Five-step goal setting

(C) 2017 Peter Kos
(C) 2017 Peter Kos

January is a month when the gyms are full and people detox from the alcohol, sugar, food, and all the crap they over-consumed in December. People tend to look in the mirror, not liking the reflection. That’s where the New Year’s resolution are born. In the mirrors. But before week three of January, most of them are shattered, like broken mirrors, bringing future misfortune.

If you know me, you know I’m not against goal setting. In contrary, my dear Watson — I’m the goal-setting addict. Goal-ophile.
I’ve been setting the goals ever since the teenage years, and even had goals about improving my goal-setting (how meta is that!).
In the last decade, I succeeded in tweaking my goal setting, so I found out what works for me.

I. Never wait for January. Or tomorrow.

This was my first learning point. There’s no need to wait for an arbitrary start, especially not January 1st. When you identify a habit you’d like to eliminate, a new one you’re trying to take on, or whatever else — make a plan and start working on it. Right. Now. Yeah, go ahead, quit reading this!

My best habits started on March 9th, or August 5th, I never put them off until some ridiculous future date. Why that works, is simple: when you’re in the moment of setting a goal, you’re also the most motivated to start. Don’t allow that motivation to cool off, don’t get your zest worn out. Use it to jump-start your resolution. Get out and do it.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with having a system, just make sure you allow yourself to deviate from it. Because life. Use it to keep yourself accountable while staying flexible with it.

II. Build your Manifesto.

Here’s what works for me. I start off with a Manifesto. I confess — I started doing it just because I loved the word. Manifesto. I’m a fan of the Change This Manifestos. It’s not very easy to write a one you like, one that’s meaningful to you. But I read a lot, studied the resources and gifted myself one. My own Manifesto. I tend to look at it very often, at least once per week. It sits there in the Reminders section of my Evernote, so it’s always close to the top.
You also need to take care of your manifesto. It’s like a plant, blossoming if you tend to it, and growing weed if you don’t. I tend to adjust, trim, optimize my manifesto. It’s super light, minimalistic, stating my own mission. It keeps me on track.

III. Define Annual goals/themes.

Next level are my annual goals. I tend to put the main ones into three categories: Health, Wealth, and Self Improvement. I used to have more, different areas, but I realized there’s no need to separate out the ones where I’m staying on track anyway.

These three areas each contain maximum 3 main goals. They’re the SMART-kind. Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-bound. Examples of the Health goal would be: Run a Marathon. Run 1000 km, Cycle 1000 km, hike 50x.

In the Wealth segment I jot down my financial goals — specific saving/investment objectives I’d like to achieve in the year.

The Self Improvement section is tending to my Lebenslanges Lernen worm. I need to feel that I’m growing as an intellectual, so that’s where you’d usually find my annual language-learning projects (for 2018 it says:Русский).

I also write down the themes I’d like to live by. Those are some good habits I’d like to have, but I don’t want to stress myself by measuring each. Example of such themes could be meditation, yoga, plant-based eating, intermittent fasting, cold showers.

Sometimes I even go further, and define priorities for the Four Circles/Domains, in line with the Total Leadership methodology. The four circles are: Work, Home, Community, and Self.
In each of those circles, I’d outline SMART goals. For example, in the Work domain, that could be the specific business title I’d like to pursue, certain training, or activity and so on.
I never stress about filling up all those domains with goals, and often times they’ll stay empty. It’s important to jot-down the main goals, not to fill out the table.

As mentioned, the above goals are written in one Evernote note that has a reminder set for December 31st of the current year. This way, it’s always visible in the Evernote’s top section.

IV. 90-day Tom Mendoza goals.

The days are long, but the years are short.

That’s the quote I first heard from Gretchen Rubin. Ponder on that quote for a moment.
Done? Okay, let’s go on.

Tom Mendoza is the Vice Chairman and a living legend at NetApp. Look up this talk. That’s the one that changed my goal-setting life.

The idea is simple: set yourself 3 personal, and 3 professional goals you’d like to achieve within the next ninety days. Write them down, set aside. Let them rest for a day or so, then review again with some objective distance. Judge them as per SMART method.
Then revisit weekly/monthly, or whatever you’ll find works for you. I do them each calendar quarter, so for example, I currently have an Evernote note titled January—February—March 2018 / Tom Mendoza 90-day goals. Yeah, I really call ‘em like that! They have a reminder set for March 31st, 2018, so they’ll pop up on all my devices, and I’ll also get an email. But March 31st is the deadline, that’s when I’ll review my success rate against these goals, and set the new ones for the next 90-day period.

At first, it requires some getting-used-to, and some discipline. I even had to set myself a calendar reminders to check my current goals on a weekly basis. With years, this has turned into a habit, so now I tend to look at them multiple times a week. It’s easy to decide where you’ll invest your time if you know where you’d like to go. At least for me, it keeps me honest and accountable. Disciplined. And Discipline equals freedom, as Jocko Willink says.

V. Review.

This is the checks & balances part of the process. I don’t believe in the preaching that you need to publicly share your goals to keep yourself accountable. There’s a lot of gurus saying you should show your goals to your friend(s), or post them on Facebook, or whatever. I think that’s crap.
But that’s just me, and I do tend to keep myself accountable. What’s the point of lying to yourself? What works for me, is looking in the mirror, which in reality means keeping score versus my goals.
I do this at the end of each 90-day period, as well as for the yearly goals. With in-between check-ins, that help me adjust the course.
It’s not a big thing: it’s looking at the goal and considering whether I did it successfully, partially, or I failed. I don’t spend too much energy on the ones I completed well, but I tend to look at my own failures. That works for me, but you have to try it to find out for yourself.

You might be reading this on February 8th, or the Ides of March, or whenever. You haven’t missed anything, there’s no natural law that says you have to set your goals beginning of the calendar year. And don’t wait for the start of the next calendar-quarter either. Go set your goals right now. Don’t stress about the dates, focus on what you’d like to achieve. Maybe you’ll find out you work best with the weekly goals. Or 14-day goals, or whatever. If it works for you, that’s your best practice right there.
It took me years to carve out my own thing. A lot of time has passed till I had a Manifesto that really said Peter Kos.

Try it out, I guarantee it will change your life. And whenever you’ll find yourself in a down-moment, go browse your notes for the old goals, and read your annual reviews. The further back you’ll look, the more you’ll realize how much you have accomplished. How far you’ve come. Appreciate yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that.

God bless you!