Your end of year goal setting is probably useless.
Sadly, so are those New Year’s Resolutions.
Have I got your attention?
Like most people, I like to use the end of the year as a time to reflect on my accomplishments and do some goal setting for the coming year.
I pull out my letter to myself from last December and my internal monologue praises me for the things I did and criticizes me where I fell short.
I spend thirty minutes reviewing it and another hour or two writing out all of the things I want to accomplish this upcoming year.
I give it a final once over and, goals now defined, I put it away for the next twelve months.
I’ll tell all my friends how I’m going to do big things this new year or make some positive changes.
The reality is that I won’t.
Sure, I may knock a few items off the punch list, usually the low hanging fruit to make myself feel better, but I’ll mostly go about my days, largely ignoring them, and letting life carry me wherever it will.
At least, this is how I used to do it.
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Here is how I like to set goals and plan for the future.
I start with a 10 year plan.
I lay out a vision of where I am at and what I’ll be doing on Dec 21, 2032.
I make sure to include specifics on what my work as well as personal and family life look like. I like to think of this as my “end game”.
I then break that down and travel back to Dec 21, 2025.
I ask myself where do I need to be both professionally and personally to realize this vision.
In this particular moment in time, I should be well on my way to my 10 year plan but still lack the specifics of how I’ll actually put myself there.
Now I travel to Dec 21, 2023 - just 1 year from when this was published.
The pressure is starting to mount — the one year mark it a great time to check in on what I’ve accomplished, as it pertains to my 10 year plan. While I still lack specific tactics, it creates space for me to course correct.
Traveling further back, I like to set goals and milestones for where I want to be on March 21, 2023.
This is where it starts to get much more granular — I start to clearly map out specific actions and tasks I need to accomplish, as it pertaining to this 10 year plan.
I continue to compress my timelines and task lists until I focus on this coming month, this week, and ultimately today.
The real work happens here and pretty quickly its easy to answer questions such as:
What am I doing today to move me closer to that 10 year end game?
Where am I putting my focus and attention and what am I neglecting?
How am I being intentional with my daily decisions?
10 year goal planning may seem lofty but when it comes down to it, the real work happens day to day, week to week, and month to month.
Everything else, including your New Years Resolutions and annual goal setting should be treated simply as course corrections towards a clearly mapped out vision.
Something To Ask Yourself
Interested in doing some real goal setting?
Here are some questions you can start with:
What will I be doing on Dec 21, 2032 — who will I be with and what will I be doing?
Am I happy with the current state of my life?
Do I have a good relationship with my family and friends? What am I doing to ease their burdens versus add to them?
Do I have a good relationship with myself? What am I doing to help support myself?
What have I accomplished as it pertains to my business goals? What would I like to accomplish?
What does success look like for me? What am I willing to do (or not do) to get there?
After taking an hour or two to reflect on these answers, repeat the exercise as if it were Dec 21, 2025. Big ideas are still OK but you should begin to narrow in on some tangible tasks.
Do another checkin for Dec 21, 2023 - big ideas should now be replaced with realistic goals and additional tasks.
Continue to break this down to the first quarter of 2023, the month of January, and, ultimately, the first week of the year.
At this point, you should be able to derive a punch list of things you can be doing today to help realize where you want to be in ten years.
Continue to evaluate these goals on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis, always remembering, consistency is the key.