Swimming Without Goals? Open Your Eyes

Return to June 2010 eTalk: US edition | Canada edition

Are you still playing Marco Polo? Remember that children’s game played in the shallow end of the pool best described as water tag with closed eyes? Living daily without clearly-defined goals is adult Marco Polo. You’re hoping to reach an outcome with your eyes essentially closed to where success might be.

How many of you could actually produce your goals, right now, within ten seconds? If not in written form, could you recite them from memory? I’m guessing quite a few of you can’t. Most individuals haven’t taken the time to set clear-cut goals for their lives, and those that have likely don’t have them accessible.

Goals are important. Sometimes they are so important that we ignore them.

Goal creation is often mistakenly seen as an idealistic, challenging experience requiring hours in solitude and the assistance of a guru. Many individuals believe they are too busy for goal setting. Others simply avoid them for fear of commitment.

I would argue that living without goals is like wandering around with your eyes shut. It is crucial to know where you’re going so you can confidently move forward on the right path today. Commit yourself to living with goals and have them front and center in your life.

Here’s a quick way to get started:

1) Divide and Conquer

Split your life into specific categories. I choose Work, Home, Family, Financial, and Self, though your categories may differ. The key is to find the specific elements that compose your life. Try to keep your list simple as many goals may span across several categories.

2) Create a Vision

Open yourself up to each category, one at a time. Consider what feels like a successful you — what it means, what it looks like, how it feels. Remember to think of success not as an outcome, but as a milestone in your journey.

3) Verb/Noun/Time

Write down your goals in simple, actionable phrases. Start with a verb, specify your noun, and create a timeframe. Clearly define your outcomes. Remember, this is supposed to be simple and effective so don’t get caught up in the language. Write what speaks to you. Some examples:

  • Complete landscaping project by July 4
  • Double sales by Fiscal Quarter 3
  • Enhance ”family time” by end of year
  • Buy vacation home by 2020

4) Carry Them Everywhere

Now that you have goals, keep them with you. Stick them in your planner, your desktop, or fold them up and put them in your pocket. Review them frequently – on the elevator, between tasks. Try them out like a new pair of shoes and see how comfortable you feel with them. In time, if your goals don’t fit, you can go back and rewrite.

Goals should define your every activity as you plan and live your day. Knowing your goals, each move you make should be a step in the right direction. Your eyes are now open.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how you define and establish goals in your life please share them with us by commenting below.

10 thoughts on “Swimming Without Goals? Open Your Eyes

  1. I loved you article about goals. Almost every nigth or every three nights I sit down at my computer and write all the accomplishments that I did this day or for the week. It is like writing ajournal but not quite. If you sit and write and seee what you have accomplished you won’t believe how much you or we do during the day. It is amazing. One could be I made that important call and solved a problem that I was dreading to solve or you paid off a bill or something little. It is not the big things that get you it is the little things that you can’t always get done when you want to.

    I have a goal of trying to get ten playing gigs this year hopefully paying but I had to cancel two because I had to get stitches on my thumb and a guitarist needs his thumb to play. I still have two more coming up hopefully I will make that goals by the end of the year. If anybody needs a guitarist to play background music for there special event please let me know.

    Great articles for goals I like it.

  2. Hello,

    I used to use my Day-Timer in college and my earlier business. My blackberry crashed and I’ve lost everything. I’m consider going back to my Day-Timer, but I need to find one that can look after my business agenda, family and personal goals/schedules.

    Your suggestions are very much appreciated to guide me back to once when my life was organized and synchronized.

    Jenny Lam

    1. Jenny,

      I’m sorry to hear about your information loss, but I hope we can get you back on track. I think you’ll find that our planning systems can accommodate the needs of any professional wanting to balance work and family life. For example, our 2 Page Per Day system with loose-leaf pages allows you to manage your daily tasks, and track your daily activities with plenty of room for notes and memos. I recommend buying an extra set of blank tabs, and create sections in the back of your planner to write-in goals, lists, and include family specific schedule. (this is the system I currently use btw.) If you’re using Outlook at work, it’s an easy process to print your daily schedule and insert it into your planner. The classic planner size is perfect for printing pages 2-up and then folding the regular sheet of paper in half.

      I believe in the power of digital planning, but I also crave the simplicity and control I have using my paper day planner. I enjoy the connectedness I feel when writing down my tasks for the day, and flipping through my written goals.

      I hope this helps,

      Enjoy your time — Jeff

  3. Thanks for all the great comments! I appreciate your feedback.

  4. Writing down goals and sharing with someone who cares…and someone who can.be “at your back” when things do not go as planned…(illness, death, family matters) is good too.

  5. Great comments, but make sure the goals are:
    Real, not vague or nondescript; Achievable, don’t doom yourself to failure; Challenging, or they have no “stretch” value; Expressed in values that can be tracked (time, money, etc.). Remember the acronym, “R.A.C.E. to win!”

  6. Good article! I use my daytimer to set three types of goals, one for myself (personal goals) one for family and one for business. This works well for me.

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