Importance of Long Term Goal Setting

The important thing is not where you were or where you are but where you want to get.

Without knowledge of your destination, you are bound to waste your time, driving aimlessly. Even if you know where you wish to go but don’t plan on how you’ll get there then you’re bound to get lost.

In life, there is a default position where people aimlessly wander, simply hoping that someday their dreams come true. But no one ever stumbles upon success. No one accidentally achieves their dreams.

Rather, the achievement of one’s dreams requires concentrated and focused effort. As David J. Schwartz puts it in his book The Magic of Thinking Big:

A goal is an objective, a purpose. A goal is more than a dream; it’s a dream being acted upon. A goal is more than a hazy “Oh, I wish I could.” A goal is a clear “This is what I’m working toward.”

The importance of goal setting is common knowledge. So common that we often underestimate its importance of it and overlook the benefits we can derive from it. Many times we set big goals that we hope to achieve someday without giving thought to the smaller steps that will get us to our goal. Or, we may figure out the small things that we need to do but don’t know to what end we are aiming for.

Either way, you’ll have a hard time reaching your goals.

Instead of vague wishes, goal setting should be used not only to accomplish certain actions but also to improve yourself and improve the conditions of your life. To this point, David Schwartz encourages people to create a 10-year plan. This sounds like a daunting task because many of us don’t even know exactly what we want for dinner, how then can we create goals for ourselves for the next 10 years?

First, you have to understand the importance of such action. Schwartz uses the analogy of a forward-looking business, which would be business’ which plan for the future in order to keep growing, as a blueprint for individual growth.

Each of us can learn a precious lesson from the forward-looking business. We can and should plan at least 10 years ahead. You must form an image now of the person you want to be 10 years from now if you are to become that image. This is a critical thought. Just as the business that neglects to plan ahead will be just another business (if it even survives), the individual that fails to set long-range goals will most certainly be just another person lost in life’s shuffle. Without goals, we cannot grow.

In recent times I’ve started to think more about the kind of person I want to be as much as the things I want to accomplish. I look for the characteristic that I wish to have and those characteristics I wish to get rid of such as browsing car ad’s or looking for some new gadget that would be nice to own for the time being. Not that there is anything wrong with material possessions, but those things come and go and only bring me short term satisfaction but there is a nagging voice in my head that keeps me from being satisfied with the person that I am because I know that I am not who I wish to be.

This is where goals like the 10-year plan. Such plans can allow you to aim at an ideal version of you and can help you outline steps to get there. In order to create your own long term plan, you have to focus on two things.

First, visualize your future in terms of three departments: work, home and social. Dividing your life this way keeps you from becoming confused prevents conflicts, helps you look at the whole picture.

Second, demand of yourself clear, precise answers to these questions: what do I want to accomplish with my life? What do I want to be? and What does it take to satisfy me?

A more detailed plan would look somewhat like this:

Work department: 10 years from now:

  1. What income level do I want to attain?
  2. What level of responsibility do I seek?
  3. How much authority do I want to command?
  4. WHat prestige do I expect to gain from my work?

Home Department: 10 years from now:

  1. What kind of standard of living do I want to provide for my family and myself?
  2. What kind of house do I want to live in?
  3. What kind of vacations do I want to take?
  4. What financial support do I want to give my children in their early adult years?

Social department: 10 years from now:

  1. What kinds of friends do I want to have?
  2. What social groups do I want to join?
  3. What community leadership positions would I like to hold?
  4. What worthwhile cause do I want to champion?

I would personally add a self department which would be to work on your own health and habits, including attitudes and behaviors.

All of this planning and goal setting is done because, in order to get somewhere, you must know first where you are going. Once you have an aim then you can take action. Once your long term goals are set then you can break them down into smaller steps which would include the things you need to accomplish this year which would get you closer to your overarching goal and then, what you need to accomplish within the next 6 months, 3 months, month, weeks, and days.

In this manner, you live your life actively with each day being of use. You wake up with a purpose and plan and go to sleep knowing that you did what you were supposed to do and over time you will be able to recognize the progress you have made.

This is ultimately the point of goal setting: To make incremental progress. Such progress brings meaning to one’s life and leads to a more fulfilled life.

Use goals to live longer. No medicine in the world–and your physician will bear this out–is as powerful in bringing about long life as is the desire to do something.

Reflections on Resolutions

With the coming of the new year, many people, myself included, make promises and goals which they hope to achieve in the near future. Goal setting exercises are not only useful but they are needed as well. At least for myself, I do better when I know what my target is. It’s hard to navigate through the day or week or month without a plan and a strict schedule. Without such things, I find that I have wasted the day.

Which is why for the next year, I’ve made resolutions as I have done previously. However, in the previous years, I have failed to stay true to my word because in those years, I had simply just made a list of things that I hoped I would be able to do but I did not make a detailed plan on how I meant to achieve my goals.

Furthermore, even the goals were vague. They were as simple as getting stronger or read more books or to write consistently. Such vague goals are hard to track and without consistent feedback of whether I am improving or if I’m plateauing and failing to keep going in the proper direction, I find myself giving up, giving into a list of excuses and ultimately being content with failure.

In order to counter such a possible future for myself, I need detailed goals and a plan to achieve them. Instead of simply saying “get stronger”, I have to list exactly how much weight I plan on lifting in a particular exercise by the end of the year. Instead of saying “read more books”, I need to make a list of 50 books or so that I plan on finishing next year. Instead of saying “write consistently”, I need to dial in either a number of words per day or number of pages per day and so on, applying more specific goals at whatever I wish to improve. Careers, relationships, hobbies, etc, all can be broken down into specific targets or marks that you wish to hit.

Detailed goals are the first step, the second step is the plan. With planning, one needs to answer how and visualize possible failures or obstacles. How do you plan on achieving this goal? Would you have to wake up earlier in the morning? Would you have to make better use of your lunch break? How should your works be split? Does it mean cutting back on distractions that take up your time? Would you need constant reminders to stay on track? What daily practices do you have to do? Weekly? What takes priority? Can you split your time efficiently or is it best to tackle each goal one at a time?

Answer each question may raise more questions but through this exercise, you get to narrow down how you need to act in order to get to where you wish to go.

The biggest obstacle when it comes to such an exercise is yourself. Your own habits and actions. In a way, your self sabotaging manners cause you to fail. At least, I have found this to be true for myself. Hence, why you must visualize. You have to see yourself doing the task that you have set for yourself and then see all the ways that you may prevent yourself from fulfilling the tasks. This may be as simple as understanding your desire to hit the snooze button and then scroll through social media before getting up in the morning, however, by the time you get up, you may have wasted the early start that you had planned in order to get one of your tasks done. Or, visualization may tackle more important issues, such as negative self-talk. Perhaps you have to see yourself attempting and failing a task and then know your negative self-talk will cause you to either not try again and give up on the task or try with a lousy effort, fail faster and then give up. Through visualizing you can at least know that certain obstacles will be there and so, you can plan for those obstacles rather than blindly running.

Resolutions, goals, promises are important, in many ways, this is how people find meaning in their lives, it gives people a sense of direction which is why that feeling of not achieving your goals hurts so much and feels so horrible because it really did mean something to you. Having specific goals and a plan of action can help, however, even such things are bulletproof. Failure is part of life and you may fail to keep up with all your resolutions, however, if you can improve even one aspect of your life through resolutions and goal setting, then its worth the effort.