I’ve recently been asked to meet with a church council at their annual retreat in a few weeks to help them begin setting some goals for their various teams. People who know me know the value I place on setting goals. For much of my life I did what most people do: I just floated through life hoping good things would happen. That is not a recipe for success. It wasn’t until I heard Zig Ziglar talk about the importance of goal setting at a conference I attended that I recognized that if I wanted to succeed at anything I needed to become serious about setting goals for my life.
I bought his material at that conference. At the time it consisted of three albums of cassette tapes with accompanying manuals. I also bought a book he was selling to help me track the way I used my time and to track my goals. For the next four years I recorded everything I did in those books! I also tracked how much effort I gave to each of the goals I had established. It was an eye-opener. Any time you want to use the excuse that you don’t have time for something, begin tracking how you actually use the time you do have to see how much of it is wasted on trivial things.
Some time later my employer asked each of us on executive staff to set 2-3 goals for the coming year. These would be used as part of our annual review. Most people wrote down all their goals on an index card. My three goals used a sheet of paper each. Some jokingly called me an over-achiever until I showed them the goal setting system I learned from Ziglar’s system. I didn’t just write down a goal I also listed
- The benefits of reaching the goal
- Any major obstacles I could see that might keep me from reaching the goal
- Any special skills or knowledge I might need to reach the goal
- Who I would ask to assist me in reaching the goal
- A specific plan of action I would take to reach the goal.
I followed this format for every goal I listed. It is the same format I will teach this church council, and it is one that will work for anyone in any career.
Ziglar used to claim that 97 percent of people had no formal goal setting system despite numerous studies that prove that those who set specific goals are more successful. Done right, goal setting is hard work, but I am convinced it pays off.
It’s best to set goals that are short-term, medium-term and long-term. A short range goal might be something you want to achieve in a month or a quarter. A medium-term goal might be something you want to achieve by the end of the year, and a long-term goal would reach out further than one year.
Most people have heard of SMART goals, but in case you haven’t a smart goal is one that is Specific, Measurable Attainable, Realistic and Time-defined. To say you want to lose weight is not a SMART goal. A SMART goal might be that you want to lose twenty pounds in six months. See how that fits all the criteria for a SMART goal?
I usually began working on next year’s goals in November of the previous year. By the time the new year rolled around I had thought through them, had them written out and was ready to tackle them. Although this year has already started it’s not too late to begin working on your goals for this year if you haven’t done so already. Just try setting goals for a year or two and see if it doesn’t allow you to be more productive and effective. If it doesn’t you can always go back to drifting.