In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia
Goal setting is a necessary skill if you desire to be highly productive and accomplish significant things. And realizing your potential might be the key to your happiness. I’ve done my share of reading about goal setting and wrote a series of 7 blogs on goal setting. Being long on procrastination and short on discipline, goal setting will be a skill I will always be struggling to perfect. Having a wife that’s incredibly disciplined and strives never to waste time is an incredible gift. It allows me to witness the power of leveraging time in the pursuit of goals that makes one feel vibrant and alive. Time is a precious and finite resource that shouldn’t be squandered.
As with most processes in life, the key to improvement is discovering by trial and error what works and what doesn’t work for you. And what works for you doesn’t need to work for anyone else. Setting long-term goals isn’t exciting or inspirational for me. Perhaps this is a function of age and maybe long-term goals are more appropriate and meaningful for younger people whose careers are just beginning and their life is in the earlier stages of unfolding. Short-term goals work best for me. They are easier for me to visualize and to anticipate the benefits of the end result. I think short-term goals also accommodate my reality and basic temperament. Kathy is a different animal – she knew by the age of 4 that Broadway Musicals would play a large role in her life and in college committed to life-long goals that she still honors and works towards. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Goal setting strategies have to correlate with who you are. We have to consider our basic temperament (i.e. how we are wired). Some can pace themselves with measured daily progress, others lollygag along the way but have a strong kick at the end to finish a project on time. I’m an 11th hour sort of guy and I suspect that will never change.
The last year has been very productive for me and I attribute it to undertaking and completing a series of short-term goals. This isn’t for everybody but it works for me and thought I would share with you why I currently favor setting short-term goals versus long-term goals:
- A greater probability that the goal will be achieved. The shorter time commitment lessens the possibility of burn-out that can lead to project abandonment. A string of short-term successes allows you to experience more frequently the feeling of accomplishment and renewal that inspires, energizes and motivates you to take on new challenges. Success breeds success.
- Will power alone is sufficient to guarantee success for short-term goals. Long-term goals require a larger commitment and staying power. You better have clarity as to what you want. Can you imagine working hard to achieve success on a long-term project and discover that your ladder is up against the wrong wall and the journey takes you to a place you really don’t want to be.
- Short-term goals allow you to experience the best of both worlds: the good feelings that accompany accomplishment and the option to more easily cease going down the wrong path. It’s like taking a test drive before you buy a new car.
- A series of short-term goals affords you a variety of experiences. Variety and newness are energizing for me.
- Short-term goals can be approached with more energy and intensity; it’s analogous to a sprint vs. a marathon.
- If the short-term goal is a subset of a larger goal (e.g. a chapter in a book) you will gain competency and confidence that will carry into future projects. Future projects will be easier, less intimidating (confidence is a learned skill) and probably be of higher quality (if the worker improves, the work has to improve).
If you are feeling stagnant and feel the need to jump-start your life, you might consider committing to shorter term goals. It works for me.