Setting Goals that Matter

By Chris Ihrig

The possibilities are endless, right? From the time you’re a young child, through the elementary school years, into high school, college, and beyond, parents, then teachers and coaches and mentors and bosses all have the same message:

You can be anything you want to be!

In a sense, they’re right. You can. You can set any goals you’d like and work to achieve them. Lack of resources may slow you down. Like everyone else, you only get 24 hours in a day (and you have to sleep sometime!). In the 21st century, distraction is at an all-time high. You’re probably reading these words on a tiny distraction machine you keep in your purse or pocket.

Setting and reaching goals is hard work. It takes self-awareness and ruthless honesty. It takes heart and commitment. Who among us hasn’t set a goal at the dawn of a new year or a new age only to see the drive to keep that goal wane within a few short weeks?

But setting and reaching goals is a mark of a leader.

Helping steer yourself and those you lead in the direction of accomplishing goals – large and small – will help keep morale high. People will want to be part of your team.

Use these practical steps to making – and reaching – goals for yourself and your team.

#1 – Look Back

You can’t decide where to go without spending time thinking about where you’ve been. What’s worked? What hasn’t? What should you keep doing? What has to stop?

First, make two lists. One of highlights from your last year. The other: lowlights. Be honest with yourself. Don’t hold back. You’re not helping anyone by looking back with rose-colored glasses.

The last time I did this exercise, I had seven items in each list. You may have more or fewer, but get them down on paper, warts and all.

#2 – KSS

KSS is simply an acronym for Keep, Stop, Start. Make a three-column grid on the same piece of paper where you just wrote down your highlights and lowlight. At the top of each column, write one word. First column: Keep. Second column: Stop. Third column: Start.

Using your Look Back, add at least three words to each of the three columns. Try to capture what you’d like to continue in the season ahead with just three words. What three things do you need to stop doing? What isn’t anywhere to be found on your highlights list…but should have been? What do you need to START doing in the year ahead?

#3 – Categorize your goals

When you try to write goals using a blank sheet of paper, it’s easy to paralyze yourself with the number of possible things you could write down. Luckily, you’ve now got a solid foundation for setting actionable goals. Your Look Back and KSS lists will help.

Let’s make it even easier by making your goals fit into five simple categories. Write these headers down on your paper. Or on the back, if you got crazy with your KSS list!

HEALTH. PERSONAL GROWTH. HOME. WORK. OTHER.

Five simple categories. In each of them, write down at least three goals. Make sure that at least ONE of the goals is risky and takes you out of your comfort zone to write down.

#4 – Get support

No one can go it alone. Even the most disciplined of us needs a pat on the back or a kick in the butt to move the ball downfield sometimes.

Under your list of goals, make a list of people who you’ll share your goals with. These should be friends. Spouses. Mentors. Bosses. Parents. Siblings. Different goals can have different accountability partners, but every goal needs at least one other person besides you who will know the goal, ask you about the goal regularly.

#5 – Get going

You’ve looked back. You’ve decided on what to ditch, what to keep, and what to start. You’ve made lists of goals in important, easy-to-remember categories. You’ve put together a support team to help keep you on track.

Now: just do it.