Goal setting has become the standard practice before beginning any new venture. Before we start working out, we set a goal for how much weight we want to lose or gain. Before starting a business, we set a goal for how much we want to make. Before starting school, we set a goal for the grades we want to achieve.
I think while the intentions are good, they’re not actionable. Having a goal that is achieve X by Y is essentially saying “I hope” or “I wish”. I used to make it my routine to regularly set goals for myself.
Every week, month, and year I set goals. I would set health goals, relationship goals, professional goals and personal goals. And you know what? I achieved most of them, most of the time. This is not to brag but it’s to say that goal-setting wasn’t a complete waste. However, a lot of it was achieved subconsciously. Try as I might, it was difficult to constantly remind myself of my goals. Even though they were clear, they weren’t actionable.
They didn’t tell me “how“.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Larry Elder
So instead of setting goals, I set action plans. I laid out detailed plans and steps I would need to take to achieve what I wanted. Instead of just saying “I want to increase my store’s revenue by 10% by the end of the month” (an arbitrary and random target) I would reverse engineer what it would take to increase my revenue by 10% in a month, and begin creating an action plan to get me there.
Suddenly, it became SO MUCH more clear to me what I needed to do and what I actually wanted. In fact, while setting goals for myself got me excited, setting action plans got me confident in what I could achieve! This is a much better feeling emotionally. Excitement eventually wanes, and it sets you up for disappointment, since you setup high expectations. Confidence is a tool that can help you get to where you want to be.
Does this take more time and effort to do? Absolutely. Setting goals for yourself won’t take much time. Reverse engineering and laying out a plan of attack takes time.
Do we ditch goals altogether?
So do we just stop setting goals altogether?
If you’re not clear on what you want, goal setting can still be very useful. It’s a tool that allows you to brainstorm and figure out what it is you actually want. However, if goal setting is just a reminder for you, or a way to make you feel better or more productive, it might be a waste of time.
How to reverse engineer your goals into plans
Every month or quarter, create an action plan for every area of your life you’re looking to improve or grow.
To come up with the plan, work backwards. Take where you want to be, and reverse engineer it.
For example: I want to lose 10 pounds of fat in 3 months.
Okay, how many total calories is 10 pounds of fat? 35,000.
Okay, that means in 3 months, I need to net lose 35,000 calories. That’s roughly 2,900 calories a week, if I want to lose it in 3 months.
Okay, what can I do to lose 2,900 calories a week? How many days of exercise is that? How much exercise? What exercise? What am I eating now? How much less do I need to eat of that? Do I need to eat differently? And so on.
Now I’m beginning to formulate an actual plan instead of creating a target (despite how specific it may be) and vaguely work towards it.
Set a plan for your life
Set a plan for what you want. Goals are just reminders of what you want, plans tell you how to actually get there.
Successful people aren’t successful because they simply set goals on a regular basis. It’s because they know how they will get there.
A plan helps us achieve this.
Want something actionable? If you already have goals, take them, and create a plan to achieve that goal. Be super-specific. Even if you’re unsure on the “how”, it will force you to get creative or do research.
Take your professional life, personal life, business, health, and relationships and decide what you ultimately want from each, if you don’t know already. From here, you can create a plan. Take an entire evening or afternoon to do this if you need to. It will benefit you so much to begin to have clarity on the “how” instead of just the “what” and “why”.
If you need more resources to help you plan, there are a lot of great books out there that dive deeper on strategic planning and gaining clarity on your goals. Blinkist takes popular self-improvement and business books, and condenses them into short and easy to digest summaries of all the best points. Skip the fluff and get the nuggets quickly from some of the best books out there on goal setting and taking action.