The results of the Poll are in. Thank you for participating. It appears that most (almost 80%) are not formally sitting down each year to set clear, concise, and attainable goals. For the 20% who sit down, reflect and set goals, this may seem more like a review. Of the majority, about 15% set some sort of goals, and almost 60% have an idea of what to accomplish and press towards it. This leaves the 7% who are just winging it out there.
Until recently, you could have put me into two of these camps. I jumped between winging it and having a general direction or idea. Was this effective? I guess so, I somehow managed to accomplish things and provide a roof over our heads. But there were always ideas, dreams or projects that seemed to just hover out there in space and never actually become reality.
Two things happened.
1. I was sitting next to a very successful person for a few days in training. During one of many discussions, they asked me what my goals were for the next year, and what was my plan to accomplish those goals.
I struggled and stammered to find a response. A combination of embarrassment and frustration filled that space. I think they could tell I needed some help, and provided the much-needed relief.
“It is okay you know. Maybe a simple worksheet would help. Let me send it to you.”
2. A friend called me out.
“I have heard you talk about that same goal year after year, and yet you have not made any progress. When are you going to actually do it?”
These two events made me realize my lack of setting actual goals, left those big ideas or dreams just floating out there from year to year. Periodically, I would try to make progress and tackle some part but it would seem overwhelming and I would stop.
During this same period of time, numerous requests came my way to help senior teams and organizations set goals. As I stood before them, facilitating their long-term vision and strategy my own lack of a plan began to make me feel like an impostor. For no other reason, I wanted to make sure if they asked me about my own goal setting I had an answer. I took the advice and the worksheet and began to set some goals.
The process of setting the goals was more helpful than I ever imagined. Setting goals required me to think about and choose between various conflicting visions and dreams. Once created, the list provided me with the focus and accountability I needed to make actual progress.
As the new year approaches, maybe a simple worksheet will help you as well. It can be overwhelming, but take the first step. Maybe the best place to start is with Your Sentence. I hope that process provides the vision you need to set that first goal.
Normally, I would tell you to get out there and tell someone about your goals, but Derek Sivers at TED.com made me think twice about offering this advice. Perhaps after setting your goals, you should keep them to yourself. Or maybe start with one person ONLY if they will push you on the hard work necessary to actually accomplish that goal.
Now get out there and set some goals, 2012 is going to be great!