Nathan and I spoke recently about what the hell happened since he moved back to Rhome. Really what happened is that life caught up to both of us. We’re perhaps in a better place now. He’s got his house put back together, and has cleared out storage. I’ve gotten past the court thing for the child support with the help of my dad. So I guess we’re getting back to life as usual. That means it’s time to set goals and focus.
Perhaps the issue is how we set goals and focus and hold each other accountable. I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of self help mumbo jumbo in my life. And I have a basic idea of what works for me and what doesn’t, and unfortunately that’s going to vary from one person to the next.
I think there are three basic types of goals (actually, I don’t know how many, but three sounded good) and I think that like the time that I wrote about the definitions of types of stuff, I should attempt to define types of goals. That is my (ahem) goal for this post.
As a quick note before I get started, Alan Lakein says that you can’t do a goal, but rather you do activities to achieve a goal. A goal to be a published author would be achieved by doing such activities as writing and learning about the industry.
Mental Goals – These are the goals and activities that are just there. You don’t need written plans or affirmations to achieve these goals. You wake up in the morning and you eat breakfast and go to work; I don’t, I go to bed in the morning, but the example “you” does. You don’t have to write out waking up, eating and going to work in a plan to do it. You just do it. If you buy a movie that you’re very interested in seeing, you probably don’t have to set a goal to watch it. You’ll probably order pizza, pop it in the DVD player (the movie not the pizza), and watch it. Mental goals and activities are things that you just do without having to put much thought into it.
Generic Goals – I want to be rich, happy, and healthy. And now that you mention it most people want to be rich, happy, and healthy. There is probably nothing wrong with these kinds of goals, except that they’re vague. And vague goals are hard to achieve because they aren’t really defined. What is rich to you? What is happy to you? What is healthy to you (aside from not coughing up a lung)?
Defined Goals – I want to be a millionaire (well, billion sounds nice too). That’s defined. Defined goals can be non-written goals or written goals. I’m just saying that they can be measured. You could make seven figures a year and think that you’re not rich, but you can’t have a seven figure net worth and not think you’re a millionaire… unless you have a pretty sizable bet on the Dallas Cowboys this weekend.
Written Goals – Simply goals that are written down. They might not even be defined goals, but they are written down. The ideal, according to self help, is to have well defined, written goals. I guess that sounds reasonable.
Long-Term and Short-Term Goals – Goals that spread out well into the future and those that are to be done soon. One of our long-term goals for next year is to post everyday to the daily blog. A short-term goal for achieving that is to set up a reserve of blog posts so that we don’t get behind.
Now on to something that is a little less me talking from education and observation and just simply me taking something I’ve read and repeating it directly. There are seven goal categories that a lot of the self-helpers talk about. Financial, Career, Health, Family, Spiritual, Social, and Recreation. Certainly some of these overlap a bit, but while your career earns you money, it doesn’t dictate how you handle the money. And while you can socialize with your family, there are other responsibilities involved, as typically you spend more time with family than friends, your social circle changes but your family doesn’t aside from birth, death, marriage, and divorce. Recreation is basically fun goals, and while you can have fun with your family, friends, and even at work, the fun category focuses on one aspect of those things.
I do try out things when I’m reading through self help. Sometimes it works out for me and sometimes it doesn’t. To me looking at goal types and goal categories and them perhaps brainstorming as such might help to define things that you might not otherwise define. Here are some thoughts about approaching each.
Mental Goals – Turn to a blank page in a notebook and list as many things as you can think of that you automatically do without formal planning. If you feel like it, maybe you can even carry around the notebook with you and add to the list as you think of things. When you have enough things on the list ask yourself if anything could be done better if you planned a little. For me writing everyday is automatic. Sometimes it’s less than a page or a few pages, and sometimes it’s the six pages I’d like to do each day, or even more on occasion. I tend to do a better job when I have notes to work from or an intended project to work on. After looking for things that can be planned better, look for things that you need to cut out, or lower the priority on. For instance, I shower everyday… kidding, I don’t intend to lower the priority on that. Cleanliness is pretty important, and I hate when I get past 24 hours without a shower, so I try not to get past 24 hours. On the other hand, I will sometimes automatically turn on my computer without thinking about what I’m going to do, and all too often without a plan for what to do, I find myself not using my computer time wisely. Anything that isn’t something that needs to be planned better, cut out, or given lower priority can stay in the automatic zone. There is no need to plan absolutely everything. If you brush your teeth in the morning, the afternoon, and before bed without ever having to think about it then there is no reason to put it on your to do list for the day.
Generic Goals – List as many goals you can think of that are vague and undefined. Pick one, or maybe all, to define.
Defined Goals and Written Goals – Review these regularly, and make sure they are still defined the way your wants and needs dictate. Prioritize these from most important to least important, and change the priority order when your wants and needs change. Create lists of activities for the three most important and prioritize the activity lists as well.
Long and Short Term Goals – Create deadlines. Adjust deadlines when you have more information about the ease or difficulty of the goal.
Financial and Career – Like I said these are similar, but you should try to define them separately when you can. Really look at your situation. If your income is lower than your expenses figure out how to fix that. If you income is higher than your expenses still try to define your lifestyle. I’m always happy to point out to people what percentage of their income I could live comfortably on. I don’t mean to tell people to live impoverished when they have money that can be spent on luxury. I just mean to say that sometimes it’s interesting to question your purchasing habits by pretending you have less than you do.
Health – This one has always been an issue for me. It feels like the extent of my goals are to just not get sick. It means that when I try to find goals to put into this category, I find myself coming up with things that may not actually be necessary for me. I think the best list of goals for health is eating enough without overeating, sleeping enough without oversleeping, taking walks or going to a gym a few times a week, cleanliness, and relaxing frequently. I may have missed something like maybe taking vitamins and drinking more water than alcohol, but you see what I mean. With health goals it’s best to keep things pretty simple, so you don’t end up being unhealthy in the process of trying to be healthy. Consulting your doctor about your health goals is a great idea.
Family, Social, and Spiritual – Value your family as long as they aren’t assholes. Make friends and do your best to keep the good ones around while seeing less of the bad ones. Social networks and other online social stuff is a great media. I’m a huge fan. I do believe that you should have real world contact too though. If you have a family that lives with you or close by you should start there. If not, get out and meet people. Spiritually, I’ve always had trouble defining goals. Pray everyday? Perhaps. Go to church once a week. No thanks. Read The Bible? Well sure if that renews you spiritually. The trick here is to figure out what you believe and try to follow that as well as possible, and if you can find somewhat likeminded people, try to make part of your social goals overlap your spiritual goals. If your family is somewhat likeminded, all the better.
Recreation – This one is so hard to define too. Recreation is meant to be fun and relaxing. If it becomes a goal based activity like everything else then it can become not fun and not relaxing very fast. So what to do with this? I think it should be defined more in time off, like having an hour a day to simply relax or a particular day of the week to not concern yourself with responsibility. Sure you can list things you like to do with your recreation time, but don’t fret it. If you set aside some time to go bowling on Tuesday, but then feel like going to the park instead, then go to the park. For as goal driven as I am, I still find time to do something relaxing. Sometimes it’s just lying in bed and breathing slowly and methodically, and sometimes it’s skydiving. I’ve never been skydiving and likely if I ever do, it’ll be me pretending to skydive while lying in bed and breathing slowly and methodically.