DISCIPLINE STRATEGY® Blog by Timothy L. Coomer, PhD
Lessons on applying scientific research to solve real-life challenges within a framework called DISCIPLINE: [Decide] [Investigate] [Sort] [Conceive] [Implement] [Persevere] [Loop] [Intensify] [Notice] [Enjoy]
I guess you could call me a goal-setting nerd. About this time each year, I am so excited to begin the labor of love I call goal setting.
In this blog, I share with you what that process looks like for me and, if you are interested, how you can utilize these strategies.
STEP 1: Review of Historical Goals
I start by reading through my goals and annual summaries for the past 20 years. This process gives me a perspective on how things have evolved, the nature of desired vs. actual timing, and reminds me that significant challenges are the norm, but life continues forward. I remember how far I have come, how I underestimated the effort required to reach specific goals, and how the rewards from some goals far exceeded what I could have ever hoped. I remember that the big leaps of faith generated the most significant growth and rewards. I recall the times when I was knocked to the ground and see the resilience I found in those situations.
If you haven’t kept detailed notes about your goals in the past or summaries of events from each year, no problem, as an alternative, take time to reflect back over a minimum of 5 years (but, go back as far as you can) and recall the triumphs, challenges, accomplishments, and disappointments. This exercise establishes a framework of where you are now and where you want to go in the future.
Specifically, recall your top three or four accomplishments. What led up to these accomplishments? How did the experience of pursuing and reaching the goal compare to the original vision? Was it easier or more difficult than expected?
Are there topics from the past that you are ready to revisit in 2020? Is it time to brush off an old goal that you set aside, for whatever reason, and take a look at it from a new vantage point?
STEP 2: Relocate & Reframe
I go away either to another city or to a local getaway spot. I spend as much time as I need, often two to four days, summarizing the year that is concluding and brainstorming questions and ideas for 2020. The summary includes a comparison of the goals I set for the year vs. how I did. I do a monthly goal update tracking task, so I have a lot of information to use as the basis of this review. I honestly self-assess. I give myself a score from 1 to 10 on how I did and write commentary on my struggles and successes. This information helps me set next year’s goals and will be part of my annual review going forward.
Next, I do some thought experiments. This free form thinking is in response to specific questions. Here are a few examples:
What would I do if I wanted to double the size of my software business in 2020?
If I were to achieve the best health and fitness of my life, what would I need to do? What would the habits be?
If I want to teach short courses at overseas universities, how would I find such opportunities?
Those are just examples, and I might play with a dozen or so questions. The questions are written positively and are designed to create open, unfiltered, positive brainstorming.
STEP 3: Discuss, Think and Sketch
Take a day or two to discuss some of your thoughts resulting from the reframing questions with friends and family. Get some feedback from those you trust. Avoid the naysayers. Give yourself a couple of days to work through the thought experiments and to let your subconscious rotate on the questions. Jot down lots of notes. Do some research. Read as much as you can on topics that come to mind related to the thought experiments.
As the thought experiments evolve, some will result in specific goals for 2020. Others may fade, become less appealing, or result in dead-end roads. That is ok. Just set those aside for future consideration. But for goals that crystalize from this process, write them down.
Write down more traditional goals that are the natural evolution of previous years’ goals. These typically cover the critical areas of our life:
You may want to add additional categories. Develop specific goals for each group.
Sketch out a complete list of goals for 2020. For each one, write as much detail explaining why this goal is important to you, how you will benefit from it, and exactly how you will pursue and accomplish the goal.
Let all this sit for a week. Review daily and think. Do some more research to resolve questions that arise. You will increase the probability of success if you have as much detail and information as possible.
STEP 4: Write It in Stone and Hold Yourself to The Stone
Write it in stone is a saying that is believed to have originated in Egyptian times. If you want something to have meaning and to last, you write it in stone.
First, create a document (I use Excel – it is sort of an electronic “stone”), or an electronic tracking system, or write down on paper the following:
1) Write each goal stated as clearly as possible using specific language.
2) Create a grid where you can grade monthly progress toward each goal.
3) Write, pretending like you are at the end of the year, several paragraphs summarizing your accomplishments for the year. Here is an example of what this might look like:
“It is December 31, 2020. I reduced my debt from $37,000 to $12,000. I have moved from Denver to San Diego, and it has been a very positive change. I have established new healthy habits that have resulted in me reaching my goal weight. I have enrolled in the MBA program I targeted and completed the first semester. (more)”
This paragraph is critical to the integration of the goals into your mind – conscious and subconscious.
Hold Yourself to The Stone
My weight trainer, John Humble, a formidable man with significant life accomplishments, likes to say that people need to be “held to the stone.” I believe the saying goes back to medieval times and refers to holding a sword to the stone to sharpen it. I interpret the meaning as accountability, and that is how John uses the phrase.
You have to decide the best way for you to be “held to the stone.” How will you keep yourself accountable? Remember, only 3% of people reach their goals. Simply by writing your goals down, you have dramatically increased your odds of being in that 3%. When you add accountability, you are further strengthening your odds for success.
For me, I put a reminder in my Google calendar to complete a monthly self-assessment. Every month I review my goals, grade my progress, and create an action plan for the following month. This routine keeps me accountable, prevents me from conveniently “forgetting” a goal, and requires me to explain what the problem is when little progress is made.
I suggest you use a monthly self-assessment process that works for you. I also encourage you to find an accountability partner. Ideally, this is someone who is using the same goal-setting and management method you are and will allow you to be their accountability partner.
This process for goal setting takes a lot of effort and is highly structured. However, if you commit to this process, you will dramatically increase your success rate. And, if you keep these notes and write up an annual review of the year, you will develop a treasure of information that grows in value in the years ahead.
Finally, and I want you to hear this:
All of us operate well below our potential. You can do MORE than you are allowing yourself to believe you can do. I encourage you to take off your constraints, think big, create specific goals, and hold yourself to the stone.
Between now and the end of the year, I am offering short 30-minute goal planning support sessions. If you are interested, click this link to schedule time on my calendar.
Schedule 30-minute session: http://bit.ly/DS_Time_With_DRTLCPHD
P.S. Pre-order Discipline Strategy book here: http://bit.ly/_DS