I know a lot of people who hate the idea of setting goals. This aversion can make it difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish anything useful—except by accident. I believe the reluctance to set goals stems from the way we were forced to set them and ignore them in favor of 10,000 trivial tasks in the corporate world—only to be punished for not accomplishing them in our annual review.
Yes, I’m talking to you, computer industry!
But I have come to view goal setting as a spiritual practice. It focuses your intent on what matters to you.
All of your goals should derive from your personal values or principles. But you must first identify what those are. Once you do, you can use them to determine whether the 10,000 things that beset you in the course of your daily life support your values or distract you from them. With well-defined goals, you can quickly determine which tasks are important, which you should do now, which you should put off, and which you should ignore. Many of the things that seem urgent in the moment resolve themselves if you ignore them, but others can still come back to bite you in the butt.
Before you can set goals that support your personal values, you must first determine what those values are. Values are what really matters to you. I like to think about values as nouns—ambiguous ones at that. Some values might include:
- Social responsibility
- Family and other relationships
The goals you set to support your values should be attainable, something you can get done. I have talked about SMART goals elsewhere, as has my partner, Russell Mangum. So, I won’t distract you by repeating myself here. Not too much.
Let’s say you have an aspirational value of Social Responsibility, and you’ve decided you want to do something about homelessness. An attainable goal to support that value might be to help Habitat for Humanity build two affordable houses this year.
Each of those two houses is a milestone you can check off once it’s built.
Steps and Tasks
Now it gets interesting. To meet that goal, you can contribute your time, your money, or both. Each of which involves layers of tasks and sub-tasks.
If you choose to donate $1,000 of your time, you have to:
- Determine how much an hour of your time is worth.
- Divide $1,000 by your hourly rate to determine how many hours (more or less) you need to contribute.
- Coordinate your schedule with Habitat’s to know when you need to work.
- Prioritize that time to keep it available so nothing prevents you from helping out.
Real World Intrusions
Understanding your values and the goals that supports them helps you decide what to do when an “urgent” task tries to invade your awareness. It enables you to focus your intent on what matters to you and even helps you identify and resolve conflicts between values. So, the next time your boss wants you to work on a Saturday you already have devoted to something else, you can think about it and decide what you want to do. Working that day may bring in more money that you could satisfy multiple values. You could donate the extra money (assuming overtime) to Habitat and provide for your family by keeping your boss happy. Or you could decide what you already had planned is more important to your values and happiness.
Each new request, each new item on your unending to do list is an opportunity to support your values or a distraction from them. It’s really all your choice.Hermann says please like and share!