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6 Simple Steps to Setting Goals Without Feeling Overwhelmed

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Years ago I found myself caught up in conventional wisdom (or wisdumb as I call it). I was trying to set goals in every area of my life. I had three goals for each of my five key areas: faith, family, friends, finances and fun. I added that last category only because it started with an “F” and my OCD told me five categories was a better number than four. That’s how scientific my goal-setting process was.

By the last week of December, I had designed them with beautiful checkboxes, and I permanently inserted the sheet into my planner. It made me feel great to “have it all together.” I was, after all, part of the 3% who set goals. This was going to be the most comprehensive goal-setting method ever!

Rather than becoming an overnight success, I became an overnight statistic: I was one of the 93% of people who give up on their resolutions by February. The rest of my year was spent feeling guilty every time I noticed my goal sheet in the back of my planner.

“I should do one of these.” But which one? And, how? Where do I start? Then, “Squirrel!” After trying this for a few Decembers (I’m a slow learner), I discovered a lesson in life I will never forget: if you try to focus on 15 targets at once, you will hit exactly zero of them.

I can’t remember where this system came from but I can tell you it’s a great way to overwhelm yourself. However, these types of ideas are out there in the world of goal-setting. Apparently, people even pay money to overwhelm themselves!

Since that time, I’ve learned a lot such as studying from some of the world’s greatest achievers, and putting principles and tactics to the test. I came out on the other side with a few key insights about the correct way to set goals.

So if you’re one of the small percentage of folks who set goals, especially for the new year, let me help you avoid a few years of banging your head against the wall:

1. Define your core

When most people think of setting goals, they sit down and start writing them out without having answered some fundamental questions. People who build homes don’t start with a 2×4. They pour through stacks of blueprints and renderings before picking up a shovel so they know exactly where they are going and what it will take to get there.

It’s worth an hour or two of your time. Sit down, clear any distractions and ask yourself some fundamental questions: Who are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Your assets? What do you want? Why do you want that? Explore all your possibilities and rule nothing out. You can always clean it up later.

2. Write a lifeplan statement

Start by identifying the single most important target. If other things you are doing in your life do not align perfectly with your plan, then do not include them in your statement. When you come across new ideas and opportunities, use your lifeplan statement as your barometer to keep you on track. There can be only one most important goal at a time. In fact, when you “focus” on more than one goal at a time, it defeats the whole idea of “focus.” If you don’t believe me, try multitasking two important tasks at the same time.

Next, break out your goals into as many action items as you can. Make sure you include things you still need to learn because the odds are you don’t know how to get there (because you’ve never been there before). Categorize these notes into monthly, weekly and daily action items.

After writing your goals, determine the sacrifices you are willing to make to achieve it. Finish your lifeplan statement with your purpose, vision and values. Go deep and write honestly, clearly, and powerfully in the first-person, present tense. Keep in mind, this is a living, breathing document you will update and modify as needed. Keep it handy as this will become one of the most important documents of your life.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

3. Write a dayplan on a 3×5 card

Index cards are inexpensive and just the right size. On one side, write your top five most important items, with the most important at the top. The other side is reserved for ideas so you can get them out of your head and keep you focused. Write down anything that strikes you as interesting: ideas, headlines, quotes, funny stories, etc. Carry this card around with you everywhere you go and leave it out where you can see it. Check off items as you complete them.

4. End your day holding a five-minute meeting with yourself

Look through the list and see what did not get done. Ask yourself: is it truly important? If the answer is yes, transfer it to tomorrow’s card. If the answer is no, cross it off and forget it. Finally, finish filling out tomorrow’s plan on a new card so you wake up to it the next morning.

End your meeting by filing away today’s card. Every few weeks, go through your stack of goal cards and transfer the ideas from paper to an online journaling system (Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, etc.). You’ll be amazed at the ideas your brain will produce when you give it a chance.

5. Develop and religiously follow a meaningful morning routine

I can’t tell you how consistently this one habit is among high achievers. I see it again and again- it’s almost comical. Nearly without exception, successful people follow some kind of daily routine. I recommend early mornings but take your pick because how you start your day is generally how your day will tend to go. It’s more important that you do it, not when.

There are dozens of activities you could do, and there are no right or wrong answers. Whatever you chose, incorporate two things. First, exercise- the benefits are endless. Second, incorporate your LifePlan Statement by reading, feeling, and visualizing it every morning.

“Be pleasant until ten o’clock in the morning and the rest of the day will take care of itself.”- Elbert Hubbard

6. Reward yourself and celebrate your wins

Take time to recognize what you did right and don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a reward for it. As you implement this system, be patient and don’t expect everything to change overnight. It’s simple, but not easy. However, when done right, this system is powerful and will change your life. If you mess up, don’t let yourself have two in a row. Regardless of how some make it seem, success is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul.

