Goals for the Rich Life — Create, Manage, and Execute

We’ve done a lot of work in the prior two posts, but our rich life journey doesn’t stop there. One of my goals has been to complete this series, and it’s been tough. Getting through the middle phase and mustering the energy to sprint toward the finish line is challenging. But here we go. Let’s create some goals.

This post is part of a series focused on understanding, defining, creating, managing, and executing on the targets for the rich life you desire.

In the first part, The 4 Areas of Life to Get Your Journeys Back on Course, we began the process of building the foundation for establishing goals by determining what was important and meaningful in the areas of self (<Your Name> Inc.), Relationships, Finances, and Providing Resources.

Then in the second part, The 4 Step Areas of Life Assessment, we used an assessment process to build our vision of the “rich life” for each area; set a priority; honestly described the current state or status; and finally provided a rating of how we were doing in the area.

You could stop here and be further along than most people. The Areas of Life mind map created in the first post and refined in the second is an excellent tool for determining your rich life targets. We could add additional nodes to define goals, actions and then get to work. However, we’d most likely stumble and fall to the ground, like some New Year’s resolutions, never coming close to our visions.

That’s why in this post we will create our goals and execute the SMART goals process to refine them along with discovering strategies and techniques to keep our goals alive and moving. Moving us toward the rich life we’ve envisioned.

We’ll be creating a new document in this post, the “My Goals and Actions” document, which will be the tool for managing our goals. But let’s get our data out of the Areas of Life mind map to use within the new document.

Data and Tools Setup

The first thing we’ll do is get ourselves setup with the data and tools needed to start the task. We’ll be moving our data from the Areas of Life mind map into a format we can easily use. Then we’ll grab the “My Goals and Actions” template document for capturing, refining and managing our goals.

Exporting the Areas of Life Mind Map

We’ll be using much of the excellent work done in the first two parts of this series. The steps below get the data out of the mind map into a temporary document ready to transfer to the “My Goals and Actions” document.

  1. Open the “Areas of Life” Mindmup file.
  2. From the top menu of the application, select File —> Download as —> Outline. The Export Outline window should appear.
  3. In the Export Outline window, ensure Format is MS Word/Google Writer; Outline type is “4 heading levels + bullet points”; and Image size is “As on screen.” The “Start from selected node” should be unchecked since we’re exporting the whole map. If you’ve been adding notes to the node, you can check the box labeled “Include text notes” otherwise leave it unchecked. Click the “Export” button.
  4. After Mindmup creates the file, an “Export complete” dialog will appear. Select the “DOWNLOAD” button. Create your own filename, select a location and save the file.
  5. Close the “Export complete” dialog box and open the file you’ve just saved.

We now have a document (see sample right below) with all the information from the Areas of Life mind map ready to copy and paste as needed.

Goals-and-Actions-example-cut-01

Grab the “My Goals and Actions” Example File

The “My Goals and Actions” document is meant to be a living document. It should be reviewed and updated often, but first, we need to get our goals and other information in it. Use these steps to create your own version.

  1. Click the filename “My Goals to Actions - Example” to open the Google Doc.
  2. Once the document completely opens, if you are logged in to your Google account, you can use “File —> Make a copy…” to save your own version. If you are not logged in or don’t have an account, you can select “File —> Download as” selecting the file type you’d like.

Now you’ve got your own copy, and we are ready to create our goals.

Creating Your Goals

Transfer Areas of Life Data

Select an area of life sub-category completed in the previous assessment post. Starting with one of the high priority ones is best. Since this process can take time and we’re not trying to add more stress to our lives, start with the 5s and work your way down.

Doing this in multiple sessions with breaks in between is great for the thought process. Don’t feel you have to do them all in one sitting.

Since one of the most popular areas is fitness, let’s choose that one for this example. Here is the export from the example Areas of Life mind map:

Fitness

  Assessment
  • Vision: I’m lean, flexible, have a flat stomach (six-pack abs would be nice), and great balance. My weight stays consistent. I can go up and down stairs, pick up heavy objects (suitcase, kids, etc.). My energy level is always high.
  • Priority: 4
  • Status: 20181201 – I’m probably about 20 lbs. overweight. My pants are tight, and I’ve had to buy a bigger size. I feel tired all the time.
  • Rating: 2

Copy and paste the content exported from the mind map into one of the goal tables of the “My Goals and Actions” document. When done, it should look similar to the entry below.

