Setting Goals in Life
This post is the 3rd installment in a series on how to pace life for maximum joy and impact. The first two posts are “Pacing Life” (July 18, 2013) and “Knowing and Living According to Your Values” (August 5, 2013). If you’ve not already read the previous posts, I encourage you to stop reading this one and go back to those posts.
What does it mean to pace life? Pacing life is about spreading the joy, the blessings, the goals, the adventures, the risks, and the rewards over the course of your life. You’re not waiting for retirement to relax and travel. You’re not postponing key decisions until the planets align perfectly. You are unloading your “bucket list” over the course of 50 or 60 years—not in the final few years of life.
Pacing life involves 4 concepts: understanding, values, goals, and risk. So far, I’ve addressed a basic understanding of pacing life and knowing your values and living accordingly. Once a person establishes their values (as shared in the previous post) and categorizes them in time specific groups (i.e. today, this year, two to five years, and somewhere in the future)—they are ready to set specific goals. Your breakdown may look something like this…
At this point, you have time specific categories, broad values, and a basic understanding of where the values fit into your life plan. The next step would be to define specific goals under each value. What do you want family time to entail? Does it include playing with your kids, dinner as a family, devotional time with your kids, coaching your child’s football team, taking bike rides together, etc.? However you define your values will determine what you do and how you plan.
Your view of family time may include playing with your kids, devotional time as a family, and coaching your child’s football team. The next question would be, “How can I work these goals into my regular life?” The answer could be to spend 45 minutes with your kids each evening after work, have at least 2 devotional times a week, and coach your child’s football team in the fall. That’s a workable plan.
Don’t feel the need to be a superhero in every step of the plan. Often, we fail to reach our goals because we overestimate our abilities and we undervalue the cumulative impact of small actions over time. If you have 2 devotional times a week, that’s 104 devotions a year. If you start when your child is 3, that is 1560 devotional times before they leave for college. That’s a lot of opportunity to sit down and teach your children about God, the Bible, life, decisions, faith, Christ, the Gospel, etc. If you set your goal to have a devotional time every night, you’re going to get frustrated when life doesn’t cooperate. It’s better set a smaller goal that is sustainable than a huge goal that is unrealistic.
Follow the same progression with each of the values you listed. How can you know God more? Your plan may be 20 minutes of Bible reading each day, 10 minutes of prayer, and regular church attendance. How can you focus more on health? Your plan may be to download an app to track your food and go to the gym 4 times a week. What are some places you want to visit? You may have 30 places on your list. That’s great. Some trips are probably more obtainable than others. Figure out which ones can be done sooner than later. Then schedule them on the calendar. This exercise will help you take action steps to live out your values.
Two of the greatest tools you can utilize at this point are a calendar and a system for collecting your thoughts. I work on a Mac and use two programs: Calendar and Things. Calendar is a native app on all Macs. “Things” is an application that you buy separately. I recommend “Things” because it allows the user to collect all of the “I should, I need to, I want to” ideas in one place. It has a space to keep your goals lists. It also allows you to plan major projects and create repetitive actions that appear daily in a “to do” list.
Whatever system you use—JUST NEEDS TO WORK FOR YOU. Block out sections of time on your calendar. Schedule your life around the goals you listed. The goal of this exercise is to identify your values, categorize the values by time, set obtainable goals, and work those goals onto your calendar and into your daily routine. The process may sound a bit daunting, but the results enable you to live the life of your dreams.
In the final post on this subject, I’ll address the topic of evaluating risk.