Benefits of Long-term Goals
When you think of goal setting, you're probably thinking of New Year's resolutions like losing weight or exercising more. For the purpose of this post, when I refer to goals, I am referring to long term goals that pave the way for a vision we have in our heads of the kind of life we want to lead and the values that are important to us. I think it is safe to say that most people do not have written out long term goals that they use to help them shape their months, weeks and even day-to-day lives. Here's why we should all have these in place:
1.) They give you an internal compass. The late Stephen R. Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, compares the principles we use to make decisions to a compass that directs us in making those decisions. When you create goals based on the principles you value most, you use that internal compass to make decisions about life and work. When you start living with these goals in mind as a habit of every day life, your focus and direction are clear, allowing you to make choices with greater intention and conviction because you are firmly connected to the reasons why you are making them.
2.) They challenge you to evaluate your values. Often we strive for things without understanding the true drive behind it. A lot of us have never stopped to define and physically write down the principles we want to live by and what that means for our future. You may even see it as a pointless task, because you think, "Of course I know myself and what's important to me", but take some time to make sure that you actually do understand. Sometimes we take certain paths in life because we are pushed by other people's visions of what we should be or do, and it isn't until later that we begin to question if we chose right for ourselves. By regularly evaluating our goals and the values behind them, we don't have to question our decisions as much because we know exactly why we made them. We can cut down on the mental clutter created by self doubt that stems from a "fuzzy" sense of self. Whenever you set a goal for yourself, ask yourself, "Does this contribute to the vision I have for my life?"
3.) They can strengthen relationships if shared. Another great practice is to create family or relationship goals together. Creating goals that enable growth within a relationship or family help everyone involved to become interdependent on attaining those goals and, in turn, grow closer together. You become cheerleaders for each other and further develop those relationships by taking a more active role in each other's interests. It's a good idea to set goals for the family or couple to achieve together and individual goals in which you act as accountability coaches for each other. This allows you to work as a team when needed and be a supporter letting the other shine, creating a natural give and take that every relationship needs and encourages overall growth within those relationships.
4.) Setting specific goals will give you more purpose and drive. When you set goals for specific outcomes (e.g. "Increase sales by 4% by end of the quarter" or "spend 2 hrs every weekend working on a fun math project with Peter"), you are not only waking up to do a good job at work or be a better parent, you are waking up with direction on how to do that.
Now that you know you want to increase your sales by 4%, you know that you need to create a plan to help you do that. You do this by breaking down your long term goal into short term goals, which may look like this, "gain one new client every week". Now that you have a weekly goal, break that down as well. Going by my sales record, I gain a new client for every 100 calls I make, so I need to "make at least 20 calls a day". You get the picture. Use your long term goals to create that road map to the end result you want to see.
Having long term goals in place to guide your everyday life is a great tool for helping you make the right decisions for you, finding more depth in your relationships, and giving you greater purpose, but they are rendered useless without first defining the principles that are truly important to you and understanding the vision you have for your life. Make sure you take time to sit down and evaluate these for yourself and with your significant other and then write it down and build your road map.