Goals-and-Actions-example-cut-02

In the heading, we’ve replaced the Node::Node::Node with the branch path of the goal “Perry Inc.::Health::Fitness” and copied the other text entries to their corresponding locations. Next, we will add jet fuel to our vision and priority by explaining why we want this.

Create Your ‘Why’

Knowing why we continue to strive for a goal, why we show up in the tough times, is the real motivation for the effort expended on reaching our goal. Understanding, documenting, and being able to review these whys is a huge factor in the continuous effort that must be made.

Using the vision statement, we want to list out reasons we want this. What it will feel like when it’s been achieved? What will life look like?

We’ll also want to think about what life would be like if you didn’t seek to accomplish this goal. This can help develop additional why statements. Using our example, we realize that continuing down the current non-fitness path, we’ll keep feeling sloppy and insecure in our clothes. We can use this but changed into a positive statement.

We end up with the following for our example:

Why:
* Be around for my family as long as possible
* Have strength, energy, and endurance for fun vacations, playtime with the kids
* Look neat in my clothes

When first creating the why statement, list as many that come to mind. Then review and refine them to increase their relevance, power, and emotion. Finally, pick the top three or four to go on your goal sheet.

Set the Identity

Envision yourself having achieved the goal and the person you had to become, changes you had to make. Ask questions like:

  • Who is the type of person that achieves this?
  • What habits does she have?
  • What knowledge did she acquire on the way?

Going back to the Health::Fitness example, the person that’s achieved and lives this vision is one who:

  • Shows up for workouts
  • Tracks and reviews measurements weekly
  • Pushes through setbacks

After you have written who the person is that lives this vision, evaluate where you are with these items. Jot down notes for use later in setting actions. For “Shows up for workouts,” you may write “prepares for workout night before”; “workout if only for 5-minutes”.

Add your most meaningful identity statements to the “Who” section of the “My Goals and Actions” document. After making updates to the “Why” and “Who” sections, the document should have a completed section similar to the cutout below.

Goals-and-Actions-example-cut-03

Creating the Goal Statement

It’s time to create the goal statement. Creating the final goal statement is an iterative process. We’ll be using the SMART process to refine our goal statement, but first, let’s create some ideas with a quick brainstorming session.

Accomplishment Brainstorming

Review the vision statement and other information a few times. With the destination and current position fixed in your mind, jot down ideas or accomplishments that can help get you there.

For the Fitness area we might have:

  • Lose 20 lbs.
  • Fit back into my old pants.
  • Lose the belly fat.
  • Do 50 push-ups.
  • Squat 225 pounds.
  • Improve flexibility and balance.

Many of the goals will come right out of your vision statement. A few of the goals are very specific; 50 push-ups; squat 225 lbs.; lose 20 lbs. Others are more general — Improve flexibility and balance; Lose the belly fat;

If you’ve been working on a goal previously, some of these ideas could be things you want to try. This happens a lot both fitness and nutrition goals. Experimenting with different nutrition plans, meal timing, and frequency such as Paleo, Keto, Intermittent Fasting or OMAD (One Meal A Day) could be on the idea list. Find out more about adopting the experimental mindset here: Can an experimentation mindset lead to a rich life? 

We’ll work with them all in our refinement process next.

Making the goal SMART

According to Wikipedia, the SMART acronym has been around since the 80s, and its definition has been interpreted differently by many authors. Some authors have even extended the acronym improve or customize the process.

Michael Hyatt has created the SMARTER acronym which he describes in both his Best Year Ever course and his book “Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals.” 

We’ll use the following definitions for SMART:

Specific — the goal should be clear as to what it will accomplish. If applicable, it should also answer how, when, where, and with whom type of questions.

Measurable — the goal has aspects that can be tracked to quantify the progress being made or when the target is reached. Understanding the target of the goal and breaking it down into trackable progress points is extremely beneficial.

