How to come up with a clear vision of how we want our life to look like?
How to make sure we set inspiring goals that are in line with that vision and our values?
This is the fifth part of the series “On Coaching Yourself & Others”.
In the first part, we established the key foundations of dealing with others, be it through coaching or in other kinds of relationship or setting that involves communication.
In the second part, we focused on understanding ourselves as well as others better through developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
In the third part, we had a closer look at core beliefs and on how they play a key role in determining our potential.
In the fourth part, we defined our core values to be able to make decisions that are in line with our priorities.
In the fifth part, we focused on the core communication skills & language patterns which are essential to becoming a better listener and communicator.
In this sixth part, we have a closer look at goal-setting and why it is essential to have a meaningful life vision that is in line with our values and that we can orientate our goals towards.
What types of goals are there? How do I then set goals? How do I know which goals to focus on? And how do I make sure that I actually achieve my goals?
These and many more questions will be answered in the following article. Enjoy!
Connecting The Dots
“Functionally, a man is somewhat like a bicycle. A bicycle maintains its poise and equilibrium only so long as it is going forward towards something. “ — Maxwell Maltz
Human beings are innate goal-striving “machines”. As long as we have something to look forward to, to strive for and to work towards, we have a purpose which gives excitement and direction.
There is the saying:
“A man’s reach must be greater than his grasp.“
This is the essence of goal-setting.
To have a vision of something you are working towards, other than what you have in the present moment. It does not mean that you cannot be grateful for what you have now and not appreciate the present moment, but it is a commitment to change your life situation towards what you consider more meaningful and fulfilling.
This is where the idea of your “Greatest Life Vision” comes into play.
Similar to companies that have no or a vague vision, it is also easy to fall into disorientation on a personal level without a clear vision.
This vision is driven by your why, by what gives you meaning and describes the ideal state and outcome of your life in the far future, which will be in line with your values.
By starting start with the end in mind and breaking this vision down into smaller milestones, you can move come closer to it by taking small steps on a regular basis.
This means defining long-term goals (to be accomplished within one to some years), breaking them down into medium-term goals (to be accomplished within a month to half a year) and in turn breaking them down again into short-term goals (to be accomplished on a daily to weekly basis)
This makes sure your “somewhen” in the future is connected to the present moment and can be acted upon “right now”.
The 5 Stage Goal Setting Process
The whole process of goal-setting, and life-planning in general, can then be summarized in these five steps:
1. Getting a Vision
How do you want to be remembered? Is the vision meaningful enough? Does it drive you? Is it in line with your core values?
2. Knowing what you want
Are you clear about what you actually want? Are you clear about your desired outcome in each of the six major life areas?
This step, along with the first one, will create serve as the foundation for your goal-setting.
3. Defining future goals
In line with these desired outcomes for each life area, define future goals and connect them to the present moment. Make sure they are SMARTER goals and prioritize.
4. Prepare an action plan
Set action planning and accountability systems in place that make sure you act on your goals.
5. Review, Adapt, Adjust
Regularly review your goals, track your progress, see whats working for you and how your approach might have to be adapted.
1. Your Greatest Life Vision
“If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” — Steve Maraboli
It is so easy to get caught up in the small in the busyness of our daily life and lose vision for the bigger picture and the direction we’re headed in.
This vision, however, is what ensures we move towards a something we resonate with right now and can be proud of at the end of our lives.
Therefore, your greatest life vision is how you define success for yourself in life.
It is a simple statement that outlines an ideal description of the main outcome of your life.
This vision should inspire you; it should motivate you; drive you out of bed every morning and towards taking appropriate actions that will get you closer to fulfilling it.
How to develop my “Greatest Life Vision”
A good starting point are your core values and your personality.
- How would your ideal life have to look like to be in line with the values that are most important to you?
- How would you define personal success?
- What are your finest personal qualities?
- What value do you contribute to the world and all of the other people who are in it?
Then, imagine the end of your life and ask yourself the following:
- How would you NOT like to be remembered?
- How would you like to be remembered?
- What would you like other people to say about you at your funeral?
- What would you want your tombstone inscription to say?
By being clear about your core values and having a “Greatest Life Vision”, you have laid the foundation for an authentic and fulfilling life.
It doesn’t matter if you are not yet fully clear about your values, vision and what you want, as these things also change and become clearer over time, but as Henri Poincare said:“It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.”