How are you making sure you achieve the goals you set for yourself this upcoming year? Let us know your plans below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Matthew Wilson is an award-winning creative director, productivity geek, father of five and a partner and creative director at a Phoenix-based advertising agency. He is also a consultant, speaker and creator/founder of 3x5Goals.com, the market’s simplest goal setting system, using daily goal cards to help achievers focus on what's most important. More information can be found at www.3x5goals.com. To order a free 15-day set of cards, visit this link - 3x5 Cards.

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A Simple but Effective Technique to Be More Confident

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Many people want to learn how to be confident in different situations, but it’s not always easy. Maybe we’re too addicted to comparing ourselves or maybe social media has brainwashed us to believe that we should all be rich, famous, and in incredible shape. (more…)

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Knowing Your Message vs Delivering Your Message

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Have you ever sent a text message only to have it misinterpreted by the person reading it? Happens all the time. Have you ever given a presentation that you were totally prepared for only to have it fall flat? Happens all the time. Have you ever had someone ask you something like, “Why are you mad?” when you were not at all mad? Happens all the time. (more…)

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The 3 Most Important Things I Learned About Personal Growth

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When you look back on your life, what do you want to think about? Do you plan to reminisce on all of the good things that have happened and how they shaped who you are today? Or would you rather remember all of the bad decisions, challenging experiences, and mistakes made that hurt or wasted a portion of your life?

In my opinion, I think it is important to reflect on both. While it’s important to remember the hardships we’ve been through in our lives – without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. There are 3 very specific areas that I feel have helped me grow in a personal sense more than anything else in my life so far. 

These aren’t simple lessons in a book or a lecture that you can just absorb and apply to your life. These are things that I’ve learned through experience and reflection, and I’m still learning and growing today.

1. We determine how much we’re worth by what we think about ourselves, others, and life in general.

This might seem like a pretty obvious lesson in life but it’s actually one of the most important because we can determine our own worth by how we think about ourselves and the world around us. If you’re looking for success in any kind of business or social setting (dating), then I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t matter if you have 10 billion dollars or not – people are still going to judge you based on your thoughts and beliefs alone.

What determines our value isn’t necessarily what we do with our lives (which is often based on luck) but whether or not we believe that ‘our work’ is worthy or not in some sort of grand scheme or universe. We may not always be able to control what happens in our lives, but we can always control how we value ourselves and others.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

2. You don’t have to change your habits or personality just because someone else doesn’t like it – their opinions are THEIRS alone.

This is another one of those lessons that people tend to pick up on a little bit late in life, but if anything that makes its importance even worse! Basically, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to meet someone who has certain expectations of you as a person…but these expectations might not be realistic due to their motivations and personal beliefs. For example, sometimes parents might expect you to be a lawyer or doctor because that’s what they believe is best for their child.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone and so maybe your passion lies in music or writing novels. In this example, if you were also pressured into becoming a doctor – then there would obviously be some kind of conflict going on within yourself as a person. You should never have to give up something that you want to do just because someone else doesn’t like it! The reason why we’re put onto this Earth is to make our own choices and go after our OWN dreams instead of letting others determine what we can and cannot do with our lives .

3. You can’t change your life until you accept that you need to make a change.

When I was younger, I thought that this lesson would be pretty obvious – but as I got older, it really made me appreciate the fact that there are always different ways of perceiving our lives. For example, if someone wants to become rich and famous one day – their mind might simply overshadow any other possibility in their head because they feel like this is what they NEED to do right now.

However, this isn’t always true within our own lives because we think about things too literally instead of having an open mind. If you want to achieve success in any kind of business or social setting (dating) then you should be willing to try out different things instead of staying in your comfort zone. If you want something, then it’s up to YOU to actually go after it – nobody else is going to give it to you!

The three lessons above are some of the main things I want to pass on to everyone because they’ve come at an important time in my life where I need to start thinking about others instead of only myself. It’s great if we can learn to love ourselves first before anything else, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect everyone around you even though they might be your friends and family members!

If you enjoyed this article on the 3 most important things I learned about personal growth, then please share it with your friends and family! Also, check out my other articles on success & motivation as well as life lessons that could help people who are struggling with their life right now on lifengoal.com. Thanks for reading!

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​​4 Boss Level Growth Strategies That Create an Optimized Life

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Building a business is about more than sales, marketing, and flexing on social media. While those things tend to draw attention, they attract the wrong type of clients and are not how you build a sustainable and freedom-focused business. (more…)

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