Ever wonder if writing down your goals really makes a difference? I get chills when I think of just how this played out in my life.
We moved around a lot over the years – mostly to pursue new career opportunities. Our last move was from the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ (5th largest city in the U.S.) to a very small town in a very rural county. How rural? Think, no stoplights and less than 14,000 people within a 3,208 square mile area. That’s right, not one stoplight in a county that is physically more than twice the size of Phoenix.
In the midst of packing for the move, Sue asked me to look through some old files to decide whether to pack or discard them. That’s when I found the note… more than 30 years old, documenting three long term goals I had written down as part of an AT&T leadership development program.
I actually had no recollection of writing down these goals, so it was interesting to see what was so important to me as my career was just getting underway.
The first goal – to make $100,000 per year. I actually remembered having this goal….and reaching it a lot faster than I thought I would. Naturally, I then set my sights higher. I was definitely blessed with amazing financial opportunities throughout much of my career. There’s a lesson or two here… but we’ll come back to that.
The second goal – to travel the world. I didn’t remember writing this one… but it didn’t surprise me. I’ve always felt the pull to explore. It took a bit longer to reach this goal. I think I was 40 years old before I traveled further than México and Canada. Now, I treasure the time I spent, and the wonderful friends I made, in travels to over 30 countries.
The third goal (and a big surprise to me 30+ years later) – to live on a ranch. Wait… what?!? I really couldn’t believe that this was one of only three goals I had written for myself so long ago. I had no recollection of writing it and (at least consciously) had not thought about it for several decades. Yet, here we were preparing for our move to a rustic, 12+ acre property (just a stone’s throw from an amazing river for fly fishing) with spring-fed ponds, a 40 year old (unfinished) barn, four sheep, a llama and room for Sue’s new horse barn, paddock’s and dressage riding arena.
I actually felt chills when I read that note… and still do when I think back to that moment.
For me, it’s a great example of the power of setting personal goals. Investing the time to think about what’s important to you and writing your goals down can be very powerful. Probably much more so if you don’t file them away and forget about them for 30 years.
Here are some steps you can take to set (and achieve) your goals.
- Right this moment, without giving it too much thought… write down your top three goals – the most important things for you to accomplish over the next 20 or 30 years. Got it. Great!
- Now, commit to investing an hour on your own this week to actually give this a lot of thought. Put it on your calendar so you won’t forget. When you are ready, go someplace that puts you at ease… someplace that gives you energy rather than sapping your energy. Review your list. Do you still feel these reflect what’s most important to you? If so, you’re good to go. If not, take the time now to work through this until you feel good about your long-term goals. It’s okay if you find you need more than three… just don’t let the list get too long. Five should be your limit.
- Put time on your calendar to come back to this sometime in the next 30 days. This time change your focus. With your long-term goals in mind, think about what needs to happen within the next 5 years to keep you on track to achieve each of your long-term goals. Add these 5-year goals to your list of long-term goals.
- Almost done. Within the next week or two, make time to create goals for the next 12 months. Think about what you need to accomplish this year to put you on track for success with each of your 5-year goals. And, you got it… add these to your list of long-term and 5-year goals.
- Final step. Put time on your calendar (at least once per year) to review your goals. How did you do with your 1-year goals? Do you still feel good about your 5-year and long-term goals? Use this time to either re-align your plans and actions with your goals… or to realign your goals.
I would love to hear your stories about the power of setting goals.