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Discover These Smart Goal Setting Secrets by Stephen Borgman


When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.  Greg Anderson

There are some who argue against setting goals.  Leo Babuta, in fact, argues this very point on his Zen Habits blog.  I believe he is reacting to an over-emphasis on achievement.  Mr. Babuta wants his readers to avoid the trap of being human “doings” versus human “beings”.  I can understand Leo’s and others’ points of view.  But by doing away with goal setting, we may end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Values driven goal setting is .

(This article represents Step 8 in planning your Best Year Yet for 2011.  I’ll list the first seven steps below so that you can catch up, if this is your first time here:   Step 1: Who Else Is Ready for 2011? Step 2:  Get Rid of Your Baggage Once and For All Step 3:  The Lazy Man’s Way to the Best Year Yet Step 4:  Get Out of Jail NOW! Step 5:  What Everybody Ought to Know About True North Step 6: HOW TO Balance Your Success in 2011 Step 7: Smart Goal Setting In 2011

Benefits of Value Driven Goal Setting

Here are some benefits of goal setting from LIVESTRONG. I further add here that you want to set goals that are in line with your values.  By carefully thinking about your roles and your values, you will be setting goals in line with your core priorities.

Sport psychologists D. Burton and S. Naylor reviewed 56 different goal-setting research studies to see if goal setting was beneficial. Their review showed almost 80 percent of the studies had positive results, indicating that goal setting is beneficial in a number of areas.–LIVESTRONG.com


There is something about having a meaningful goal that inspires excitement, motivation, and commitment.  I wrote about setting a goal to run a half marathon last year.  This goal provided motivation for me to get up and run on many days that I did not ‘feel’ like it.  However, the benefits of running that half marathon were many: better health and stamina; character development; and a sense of pride and well-being.

A Measure of Progress

In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are. Arnold H. Glasgow

Studies of happiness levels show that striving toward meaningful goals are part of increased levels of life satisfaction.  Setting goals provides motivation, but the goals also help us measure how we are doing in getting there.  Last year, I had a goal of setting up a website to help my clients who are on the autism spectrum.  Immediately after I wrote down my goal, I was reading up on web hosting sites, web design, and the steps needed to get there.  Each week, I knew where I was going and how far I had yet to go.  The mere act of writing down our desired outcomes helps us start becoming aware of our progress in getting there.

A Sense of Control

Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.  Fitzhugh Dodson

The Serenity Prayer, written by theologian Reinhold Neibuhr, asks God for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change (the unpredictable things in life), courage to change the things we can (goal setting–my take), and the wisdom to know the difference. Setting goals helps us work on areas of our lives that we can control.  We need to, as Leo Babuta points out, be aware of the ever changing nature of life.  However, it’s helpful to have some lights in the harbor to guide us toward our final destination/s.

Better Decisions

This is a very interesting finding from some research by psychologist Richard O’Connor: setting goals can actually simplify our day to day decision making, thus making it more easy to live in the present moment. With some end goals in mind, these goals help us filter out extraneous stimuli in favor of decisions and choices that are in line with our goals. For example, I have a goal to spend more time in meditation and prayer: thus, instead of just sitting down to the next TV program, I have an automatic decision now to spend time according to my goal, instead of just flicking on the TV. TV can come later, after I have achieved my main objective (which for me includes time with family, time working out, time in meditation, study, prayer, or time writing).

Write Goals For Each Role

You’ll want to take time to write down your life roles for 2011.  Don’t limit yourself here: you can write as many goals as you would like for each life role.  You will later go back and narrow them down.  Here’s an example of some goals I have for myself to improve in the area of my role as father:

  • take a special trip with my daughter this year to visit my parents and her cousins
  • take a special father son trip with my son
  • take time each month to spend extended time with my son and with my daughter (a father son day, and a father daughter day)
  • spend time each night connecting with my kids before they go to bed (as opposed to blogging, watching TV, etc:  this will ensure that I put my relationships before my tasks and entertainment).

Questions to Ask Yourself

Once you have taken the time to write all the goals down for each of your roles, you will want to go through your list again, asking the following questions (these questions come from Ms. Ditzler’s book, Your Best Year Yet!: Ten Questions for Making the Next Twelve Months Your Most Successful Ever

  • Will I make sure this happens?
  • Am I merely hoping this goal is achieved because it’s on the list?  (in other words, you’ve got to have a goal that stretches you, but that you believe you can achieve).
  • Is this goal specific and measurable?  Does it start with a verb?
  • Is this goal a SMART Goal? (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).  This article, SMART Goal Setting: A Surefire Way To Achieve Your Goals, will help you write truly effective and powerful goals.

Final Tips

Make Sure that Your Goals Match Your Values.

As you review your list of goals, keep your list of your top 5 values beside you. (If you need help identifying those core values, make sure you read my post regarding Finding True North). Cross off goals that will conflict or take you further away from your goals. For example, if my goal is to spend more time at home with my family, a goal to work extra hours at work could conflict with my core values of family and integrity.

Avoid “Should” Goals

These are goals that may have been on your New Year’s resolution list for the past few years. If you don’t truly feel excited or compelled by your goal, and you have not accomplished this goal in years past, you may need to either modify or get rid of it.


This post first appeared on Personal Success Factors.

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