Goals Alone Won’t Do

Everyone likes to have goals.  There is something exciting and encouraging about looking to the future and envisioning how it could be.  However, just having a goal is not enough, at least if you want your goal to become a reality.  The setting of a goal is easy.  Creating a plan of action to achieve your goal can be challenging.

I was listening to Jeff Haden on The Learning Leader Show podcast talk about the importance of having an action plan with steps you can take that will move you closer to the attainment of a goal.  This was information I’ve heard a zillion times, but this time, it was like hearing it for the first time.  It’s weird how that works!

Like most people, I’ve been guilty of setting goals and not following through with them.  I love the end of the year because I focus on what I want the next year to look like and write down a number of very specific goals.  Some I achieve, and others I lose track of or don’t make the progress I’d like to.

Upon hearing Jeff’s message, I realized that in all the goal setting I’ve done, I have never actually written out the specific action steps and timeframe to accompany the goal I’d like to achieve.  No wonder several of my goals are unattained or forgotten.  If I don’t identify what I need to do to attain them, it’s largely just wishful thinking.

It got me thinking, in order to help me reset my existing goals, and get a jump on the system I’ll use for next year’s goals, I think I need to integrate the following concepts:

  • Describe the specific goal
  • Determine the action steps I’ll need to take to achieve the goal
  • Make a plan to take these action steps on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
  • Revisit this plan at least weekly

In addition to the above concepts, it also seems important to break up large goals into a series of smaller goals that take less than 90 days to achieve.  Larger goals that take 12 months to achieve can feel overwhelming or breed a false sense that they can be started later since they won’t be realized for quite some time.   When broken down into a series of smaller goals we increase the likelihood of building momentum having early success.

If goals are worth having, then we should have a process in place that ensures the greatest probability of seeing them fulfilled.

The next time you’re setting goals for yourself, try integrating these ideas.  The only thing that stands in the way of where you are and where you want to be is the actions required to get there.

Don’t Pursue Happiness

We should never pursue happiness.  That sounds weird to read, and write, but I believe it’s true.  I don’t think we should pursue being happy as our primary goal.

I’ve heard people say that they just “want to be happy”, but when questioned, they often lack a plan or any idea how to achieve the happiness they seek.

I think our efforts would be better spent focusing on doing the things that bring happiness.  “But wait!” you might be saying.  “Isn’t that the same thing as pursuing happiness?”  Not really.  Here’s why.

Being happy is a byproduct of doing something else.  The feeling of being happy follows an action.  You don’t just “be happy”.  Something comes first; some initial action sparks happiness.  The action is the cause, happiness is the effect.

Here’s what this looks like in the real world.  If you want to be happy, determine the things that make you happy, and do those things.  (The premise I’m working from is that the things that make you happy are good, moral, legal, and will build you up and those around you.)  Perhaps being in good physical condition or serving others makes you happy.  Maybe something in your career or spending time with family friends or a community you belong to.  It might even be using a gift or talent you possess.  Most likely there are multiple things you can do that make you happy.  Whatever those things are, do them.  Don’t avoid them or diminish their importance.

Instead of continuing pursue happiness alone, begin stoking the fire of happiness by taking the actions that cause happiness to follow.  When you do, you’ll find that happiness is waiting on the other side.