, you may have heard this before.
Huh? What’s that?
You heard me.
If you have more than 3 goals, you don’t have any.
There is no way that you can humanly pursue 20 different goals all at the same time, and give any of them your best effort. It’s simply not possible. Your focus becomes too diffused.
That’s not to say that you can’t have lots of open projects that you’re working on (although I don’t recommend it). But each of those projects should be directly in support of your goals.
And your goals should be closely aligned with what you want to create in your life. Do you want more love? More money? More freedom? New experiences? New partnerships? New business?
The lyrics made me pause and reflect on how I wanted to be remembered, and how I needed to conduct my life today in order to create that outcome.
I overheard a conversation recently where one person asked the other during a goal-sharing session, “In December, when you look back on the year, what will you be proud to have accomplished?”
Perhaps many of you have done the same thing I did the past couple of months. I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish this year.
I made sure as I wrote them down that they were specific and measurable so that I would know whether I’d accomplished them or not.
- Publish 15 non-fiction books for consulting clients.
- Design 10 new websites.
- Research writing a children’s book and associated licensing.
- Write and publish the first book in my children’s book series.
- Create 2 new premium Udemy courses.
- Write 1 free eBook as lead-in to more detailed, free Udemy course.
- Hire a bookkeeper.
You get the idea… So I won’t go on, although my list is extensive. Which makes it impressive, right?!
Goals are not To Dos
The problem is—I didn’t write my business goals for the year. I wrote my To Do list.
If I were to die the day after I created my 10th website this year, there’d be no particular sense of satisfaction. The goal isn’t significant by itself. It’s an action step, one of many, toward one of my goals.
I was going to write “toward one of my personal goals” there. But the fact is, all goals are personal. If they’re not tied to a personally motivating factor in your life, then why are you pursuing it?
Even if you work for someone else who sets a goal for you (say a sales quota), your goal isn’t to meet that goal. Your goal, more likely, is to meet the goal so that you can keep your job and continue to support your family. Or it’s to exceed that goal for the personal satisfaction and recognition that goes with it. Or it’s for the financial freedom that comes with the advancement that’s tied to a job well-done. Or it’s one of any number of other very personal reasons.
The Problem with To Do Lists
Many people struggle with setting goals because what they come up with is a mentally overwhelming and emotionally exhausting To Do list that makes them feel inadequate before they even get started.
And as new projects come up, they simply get added to the existing To Do list.
By the end of the year, when they look back at their original list, very little of it is done because of all the other stuff that got dumped on top.
However, the easiest way to cure the mental and emotional exhaustion that can come from pursuing success is to stick with the mantra I mentioned above.
Identify Your True Goals
What are your 3 goals?
These are the three things (or less) that you would be very proud of accomplishing by the end.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s the end of your life, the end of the year or the end of the quarter. You can make the goals as finite as you’d like. But you may find that some of your goals never change. They become a perpetual pursuit.
For example, one of my goals is to interact with people in such a way that they feel seen, heard and appreciated.
That’s my what. And it’s not something that’s going to happen by itself. I have to be intentional about it. And it’s not a goal that’s going to be completed. It’s one I’ll always have to work on.
But I know firsthand what it’s like to feel insignificant, and that’s not anything I would ever wish on anyone else. So, if I can help someone else feel seen, heard and appreciated, then at least that’s one person, one starfish, I’ve made a difference for. That’s my why.
As I take on new projects, I can measure them against the goals I have defined for myself to see how they fit with what I want to accomplish. When I identify something that brings me closer to achieving my goal, it becomes part of my how.
And if something’s not a fit, I shouldn’t be doing it. It’s as simple as that!
If I spend my time on things that don’t bring me closer to my goals, I’m robbing myself and others of the best I have to offer, and that’s not the kind of legacy I want to leave.
My Challenge to You
So now that January is over and the crazy goal-setting frenzy has passed, I’d encourage you to go back and look at your list with a critical eye.
Did you set down your goals? Or did you create a To Do list?
If you find it’s the latter, don’t worry. You don’t have to wait until January 1st to fix it.
Just start today. Ask yourself this simple question and see where it takes you.
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