Achievable - set the goal high, but not in the realm of impossible. It should be attainable and realistic. This can sometimes be tough. The goal should be a reach or stretch putting you outside your comfort zone. The goal should also be within your full control. It’s okay if some are easy wins as well.

Relevant — this address the “why” of the goal. Why it’s important. This was covered above in more detail, but for now, be sure this is something truly wanted.

Time-bound — the goal should have a starting and ending point. Having this ending or target date helps layout closer milestone dates and to prioritize this goal with others. 

Picking the most meaningful goal statement from the brainstorming session, we’ll clarify it using the SMART process.

Refining the “Lose 20 lbs” statement:

Is it specific? Yes — Lose 20 lbs.

Is it measurable? Yes — measure my weight. I weigh 195 lbs. now and will weigh 175 lbs. when the goal is reached. The easier a goal is to measure or track progress the better.

Is it achievable? Yes — no medical conditions stopping me; many people have successfully lost weight.

Is it relevant? The whys created previously should have you yelling YES!

Is it time-bound? No, so this one needs fixing. Adding a “by date” and “starting date” works well. Lose 20 lbs. by April 1st starting Monday, December 3rd. Now we have a start date and an end date.

After the first time through the SMART loop, the example goal now looks like:

I want to lose 20 pounds by April 1st starting Monday, December 3rd.

It’s good to go through the SMART loop a few times with your goal to make sure every check still passes. We don’t want our fix for time-bound to make our goal unachievable.

Add the goal to the “My Goals and Actions” document.

Goals-and-Actions-example-cut-04


Don’t forget this is your document. As you can see in the example, I’ve pushed one statement from the supporting actions (we’ll get to those soon) up to the goals section. I do this because I copy the vision and goals to an Evernote document for a quick daily review as part of my morning routine. Find more on morning routines in the post "Are morning routines just a load of crap?"

With a SMART goal in hand, we may feel it’s still missing something. The target is clear, but how to keep momentum is still foggy. This is addressed in the next section.

Next Level SMART

Mapping out a strategy of how to reach the goal with even the tiniest of steps is the next emphasis. Having that first something to do gets the momentum started.

Actions, Habits, Milestones, and Schedule

Actions: The How and What

We’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming so let’s not stop now…

What actions need to be taken to reach this goal? Add any identity statements previously defined here in an action statement. This would turn the identity statement “shows up for workouts” into “get workout clothes ready at night” as an action step.

The action steps could also be items to help you get started:

  • Visit 3 gyms by Friday
  • Join a gym on Saturday
  • Order measuring tape and fat caliper
  • Get setup with a basic workout routine

This list doesn’t have to be complete. Getting started with a goal is critical, however, and even the tiniest first step is very beneficial. Also beneficial is recognizing actions that can be formed into or combined with habits.

Habits: Consistency Pays Off

As we look over our vision, identity, goals, and actions, consider which are; could be made into; or better supported by habits. In the previous step, we created the action “get workout clothes ready at night” which we can turn into a nightly habit. If we can tie it to another nightly habit, that’s even better.

This technique of tieing habits together is called habit chaining or habit stacking. We might have “Immediately after washing the dinner dishes, I pack my workout gear.” You can also tie a habit before another with some work. “Before I brush my teeth, I will pack my workout gear.” The trick here is if you find yourself brushing your teeth and haven’t packed the workout gear immediately stop and go do it. Eventually, every time you think about going to brush your teeth, you’ll think “I need to pack my workout gear” first.

Milestones: Check Point to Success

Milestones are the mile markers on the highway for your goals. The markers let us know how we’re progressing on reaching the destination. They can be major stages of a project or simple checkpoints on the journey to accomplishing the goal. They can even be a small streak of a new habit.
For our fitness example, we could set our milestones at lose 10 pounds in the first month, 6 pounds in the second, and 4 pounds in the third. Or we could break it down into a weekly target of lose one pound a week. This gives us a good weekly measurement objective allowing for assessment and change if we are missing the mark.