Work with what you have and adjust along the way.
2. Knowing what you want
Having a vision gives you a general idea of what you want out of life as a whole.
To get more specific, you have to look at the six main life areas and decide what you want for each one of them.
These six areas are:
- Family, Social & Intimate Relationships
- Career & Education
- Money & Finances
- Health, Fitness & Leisure
- Giving Back To Society & Contribution
- Mental, Emotional & Spiritual Wellbeing
While it makes sense to have a long-term vision for your desired outcome in all of these areas to keep them in balance, you will quickly realize that full balance will most likely never be achieved.
We only have a limited amount of time and energy each day, so to be excel in some areas of our lives will mean to put less effort into other areas.
We will have to make trade-offs and prioritize.
Which life area is most important to you and which have you neglected the most?
A helpful tool would be mind-mapping.
By collection ideas and desired outcomes for the six life areas, looking at its subparts and finding the connections between them, it will be easier to decide which one seems out of balance and which area you want to improve first.
The 4 Question Problem-Solving Framework
This will lead to the four-step formula for coming up with tangible steps towards improvement in that area.
Once you have an overview of your life areas, focus on the most important one and become aware of the current state of it.STEP 1: Select one area in your life that you’d really like to get better results in and describe what this life area is currently like for you? (the goods, the bad’s, the positives and the negatives)
Then, ask yourself what part have you played in creating the current state of this life area.STEP 2: Describe how the quality of your thinking, your emotions, habits or beliefs have impacted the results that you’re currently getting in this life area?
Even if it might be easier to transfer responsibility and look for the fault in others, try to develop your maturity by taking on responsibility for the current state of that life area.
Then ask yourself, what is it that you DO want in that life area? What would be a long-term goal?STEP 3: State exactly what you DO WANT to achieve in this specific life area?
By moving away from the unsatisfying current state of that area to what it should look like, to what you want, you experience a liberating mindset shift. You move from “running away from” to “moving towards”, which grants immediate motivation.
This focus on a potential long-term goal of this life area will then allow you to make the connection going backward.
Ask yourself, what is the first step I have to take?STEP 4: What’s the very first step that you must take TODAY to start getting closer towards what you DO WANT in this specific life area?
3. Defining Future Goals
Once you know what you want in a certain life area and you have an idea of the steps that are needed to get there, it is time to create goals that are:
a.) Connected to the Now
This will make sure you know what to do, when and how.
a.) Goal-Setting To The Now
There is a technique I found in Gary Keller’s “The One Thing”, which is called “Goal-Setting To The Now”. It goes like this:
Ask yourself the following questions:
What is my someday goal or big vision in that life area?
How should the state of this specific life area look like?
Based on my someday goal, what’s the one thing I can do in the next five years to be on track for my someday goal?
Based on my five year goal, what’s the one thing I can do in the next year to be on track for my five year goal?
Based on my yearly goal, what’s the one thing I can do the next month to be on track for my yearly goal?
Based on my monthly goal, what’s the one thing I can do the next week to be on track for my monthly goal?
Based on my weekly goal, what’s the one thing I can do today to be on track for my weekly goal?
Based on my goal for today, what’s the one thing I can do right now to be on track for my goal for today?
The one thing is the most important task you can accomplish in that period such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.
This technique has two advantages. Firstly, it connects your somewhen with your right now, so you know the small steps you have to take to get to your long-term goals. Secondly, by focusing on one thing you can do, you are likely to choose the highest impact goals and avoid being overwhelmed.
b) Structure Your Goals Into S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals
Effective and efficient goals are SMARTER goals because they share the following characteristics:SPECIFIC: What exactly do you aim to accomplish? Be as specific as possible.
When creating goals for each goal level (long, medium, short-term), make sure they have these characteristics.
c) Prioritize Your Goals
Even if you came up with only one thing to do for every goal level for a specific life area by using “Goal-Setting To The Now”, it is possible that during the process more goals come up in an area or that you just want to work on different areas at the same time.
As our time and energy are limited, it is key to prioritize and focus on what is essential right now.
The Glass Jar Principle
Kain Ramsay tells the story of the Glass Jar Principle, wich helps to understand the importance of prioritization:
One day an instructor was speaking with a group of his business students and to make an example, he used an illustration to help his students understand what he wanted to teach them. A principle about goals, and a principle about life.
