This past week or so, apart from finally getting round to painting the kitchen, I made time for reflection and goal setting. Even before a framework like ‘SMART goals’ can be applied, goal setting begins with reflection, evaluation, digging around to gain clarity of direction or focus.
Through the process, I found five ways to create a small number of meaningful goals. Each of these ways or reflection prompts rather, provide alternative perspectives in gaining clarity on what areas or things are important to you at this time. They aim to help identify what it is you actually want or need to work or focus upon throughout the year, setting the stage for meaningful goal setting.
Get clear on your personal values
Personal values are the things important to us as individuals, are mostly consistent over time (subject to major life changes and events, perhaps) and guide our actions, goals and behaviours. What do you value most in life? You might have a few, or several. I have 3-5 personal values that inspire and shape who I am.
If you don’t know your personal values or haven’t thought about them in a while, there are several resources out there that can help guide you in identifying them. I have used this values assessment workbook from Brisbane life coach, Grace & Grind. Here are articles from LifeHack and MindTools. You might also find templates in diaries such as those from MiGoals helpful to the process.
Bonus tip: placing images of your personal values into your diary, journal or vision board can help remind and inspire you every day.
Identify current priorities
Now, priorities are different from values because they reflect what is important to you or what requires your attention in the current chapter or stage in your life.
Priorities need to be few in number. Be realistic. Otherwise, if everything is a priority then nothing is. We can do anything we want, but not all at once.
Draw a timeline
Have a long list of goals? Want to do everything at once? Draw a timeline. This strategy helps me immensely in narrowing down what I can realistically achieve in accordance with my values and priorities at a given time.
For example, my family is expanding this year. I’ll become a mother again in May. As much as I want and need to focus on family life and the early parenthood experience right now, it’s coincided with a renewed research ‘itch’ that I fiercely want to scratch. I also want to do a post-grad dip in psychology.
I find 3-5 years is a useful timeframe for this exercise. Mark the years along the line and then underneath the line I note main things I know will happen – how old I’ll be, how old my children will be, an estimate of parental leave, etc. I plot what I want to do, focus on and achieve above the line.
The timeline is a comfort to me in that it lets me know there is time for what I want to do and gives an idea of when. Honestly, this exercise has helped the goal setting process in reducing the number of goals for the coming year.
Reflect upon any burning questions that came for you the previous year
If you keep a journal, you might have come across unknowns or questions in the previous year. Take a look through your entries to find key themes and ask, what was important to me the previous year? What did I neglect to pay attention to? What was confusing that I want to find more about?
Write these down. These questions could provide a solid base for this year’s goal setting.
Evaluate the different areas of your life
There are different ways you could go about this. You could rate how satisfied you are in each area of your life. You may have come across the ‘wheel of life’. Templates for this exercise are everywhere with a quick Google search. I splashed out on a MiGoals diary this year and found a template within. Or you could simply create headings on a blank page and write dot points of your reflections underneath each. Either way, evaluating life areas can help identify where you need to focus attention this year and pave the way to setting meaningful goals.
After you’ve done some thinking and jotted down some ideas, it’s time to hone those goals into actionable ones. I noted down three areas I want to focus on this year, each with a vague-ish goal. I then journaled each focus area asking the questions, 1. What does this goal look like? Or what does success look like?, and 2. What activities/habits can I do that will help achieve the desired result?
I hope these five ways to goal setting help you to make meaningful progress toward what you want this year.
Happy new year and take care.