Schedule: Plan to Conquer the Day

We could have made our acronym SMARTS with that last ’S’ for Schedule. We want to schedule everything we can right now. Many of the actions and habits are new so having them scheduled with notifications helps to stay on track. Scheduling time for actions or daily reminders for habits on your calendar. Set reminders and alarms as necessary to support the execution of your goals.

Some examples using our fitness goal are:

  • Two calendar invites for stopping at gyms on the way home.
  • Schedule 30-minutes of workout time Monday-Friday with an alarm.
  • Set a “Pack my gym bag” or “Set gym close out” reminder for late evening.

When first starting out with a goal or habit, the more invites, alarms, reminders the higher the chance to get and keep the ball rolling.

Setting reminders or scheduling time to review your goals, updating the status, and reflecting on progress is paramount. Weekly review of the goal sheet we’ve been creating is great. Ten to fifteen minutes is all it should take; a little longer if you’re reflecting on performance and making adjustments.

Schedule quarterly reviews throughout the year for updating the goal sheet. Be honest with your progress assessment. Life is continually changing and so will some of the goals. What was important 3 months ago may no longer be needed.

After completing this section, update your “My Goals and Actions” sheet. Here is what that part of the example document looks like.

Goals-and-Actions-example-cut-05

Measures and Assessment

There is an old cliche that has a few different varieties. It goes “what gets measured gets done” or “… gets managed”, but I like “… gets fixed” myself. The concept is to measure the progress towards the milestone or target then assess and react to the results.

First, we need to determine how best to measure the progress of the goals, milestones, actions, and habits we’ve developed through the process above. With our fitness example, we could measure any or all the following:

  • A count of packing the workout bag at night
  • A count of showing up to workout
  • Daily calories burned working out
  • Beginning of week weight
  • Beginning of week waist/hip/thigh measurement

With these measures, we can compare the current to the past measurements, assess the performance, and see the progress (or lack of progress) toward reaching the goal. The more data points that get collected, the more areas where tweaks, adjustments or replacements can be made to seek improvement.

Record the beginning and recurring measurements on the “My Goals and Actions” document. In the example document, the measurement is recorded with one of the actions, and the 1st Quarter goal “Lose 12 pounds” makes it clear that the target is 178 lbs. by the end of the quarter. Doing the weekly measurements and assessments will help capture flaws in the plan or execution.

Assessing the results and giving yourself honest feedback is critical. The more data you have to rely on, the easier it is to evaluate and make alterations for the next period. Once again, you must have the experimenter's mindset and look at failure as a learning lesson. Again, more about the experimenter mindset is here: Can an experimentation mindset lead to a rich life?

Supporting Tools

The following are tools I’m currently using to support goal development, management, and execution.

Mindmup — used during part 1 (The 4 Areas of Life to Get Your Journeys Back on Course) and part 2 (The 4 Step Areas of Life Assessment) of the series. 

Google Docs — excellent set of office programs (Docs, Sheets, and much more) to use especially for “access everywhere.”

Google Calendar — schedule as much as possible; actions, reviews, everything that keeps the progress going. If you're using Gmail, Drive or any other Google service you already have Google calendar waiting for you.

Habitbull — for organizing and tracking habits and other aspects of life.

Evernote — this is my choice for “notes everywhere,” iPhone, iPad, and desktop. I keep my goal statements in a note for daily review along with a grocery list, medications, Big Ideas, etc.

The Wrap Up

We’ve covered a substantial amount of information in this post. We’ve taken our prioritized Areas of Life and cemented the importance of our vision with our “why’s” and defined the person we need to be (identity) that achieves and lives this vision.

We’ve created SMART goals aligned with the visions for each area. And for these goals, we’ve learned a system to keep them top of mind and moving forward with actions, habits, milestones and a schedule. We also discussed a few tools to use in implementing this system.

One thing to remember, here and with the previous posts in the series. Make the process yours. Sure, go through it at least once following and trusting the steps. Next month or year, feel free to improve the process based on what’s working or not working for you. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. Now, go create and refine the other goals that lead to your rich life!

Have questions about something in this post?

Interested in more details in goal setting, goal management, or using the tools?

Let me know in the comments below.

Hope this leads to a positive step on your Rich Life Journey!

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