Writing Your Goal List for the New Year

This is the week that I finalize my personal goals for the new year. This is a review of the process that has gotten me to this final step:

  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. You can see a post about this step here.
  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.
Write the List

In my wallet I have a 3 x 5 card cut to the size of a business card so it will fit. On it are my goals from 1994. It is all worn down and some of the words are blurred out. I keep it to remind myself that writing goals and keeping them in front of you is powerful. This particular list had my annual goals and also several goals going out five years. I was able to accomplish those goals and seeing that list in my own handwriting is encouraging as I set and work toward new goals.

There is something that happens when you take time to consider new opportunities, when you eliminate some and when you focus your efforts on a few. The process of evaluating opportunities, or goals, is healthy. The step of then writing down the list of things you want to accomplish is brave. I heard recently that only 5% of people have written goals. Saying you are going to do something, even if only to yourself, is risky. What if you do not do it? What if you fail? What if you only get part of the way there?

The risk of failing at your own list of goals is real. Go ahead and face it. Do not deny it. There have been times when I sat down to work on my new goals and I was reminded of something I wanted to accomplish in the past and did not do it. I have to deal with that. So do you. So did Thomas Edison who said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Do not let the fear of possible failure keep you from the incredible power of focusing your mind and your efforts on a few amazing things that will transform you, your company, your career or your community. Think about the benefits that will come from accomplishing your goals. Get around people who think and talk like that - it is infectious. Get some books on people who have accomplished big things and draw your inspiration from those positive stories of success. You will learn how they overcame failures as well.

As I write my final list I have my One Goal at the top. If nothing else, I am going to accomplish this one goal. Then I have two additional objectives that seem good to me in my gut. These are two goals that keep coming back around to me each time I think about what is important. They are instinctive in a way. Then I add two to four more things that are lined up with the longer-term direction I am going. These are things that I know will help me next year and the year after. They may actually be a piece of a longer-term goal. My final list is a total of five to seven goals.

As I write these down and order them, I begin to get a bit of freedom from the entire process and my mind can turn toward doing. I feel myself getting motivated around these targets and all sorts of ideas begin to flow that will help. I get some notebooks and start writing down the ideas. There is something about having a thought and writing it down on physical paper that helps seal the thought. It makes it tangible. I am off on the next leg of the journey!

Be part of the 5% who have written goals. Develop your own process, one that fits you. Have fun with it. It is not a burden. If you are just getting started then take a few weeks to think about all of your opportunities, make lists and find your One Goal. Fill out your list with a handful of other things that will propel you forward in a big way. Dream big. Your imagination is only captivated by big things. Give it something to really latch onto. Have a great year!