Realistic Goal Setting

Dear Marie,

Do you have some ideas on goal setting?  I’ve been searching, but I find my most important goals don’t fit the pattern of “accomplish by” and are not very measurable. They are things I want to have in my life always.  They are not goals I want to acquire and then move onto something else.

For example, I want to have a better marriage, be more physically fit, be more obedient to the Spirit, and keep a more organized home.  These are lifestyle changes and not tick-off-a-checklist sort of goals.  They are less objectively measurable, but they are what matters most.  Can you help?  Thanks, Maren

The above inquiry has merit and I have answers.  This is what I suggested to Maren and what I also suggest to you (and me).

Identify Your Values
Goal setting involves identifying your most important values, such as those you have already listed:  better marriage, physically fit, obedient to the Spirit, and an organized home.

Distill to Projects
Making these and any other worthy goals really happen means distilling the goals into daily, weekly or monthly projects.  We know we have moved a goal to an activity because it is realistic, has a time slot, and is measurable.  For example, this year your specified goals might distill into the following activities or projects.

First let’s talk about having a better marriage.  You might list your projects as:   I will plan and invite my spouse to a Friday night date twice (and sometimes three times) a month.  (The idea here is that he would be responsible for the dates the other two weeks of the month and you would be responsible for dates on the fifth Friday of the month.)

This will include arranging for a baby sitter, putting cash aside from your budget, keeping coupons for restaurants you like, and maintaining a list of movies that you favor.

Upfront Activities
As you can see in this above example, moving a goal to specific activities takes a lot of upfront work.  You will need to put “date night” into your budget, create a file folder for restaurant coupons, begin a written list of upcoming movies  to keep in the same folder (if this is your chosen kind of date), and offer a local teenager a baby sitting job every Friday night for the rest of the year.  With this done, you have “settled” a lot of the activities that need doing for this goal.

It is in this “settling” that we have a good beginning.  However, many people are great at setting goals and even move well into the “settling” part of adjacent activities, but then their goal setting fizzles.  That is why we have a lot of exercise equipment sitting idle and so many marriages just barely hanging together.

Specific Projects
The third element is setting aside time and being very specific about what needs to happen to accomplish each of these activities.  In the example of Friday night dates, you will need to email the teenager every Thursday to remind her that you will be picking her up at 5:30 p.m. the next day.  You will have to look up movie reviews on Thursday, too, to see if you really want to indulge in that particular movie.  You might even have to remind your spouse on Friday morning that you have arranged for the sitter, have the money, and even have a movie idea.  Then sweetly encourage him to save emotional energy for your upcoming “fun night out.”

Using this same method, you can approach your other valued goals.  Remember, you are looking to identify your values, assess the needed activities to get things started, and then list the specific projects (down to the most elementary needs) to make the goal a reality.

Let’s look at the rest of your goals and suggest some ideas.

Physically Fit
Project:  I will plan to exercise each weekday morning for ten minutes before climbing into the shower.

Upfront Activities:  Find two small dishes and five marbles.  Place them in the cupboard at the top of the basement stairs.  Put my sweats and running shoes in the half bath so I’ll have them convenient when I get up in the morning without waking my spouse.

Specific Projects:  I will run around the block if the weather is good and the roads are clear.  If the weather is bad, I will run up and down the stairs in the house three times, do ten situps, ten pullups, and ten stretching exercises.  Each morning I will move one marble from dish one to dish two to monitor my progress.  I will not eat breakfast until I have exercised.

Obedient to the Spirit
Project:  I will plan to send one get well card a month, visit one sick person a month, do one food storage project a month, and spend 15 minutes a month doing family history.  I will plan to do these projects on Sundays, one project each week.

Upfront Activity:  I will purchase twelve get well cards next time I do my grocery shopping and keep them in a folder in the home office.

Specific Project:  I will write a short note and send out the card on the first Sunday.  If my family wants, I will invite them to add their signatures and notes, too.

Upfront Activity:  I will bake four dozen cookies and freeze them during the first week of the month.

Specific Project:  I will listen during my Sunday meetings for someone that is ill and plan to visit them after Church with one of my children (rotating through my children so each has an opportunity to serve with me).

Upfront Activity:  I will identify one item our food storage that needs rotating.

Specific Project:  I will cook one creative item with my family on the third Sunday using something from our food storage.  We will serve this at dinner.

Upfront Activity:  I gather photos of our parents (4 photos) and grandparents (8 photos) into a folder in the home office.

Specific Project:  I will introduce one ancestor to my family on the fourth Sunday by posting their photo on our refrigerator with a short summary including their full name, when they were born and where.  I will talk about this person at dinner.

Organized Home
Upfront Activity:  I will set up a housekeeping schedule for maintaining my home.

Specific Project:  I will plan to spend at least one hour each weekday morning returning my home to order and cleaning part of it.  I will do this before I turn on the TV, leave the house, or become involved in any fun projects.

Can you see how much work it is to achieve goals?  Having shared these ideas, I can almost feel exhaustion coming on.  You see, setting goals is easy.  Moving them to upfront activities and specific projects take planning, work, and lots of energy.

But don’t fear, such work is the best kind of work.  It will propel you to fun, focused activities and projects that will fulfill your goals.  It will make for a better life and a happier family.  It works, its possible, and it is worth it.  Let’s get on with that planning!

Photos from  Used with permission of superfloss.


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