Happy New Year 2024
On #Goalsetting #Survival #Planning
Happy New Gregorian Calendar Year 2024.
I spent my first day of the year on a slow cycling cruise with wife and friends on the local greenbelt mountain bike trails. It was cool and breezy and perfect.
Today, I just wrapped up writing my goals for 2024. A few years ago –maybe 7?– I started writing them down late December to early January. And I really mean write, not just think about them. I got down to specifics on three major categories: Financial Goals (Big picture, small picture), Work-life Harmony Goals (type of work, hours, time off), and Quality-of-Life Goals (Physical, Mental, Relationships).
At first it felt like a lot of work for what seemed like wishful thinking at the time, since I was not in a good place in any of those categories. So, I put them away, and kept powering through, skipping the exercise for a couple of years.
Wouldn’t you know it, when I decided to repeat the exercise I was surprised. I had come very close on some, and actually achieved one big important one. Overall, a significant improvement over the previous two years. So the exercise stuck.
There’s a backstory…
You see, for the longest time of my life I lived in what I call “Survival Mode”. I grew up in a comfortable middle-class household in Puerto Rico, my life’s path somewhat pre-designed: Get good grades, go to college, get an engineering degree, reap the rewards. But I never really received (nor seeked) any mentoring on goal setting and why it mattered.
And then, in summer of 1986 our lives rapidly and uncontrollably deteriorated. I never saw my parent’s divorce coming. Sure, looking back, I see now how it wasn’t going to last forever, but I was preoccupied with whatever teens in the 80’s were preoccupied with.
For the next few years my mother, younger brother and myself struggled to get ahead. I was unable to finish college, and opportunities were scarce in early nineties recession for a young man to make a good living in Puerto Rico. It got so bad, we were at times home and food insecure. Fear of homelessness or hunger, or both, changes you.
These challenging years turned into a couple of decades of struggling to get by. I wrote a little more about it here. For a better part of my adult life, I was simply trying to survive, and what that does –if we let it– is it reduces one’s standards to what amounts to “good enough”. So the idea of setting goals seems anywhere from preposterous to impossible.
I was fortunate enough to meet a great couple of coaches. While I couldn’t afford to hire them, they were kind enough to share their wisdom with me. One of them, Matthew Pollard, even shared an early version of his program, which kick-started, and helped me get to the goal-setting framework I use now. Here’s what I do:
My Goal-setting Framework
Of course I use the S.M.A.R.T. method. You know the one:
S – Specific and/or Significant
M – Measurable and/or Meaningful
A – Attainable and/or Action-Oriented
R – Relevant and/or Rewarding
T – Time-bound and/or Trackable
What I loved the most about Matthew’s model is that it requires us to include why each and every goal is important. The irony here is that for years I’d known why, even wrote about it, I just needed additional tools to help myself.
So the outline of the framework is something like this:
Big important goal category #1
S.M.A.R.T. goal #1
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT TO ME
S.M.A.R.T. goal #2
Big important goal category #2
I firmly believe now that including “why” is the secret sauce in goal-setting. I’m no expert on the matter, but I’m sure the clarity of why you want something feeds our internal algorithm with a drive that is otherwise too difficult to reach for some of us.
Write your goals using this framework, and write them somewhere you can go back and revisit periodically. I promise, it can change your life.