The Secret to Goal Setting

Would you like to supercharge your ability to accomplish big things each year? Here is the secret: search for and set "One Goal".

This is my annual goal-setting routine that I have developed over the years, followed by a bit more about the key steps of setting “One Goal”:

  1. More first, then less. I gather ideas for goals all the time, throughout the year. But I tend to start organizing a wish list of things around October and early November. I wrote a bit about this process in a previous blog post, which is here.
  2. Think, study, discuss, write, think some more. In November and December I do a lot of back and forth in my mind and with the folks I work with around this list of “More”. I look for patterns, themes and leverage points inside the opportunities.
  3. Finding the One Goal. This is what I have been doing over the last two weeks of December. I go to the coffee shop and press myself to find that one key goal that can drive the others forward and when accomplished can significantly move us forward.
  4. Write the list. Once I have that one key goal identified I am able to fill out a list of 3 to 5 primary goals and then a list of 7 or so additional things that I want to move forward to set myself up for a successful year. I will write more about this next week.
  5. Long-Term strategy session. In February, after all of our budget and year goals are set, I take our leadership team for an offsite strategy session. It’s a good time of year to think about longer-term strategy such as creating a culture that outlasts us and changing the massive 1.6 trillion dollar benefits industry. It helps us see our current year goals in the longer-term context.
Finding the One Goal

When I was a young lad I had a list of annual goals that was a full page. One year, my plan was to travel to several countries, learn a language, write a book and a bunch of other things. Now when I look at my journal from that time I just shake my head and laugh at myself. What was I thinking?

I have found that the secret to goal setting, and the resulting power of getting it right, is finding the "One Goal" that drives all others. It would seem that listing one goal would be easier than a list of twenty. Yet the opposite is true. "One Goal" setting is the hardest to get right, but by far the most impactful.

In my search for the "One Goal" I have to ask myself a lot of questions from many different angles over a period of six to eight weeks. As I get closer to the new year, I have to force myself to pick one key objective that I believe will drive all the other things I want to get done.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself and observations I work through as I look over my "More" list and work it down to “One Goal”:

  • When I see myself at the end of next year, what one thing would feel the best to have accomplished?
  • What one thing, if not completed, would have the biggest negative effect on our longer-term strategy?
  • What one goal, if invested in heavily, will draw other goals and people along in the wake? Meaning, what goal has the best leverage on the other goals?
  • What goal can I load up on and get done given the resources I have this year? Some goals take longer than a year and need to be advanced, but they may not qualify for the "One Goal" title.

The hard part is eliminating other important objectives in favor of only one. But, remember that what you’re looking for is actually one lead objective that will pull all the others along with it. There is one key thing that has leverage inside of it that will make other important things move forward in a powerful way. This can be difficult to identify, so take the time to ask a lot of questions and look at it from many different angles.

You can unlock the power of focusing on one key objective. When you do, you will see people come along to help you and other opportunities begin to line up and come along for the ride. Here is to a great new year for you and your success!