I’ve never been a big believer in Arbitrary Dividing Point in Time Resolutions, or as some people call them, New Year’s Resolutions. Goal setting should be a constant output of the continuous improvement lifestyle, the result of reflection on past actions, the current condition and gaps against the idea. But the end of December and beginning of January is perhaps as good an arbitrary dividing point in time as any to formulate resolutions, so here are a five steps on how to set one or more big important goals for the next arbitrary time period.
1. You’ve met your goal. So what? Know why you will achieve the goal. Why is it important to you? Be very clear as to why achieving the goal will improve your quality of life or whatever condition and however you define it. Start with long-term purpose over an arbitrary time period that should be 500+ days at a minimum. As we inevitably waver in our resolve towards our goals, having the mental equivalent of a beautiful mountain peak in the distance will help us keep our focus and give us energy to persist.
2. Why will you fail? Think about what would make you set aside or change this goal during the next arbitrary period of time. Work issues? Hobbies? Bad habits? Health? Family? New or more interesting projects at work? It’s useful to categorize these obstacles or speed bumps into controllable / uncontrollable, known / unknown as below.
Once the known and controllable issues have been clearly identified these can be either be placed as enablers / obstacles to your goal or even higher priority goals in themselves. A more sophisticated approach would be to draw a fish bone / cause and effect diagram and work backwards from your problem (goal not currently being met) to all of the things that need to be changed in order to meet the goal.
3. What’s your real goal? Reassess the priority of your goals. The key point is to build on the honest assessment in step 2 in order to set goals or resolutions that will address the causes of problems rather than just their symptoms. If tensions with your spouse will prevent you from meeting your career goals, it’s better in the long-term to address those issues in the next arbitrary time period and have a solid family foundation, even at the cost of delaying career success. Haste makes waste, and there’s no sense in that.
4. Answer the 3W2H questions. You’ve already covered what you will achieve and why in step 1, so remaining are how, how much by when, and who will help you.
5. Ask for help. Share your goals with someone. Ask them if they believe you when you say you are committed to achieving these goals. Ask them “Why not?”. Ask them for help in keeping you honest during the next arbitrary period of time. If they refuse, share your goals with other people until you find support.
Once you set the resolutions or goals, you have completed just the PLAN part of the continuous improvement cycle. We’ve written a lot a bout the PDCA cycle and the importance of each step in the past. Be sure to reflect on the results of your past arbitrary time period resolutions and why you were successful or not, before jumping into the next DO, CHECK, ACT and PLAN cycle.