Goal setting is a way to turn dreams into reality by committing to tangible action items with deadlines. Goal setting appeals to my neurosis of list making and data analysis; can you tell I’m an engineer?
Successful goal setting and accomplishment requires three things: a substantial purpose that will keep you motivated in the long run, realistic and gradual goals, and determination and grit to achieve your goal. These 4 steps will get you started into a goal setting routine and hopefully enable you to achieve your boldest aspirations.
- Self Reflection- WHAT do you want?
- Set Goals – HOW are you going to get what you want?
- Accountability – WHO will help you?
- Reflect on results and repeat- WHAT is working and what needs to change?
Self Reflection – An Origin Story
I jumped on the goal setting bandwagon back in January when Olivia invested in the Happiness Planner. We decided to goal set together to keep each other accountable and help each other realize our goals. The Planner set us up for success by starting with some deep and difficult questions on happiness, success, personal strengths and weaknesses, achievements, fears, dreams and eventually led us to long term and short term goal setting. This reflection process was empowering. The Planner focused our attention on things that were actually important to us instead of what we thought we should be doing or achieving compared to our peers.
The hardest reflection for me was: “What are your dreams?” I really had to dig deep to answer it and my answer still doesn’t seem complete. For example, is having a family my dream? Sure it is somebody’s dream (particularly my mother’s) but personally, it’s not something I dream about; rather, it is something I expect will happen for future me. This wasn’t a particularly new revelation to me but articulating what I actually want in life beyond some long term goals escapes me. I’m not afraid to say that I don’t really know what my “dreams” are but I don’t think this will impede me from achieving a successful career and life, whatever that may look like.
Start with WHAT you want to achieve then break that down into HOW you will do it.
Start with what you want to achieve in life. DREAM BIG. Here are some of ours:
- Be a CEO
- Own a business
- Work internationally
- Sit on a board
- MBA at Harvard
This sounds daunting but you probably already have some expectations in your mind that you haven’t said out loud or put pen to paper. Think big and don’t worry if this changes a little bit or drastically over the years. Shit happens and you are allowed to change your mind!
Long Term Goals
Next set 10, 5, and 1 year personal and professional goals. Start by breaking down the dream into smaller steps.
Dream: You want to own a house (we’re talking the mortgage is paid off, that baby is yours).
10-15 year: Pay off mortgage (maybe longer than 10!)
2-3 year: Buy house. Yay!
1 year: Research neighbourhoods, talk to banks, get approved for a mortgage, get a realtor.
Monthly list: Save money, pay off loans, talk to people you know who own houses, watch lots of HGTV, etc.
Short Term Goals
Monthly goals are much easier to complete as they are the slow but manageable grind of steps to get you to your long(er) term goals. Every month take some time to remember why you set your goals, how will they contribute to your definitions of happiness and success. Then go ahead and live your life until the end of the month. Before you go and set yourself some new monthly goals, take a hot minute and reflect on your last month’s goals and how well you did!
Olivia and I completed the personal reflection and goal setting together. This process established a sense of accountability to answer fully and honestly, and not to skip over tough questions. We encouraged each other to aim higher for professional and personal goals because we believe in each other.
Beyond goal setting with a friend, I’ve shared my set goals and reflections with other close friends. They provided insightful comments, particularly by identifying strengths or personality traits I wasn’t able to articulate or recognize on my own. They also reminded me of accomplishments I didn’t consider worthy of writing down.
Reflect, Rinse, Repeat
Don’t just “set and forget” your goals; you are more likely to achieve your goals if you check your progress. Be positive and kind to yourself if you weren’t able to achieve everything you set out to. Use the opportunity to re-evaluate why you weren’t able to succeed and adjust your goal, if needed. Personally, the monthly review has been an enlightening experience. I needed to marinate on some of the deep questions, like dreams, and I have since added to my initial, small list. I feel more accountable to my goals each month and I am refining how to set better goals, with practice.
Speaking of, practice makes perfect, right? Think about goal setting like you would any other new skill. Would you expect to good at something on the first try? No! Incorporate goal setting into your routine and set a reminder or date with a friend to hold yourself ACCOUNTABLE for follow up; you will be well on your way to success!
What are your goals? What was the most challenging goal you set your mind to and achieved?
We want to hear from you, please comment below!
Elaine is an environmental engineer (in training) at a civil engineering consulting firm in the Greater Toronto Area. Her job is mostly figuring out if poop is going to flood your basement and she works with different levels of government to prevent (sh)it from happening. Outside of engineering, Elaine spends her weekends tap dancing and enjoying artsy activities that balance out her engineering life.