As the instructor stood in front of the group, he said, “Okay then, it’s time for a quiz.”
He went on to pull out a one-gallon, wide mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of the group. Then he produced a dozen fist-sized rocks from his drawer and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the wide mouthed jar.
Once the jar had been filled to the top, and no more rocks would fit inside of it, he asked his audience, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
Then he said, “Really, are you sure?” He proceeded to reach under the table where he pulled out a small bucket of gravel.The instructor dropped a few handfuls of gravel into the jar, then shook it, causing the pieces of gravel to work themselves down throughout the spaces between the larger rocks.
He smiled and asked his audience once more, “Is the jar full now?” By this time the class had guessed that he was probably trying to prove a point.
“Probably not,” one of the students answered.“Good answer!” he replied. He then reached back under the table and produced a bucket of sand.
This time, he started dumping the sand in, and it began filling up all the spaces left between the rocks and what the gravel had filled. Once more he asked his class the question, “Is the jar full yet?”“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good answer!”
Then he grabbed a large jug of water and started pouring it in until the jar had been filled to the brim. Finally, he looked up at his class and asked them, “What’s the purpose of me making this illustration?”
One of his brave students raised his hand and answered, “The point is, no matter how full your diary is, if you work harder or smarter, you can always fit some more appointments into it?”
“Nope, wrong answer.” the teacher replied, “that’s not the point I wanted to make today."
“The principle that this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put your big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
Ask yourself, what are your big rocks, your biggest priorities?
Only by placing them in your jar first, you avoid the risk of not being able to get them in later.
This means identifying your goals with the biggest priority and pursuing them first thing every day.
How To Identify Big Rocks?
In order to identify your biggest priorities, there are several tools:
a.) Pareto’s “80/20"-Principle
This general life principle was discovered by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto and states that about the inputs and outputs are not equally distributed, but that generally, only 20% of an input result in 80% of an output.
For the prioritization of our goals, this means what small number of goals is likely to produce the biggest impact on the progress towards my vision in that area.
b.) The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
This framework was named after former US-president Dwight Eisenhower and serves to classify activities and goals into four classifications by taking into account two characteristics:
- Importance: How big is the impact the activity has on getting where we want to be in a specific area?
- Urgency: How quickly has this activity to be executed? Activities are urgent if other activities depend on them, mostly connected to expectations and obligations from others.
The four classifications of goals are then as follows:
1) Important and Urgent
These are your big rocks.
2) Important but Not Urgent
These can be rocks as well, with less of a time pressure.
3) Not Important but Urgent
These are trivial activities that are not contributing to your primary goals and vision. Minimize them by saying more “no”, delegating or rescheduling.
4) Not Important and Not Urgent
These activities are to be avoided. Ignore, cancel, delegate or at the very least reschedule them.
This simple principles will help recognize what to say yes to and what say no to.
4. Create An Action Plan
Now that you have your goals set up, its time to create a plan to make sure you are actually pursuing them.
The first step is to have a place where you write down your goals and can revisit them regularly.
This could be your journal, a whiteboard, a simple sheet of paper or a document on your computer.
Keeping in mind the characteristics of SMARTER goals, put these goals into an action plan for your yearly, monthly, weekly and even daily planning.
This plan could look like this:
Start with your yearly planning and break it down to the present day.
Write down your biggest rocks first and mark them as such. If you only got one thing done in the specific period, let it be that big rock.
On a daily level, these goals are what Brian Tracy calls “the ugliest frogs, that need to be eaten first”.
Do these most important tasks first thing early in the morning until finished completely. This will ensure you make lasting progress towards your goals.
Once you have your plan setup, take action on it every day. The best plan is useless if you don’t take action on it.
5. Reviewing The Progress Of Your Goals
Tracking your progress allows you see if you are actually getting closer to your desired destination. It can be a tool for motivation, when you look back at the progress you have made, but also a tool to adjust your plan and get back on track, once progress stalls.
One powerful question is to ask yourself at the end of each day:
“If every day looked like this, how far would I get towards my greatest life vision”?
By using the “5 Stage Goal Setting Process” you make sure to figure out what a successful life would look like for you and actually take the steps to get there.
This is the essence of a personal-growth.
This concludes the sixth part of the series “On Coaching Yourself & Others”.
Head over to the final seventh part, which brings it all together with Kain Ramsay’s “Seven Step Life Coaching Framework”.
Until next time,