I read a story once — I wish I could remember where, so maybe you can help me — that helps shape how I set my life goals.
A woman was pursuing a new job and found a great-sounding position at a company she respected, and she began to pray with all her heart that she would get that job. She landed the job and soon found she hated it. She’d gotten her wish but was miserable.
The woman would have been better off to think about why she thought she wanted that job — salary, opportunity to learn new skills, chance for advancement — and pray for that.
Why? Among other things, once you’ve already decided your path, it’s easier to tune out the warning signs. In hindsight, how many times have you seen copious signals that you were making a bad choice? But at the time, you waltzed right past them, perhaps thrilled with your good luck to have gotten what you wanted most.
That’s why I write my goals the way I do.
I don’t say, for example, I want a promotion and a raise at my current company. I can’t see into the future to know if that would make me happy. But why might I want a promotion and a raise? Because I want to be well compensated for work that’s interesting, challenging and rewarding and to be valued by my managers. THAT I’ll put in my goals.
I don’t say that we love living in our current apartment. I say that we love where we live. What if we got an offer tomorrow to live in a place twice as big for half the price and it was stunningly beautiful? Do I want to be attached to the apartment we’re renting and not take that? No way. So my goals include loving our home, cooking in our kitchen and entertaining friends, and enjoying a vibrant neighborhood.
For me, writing my goals is an exercise in first thinking about what I want, then asking why why why? When I don’t feel I can get any deeper on “why?” then I write down that answer as a goal.
Among my goals:
- I have close friendships that are a priority in my life. We spend time with smart, interesting, positive people who make us laugh and who inspire us. They enrich my life. They are positive people who inspire and uplift me.
- I keep learning. I attend conferences and seminars, read books and seek out people who are on a similar path to help me stay intellectually stimulated.
- My marriage with John is fun and vibrant. We enjoy each other’s company, we make each other a priority and we show each other we love each other in big and small ways.
(Yes, I do name John specifically in my goals. Hey, we’ve been married for nearly 10 years and he’s so stuck with me.)
What are your life’s goals? And why?
Some past blog posts on goal setting:
- Changing six habits in a year
- Making resolutions you can keep
- Why should you make goals?
- Decide what you want and declare it in no uncertain terms