How to plan the right goals for yourself
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past few weeks thinking about goals. Thinking about how goals help me work on my personal vision.
Sometimes I think about this so often that it feels like setting goals seems more like a hobby. I am a supporter of setting goals yet I think goals are misused. The focus on goals, I think, can get in the way of seeing the bigger picture.
I want to expand on the post I wrote around creating a personal vision.
In that post, I focused on why a personal vision is important so now I want to focus on how the right goals are important to that vision.
First, I want to discuss the differences between goals and vision.
Goals are the bite size and specific actions that have a beginning and an end. They are actions that can be measured and once you’re done with that goal, it goes away and you build on it.
For example, a goal can be described as wanting to lose 1 pound per week while a vision would be to lead a healthy lifestyle.
We can consider goals as a tool that tells us what we need to achieve a planned outcome. Sounds simple right?
A vision is the high-level perspective of how you want your life to be, what kind of person you want to be and a general direction for your life.
Visions are open ideas, they don’t have a beginning or end, they can’t be measured like goals and are a lot harder to conceptualize. It takes a lot of thought and consideration to think about how you want your life to be and it always changes depending on how you grow as a person.
Your vision can be long or short, detailed or general. A personal vision could be “I want to be more well read”. A goal of this vision is to read a set number of books per month or per year.
When you start to develop an idea of your own vision, you can make it as long or short as you think necessary, there’s no wrong way to do this.
It can be a short statement for physical health or a detailed roadmap for your life. When you write it, you have to be realistic and honest with yourself and your dedication to the tasks required to get there.
For me, there are three aspects to my vision: personal, social, and professional. With these three aspects, I can work on creating and tracking goals.
Goals and visions working together
Working and not getting anywhere
Do you ever feel like you’re working on what you want to do but you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with it? I was like this when I kept making goals but didn’t have a higher reason for these goals, this is when I realized I didn’t have a vision for where I want to be.
For this reason, you’ll need to have both a personal vision and goals. These two concepts are complementary to each other. Having one without the other just doesn’t work and is unproductive.
Creating a vision of what you want your life to look like can help direct when creating goals, my experience is now to use goals as a tool, not as an end.
Goals are an excellent way of directing you on what to do but they won’t tell you why you’re doing it these actions.
A goal of mine was to get into Pharmacy School so I worked hard, achieved a 3.8 GPA and when I received the acceptance letters it was great but there was something missing, something empty about the moment. I didn’t have a personal vision to support the goal.
While I was in Pharmacy School I started to think about the reasons why I wanted to be in that program and I could only come up with one or two employment-related reasons. There was no personal passion behind the decision, it was purely economic.
Working and not enjoying your success
Looking back at the experience of failing out of Pharmacy School, it was a miserable experience but it only hurt my esteem from an economic perspective and not a personal one. I didn’t have a significant reason for wanting to be in that program, I went into it because it seemed like the next logical step in my educational and professional progress.
Again, having goals is a great way for tracking progress because they provide feedback on your actions but they can’t and won’t provide meaning in themselves if you don’t have a personal vision supporting them.
Here’s an example of why gym memberships as a New Year’s resolution don’t work. I avoid going to the gym in January and February because people crowd the gym trying to work out. March comes and the crowd thins, then April it gets thinner. Why?
People join and work out for a vague idea of getting in shape or be healthier but these actions are unsupported by a vision. Why do you want to work out? Is it to compete in a marathon? To be healthier for your family so you don’t get tired from activities? These can be goals for a vision of a healthier lifestyle.
The same can be applied for wanting to start a business, a blog, or writing a book. These are great goals to have but what’s the point behind them? That’s the point of a personal vision.
If you can connect your goals to your vision, next time you achieve a goal you could find the experience both satisfying and excited about the next goal.
Setting too many goals
Another reason why I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere is that I was setting too many goals. This was becoming a distraction because I was trying to change too many things at once.
Instead, focusing on a couple of goals, and smaller goals, in the beginning, can help you see progress and keep motivated to build on the goals.
Unrealistic goal setting is something I am sometimes guilty of doing. This will get in the way and can be demoralizing. So focus on smaller, realistic goals and build up from there.
One of my faults is that I can become too goal orientated and lose focus on why I’m working towards a goal. It can feel like I’m trying to achieve the goal for the sake of achieving the goal and as I’ve written above, that’s a path to disappointment.
This can get in the way of short-term success and long-term motivation to keep working on your personal vision.
Goals have a starting point, they are based on your experience or lack of experience of something and your knowledge at the time. The more you work on your goals the more you grow. If you don’t reevaluate your personal vision with your goals then you’ll continue on the same path without knowing it’s the wrong path.
This is what happened to me and Pharmacy School, if I would have done a deeper self-evaluation instead of pushing through my goals, then I could have considered a Ph.D. program instead.
A personal vision is not as rigid as goals, it allows for adaptability. It gives us a path towards an overall life we want to have and it allows flexibility for us to grow into that personal vision or change it.
One of the reasons why people go into Pharmacy is because they want to help others in the community. Applying rigid goals towards this end would have us sitting through hours of chemistry and pharmacology. But there are other ways of helping people, we could volunteer in the community, become a teacher, or a nurse. Having a personal vision can help us sort through what we want and how we get there.
The stress of failing to achieve goals and vision adaptability
We get stressed and it’s easy to understand why. We focus on goals as the ends of a journey and not a tool. When we have a goal-driven mentality, we can cause unnecessary stress when we don’t achieve the goal.
It’s not a great feeling when I don’t achieve my goal. I don’t see it as the tragedy it once was, I don’t feel the disappointment as sharply.
Looking back, Pharmacy School was a goal of mine but failing out of the program didn’t significantly change my life as I thought it would. I was depressed for a while, angry at myself and disappointed.
Then I realized the trajectory of my life was unaltered by this event.
As I mentioned before, goals are useful tools. But when we become driven by them for themselves and not the bigger picture, it could result in stress, anger, and other demotivating actions.
Focusing on a vision can help reduce demotivating and unproductive thoughts and actions. It gives us an overarching long-term ideal to achieve.
When being goal-focused, we tend to track progress on an item by item basis without seeing how it affects the greater vision. Instead, I recommend that we monitor our goal progress while keeping in mind the personal vision associated with that goal.
This way we can see measurable progress towards completing goals. This decreases the feeling of being overwhelmed by the pressure of completing goals for the sake of completing them.
When I track goals and don’t see progress, I tend to feel unmotivated. I have to think that motivation comes from persistence and dedication to the task.
It’s important to not have blind dedication but mindful dedication. Taking a mindful dedication to goals, making this a habit will reinforce motivation. This is how we grow from discipline and sticking to our personal vision.
Tracking progress can also help you to get started on your personal vision and goals. Just starting an action, even if small is a valuable step towards where you want to be. Doing something, anything can lead to something greater.
The right goals
We may ask ourselves, what are the right goals? The right goals are the goals that align our actions and our personal vision. It sounds easier than it is. It’ll take a lot of introspection to figure out your personal vision. Then it’ll take more work to figure out goals to support that vision. Lastly, it’ll take discipline to follow through with your goals.
Take time to evaluate your goals to see if they are really helpful on your path towards your personal vision. If they aren’t working, change them. If you’re failing in them, find out why and change it, learn from it.
So here’s a challenge for 2018 while this year is still fresh. Make small sensible goals but integrate them based on how you want your life to be. Track your progress and note your achievements and find why you failed. Don’t get stuck on the failure, use it as a learning experience. Hopefully, it will lead to decreased stress and disappointment.
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