Posts in goals
A Realistic Approach for Setting Goals

In full disclosure, I've only set one goal in my life that actually worked.  It was a few years ago and I began a doctoral program in eduction.  On my wall, in my office at home, I wrote on a lined piece of paper, 'Finish Doctorate by 42nd Birthday'.

The only problem was that I failed.

The doctorate wasn't completed by my 42nd birthday.  I needed another month or so to finalize all of the edits and then ship it out the door.  I had failed but my goal had not. Do I feel like it was a failure?  Not at all- I had just missed the deadline by a month.  

Writing my goal down on paper turned out to be, as science confirms, very helpful.  There was something magical about that simple piece of paper, staring at me day after day as I plugged away at my keyboard.  Don't take my word for it- check this article out to support the art of writing down goals.

If you're familiar with the Enneagram personality profile, you know that some of us are hardwired to be goal-driven and others are not.  I am somewhere in between- a keen list maker but not always defaulting to goals.  

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With all of that said, I realized shortly after the doctorate was done that goal setting needed to expand in my life.  "If it could work with one goal, maybe it could work with another," I told myself.

The "big" approaches to goals didn't appeal to me (think, Michael Hyatt's 5 Days program).  I didn't want to spend the money and typically don't like manufactured frameworks towards life change.  They feel fake to me.

Similarly, the "three words" approach didn't strike a chord (think, Chris Brogan's New Year's approach to themes for the year) as it felt like someone else's gig.  I had to find something else and something that could work for me. 

It finally appeared in an obscure blog post by Laura Vanderkam.  Her approach fit perfectly into how I think and the things I want to do in 2017. 

Here's Laura's way of setting goals:

1. Three simple categories: career / self / relationships.
2. Quarterly lists: Q1 (Jan, Feb, Mar), Q2 (Apr, May, Jun), Q3 (Jul, Aug, Sep), and Q4 (Oct, Nov, Dec.)
3. Super simple and briefly stated goals: write 30% of my next book, run twice a week at a 9 minute clip, etc.

It turns out that this approach, while I've tweaked it slightly, is very effective for at least three reasons:

1. It gives you permission to delay a goal.  For example, one of my goals is to create a second digital product for my website but I don't have the bandwidth to do this until Q2.  Since it's on my list for the year, I don't feel any pressure to tackle it until then.  
2. It enables you to potentially tackle 12 goals for the year.  That's a lot! Even if only 8-9 get done, that will still be considered to be a productive year.  
3. It lets you look at a balanced menu of goals.  Instead of just going with all fitness goals, you get to canvas all of your life, adding other areas to your set of goals.

I've adapted Laura's approach and so far, two weeks in, it's really working well.  One of my goals was to get serious about reading traditional books.  I'm currently tackling Growing Young and it feels good to sit down and read more than I had been towards the end of 2016.

So that's it.  A very simple approach to goal setting.  Try it for yourself in order to see if it works.

Inside my February Experiment: Simple Workout Regimen
Rather than set one or two New Year's goals as I had done in previous years, I set out to accomplish 12 things in 12 months.  Think of it as a Tim Ferris program for the average guy.  In January, I set out to practice the ancient discipline of centering prayer.  This month, I had two options- get myself stronger physically or continue to tone my spiritual life.

I chose the tougher of the two- it was time to get in shape.

Taking some leads from Leo Babauta's formula for setting goals (choose one at a time, write it down, tell others about your goal, tackle it every day), I launched right in and made it more specific:

100 push-ups a day and 200 abdominal crunches a I went to tackle my February challenge.


In the beginning, as with most goals, it was pretty easy. I would say that week one was full of about 6 days of successful fitness.  My success points came on days when I would begin my fitness early in the day and chip away at it.  After all, no one feels like doing 300 of anything later in the day!  The push-ups were doable and I could crank out 30-40 at a chunk.  As for the sit-ups, keep reading.


In the sit-up category, I have to admit that I don't really enjoy doing the darn things.  This was, from the git-go, my sticking point and still is, nearly two weeks into the experiment. Each one is of course good for my spiritual life as I can offer it up for someone who may not have the ability to work out or even leave their house for various reasons.  I'll need to see them more as an opportunity for prayer.

Another way that I fell short was on the days when I would just plain forget to do anything of the physical sort. 10pm would roll around and my motivation for doing 300 "its" was at an all time low.  I was tempted to just call it a day and begin again the following day.  And that's what I gave myself permission to do.  I've learned that beating yourself up over a small, missed goal is not as productive as starting the following day with greater resolve and determination to succeed.


I feel like my February experiment is now doing better.  I've been exceeding my 100 push up goal by 10-20 reps and my wife tells me that I look stronger.  She is a sweet person so I'm fairly certain she's just trying to keep me positive but I'll take the compliment nonetheless!

As for my sit-ups, I decided to take the law into my own hands and purchase an inflatable ball.  While this doesn't leave the same feeling of doing a ton of sit-ups, it's very comfortable and better for my back.  (see below)

At the mid way in my 2nd experiment of the year, I think I'm primed and ready for a strong finish.  More updates to follow.

Photo by Pablito
A New Year ... but a New "You"?
So it's  a new year and one flooded with opportunity.  I generally get pretty amped up as the new year approaches and have begun to use Christmas break as the time to prepare, pray and ponder the ways in which I want to be "new" in 2009.

I first look back over the past year- how did I do?  I had two goals and the major one was fulfilled.  I considered reloading my unfulfilled goal for '09 but then crossed it off the list.  It will be placed in my "someday/maybe" list- not going to worry about that.

My guidelines for goal setting in '09 are as follows:

  • Limit my goals to 3 or less

  • Keep it simple

  • Allow progress

I then revisited my thoughts a few days later and came up with something that I think is practical and will produce results.  Time will tell.

How about your New Year's Resolutions?