On Target: AIM for Your Best and Brightest Future
It’s Monday morning and you’re having trouble getting ready for work. Each week seems to start this way, and all the days, weeks, and months run together. Your initial enthusiasm for work has been replaced by an attitude of complacency and you are asking yourself things like, “Is this as good as it gets?”
Sound familiar? If the answer is “Yes,” or even “Maybe,” what might help give you some direction in your work and life? Consider the words of motivational speaker Jim Cathcart: “Most people aim at nothing in life and hit it with amazing accuracy.”
Simply put, if we have no target or goal, we may fall short of reaching our full potential. Without a “target” that represents our goals for the future, we tend to get stuck in an endless version of the present or the past. (Remember Bill Murray in Groundhog Day?)
Personal goal setting allows us to visualize what we want so we can determine how to get there. It is most effective when viewed as a continuous process rather than a 1-time event and can be the difference between living large (fully) and living small (on empty).
So, how can you “aim” for your best and brightest future? Think about it this way:
I - Identify goals
M - Monitor progress
Assess Current Reality
When thinking about what we want to be, achieve, or realize in our lives, it helps to know where we are. A basic coaching tool, the Wheel of Life exercise (see Figure 1, Wheel of LIfe), can help you assess your current reality. Take a moment to create an image of how satisfied you are with individual aspects of your life. Assume that the center of the wheel is 0 and the outer edge is 100. Mark your current level of satisfaction in each area and connect the dots.
After you have created a personal profile, ask yourself if the levels of satisfaction are where you want them. This can be a starting point for setting personal goals.
For example, if you found that work/ career and finance/money are at high levels and family and significant relationships are at lower levels, ask yourself if that’s working. If not, set goals regarding increasing your satisfaction related to relationships. If many areas are lower than you’d like, decide what is most important to you in the long term and what to focus on in the short term to get there.
When you look at the “I” in AIM, you begin to identify and document goals based on the discoveries you made in the assessment phase. Many people find it most helpful to begin with some long-term goals, such as:
-Obtain advanced-degree technical training or certification in an area of
-Achieve a level of work/life balance that allows you to maintain
Once you have set some “life goals,” you can formulate shorter-term goals. For example, if you want to achieve long-term work/life balance, some short-term goals might include:
-A daily 10-minute meditation/break.
-Work hours that do not exceed 50 hours per week more than 2 weeks
-Annual vacations (or staycations) of at least 5 to 7 days.
Goals must be documented to be most effective; the simple act of writing them down moves them from wanting to do to doing.
The “M” in AIM goes beyond simply monitoring progress. It includes an ongoing review and revision process that makes personal goal planning a lifelong process. In addition to looking at your goals from the SMART perspective, (see Setting SMART Goals) I’ve found great benefit in a tool developed by business coach Marshall Goldsmith, called The Daily Questions:
-Each person writes the questions that he or she wants to be
-Answers can only be “Yes” or “No,” or a numeric rating (1–10).
-The partners take turns asking the questions and simply note the
-Either person can change his or her questions at any time.
-The process continues until 1 or both parties agree to stop.
For example, if you want to work on your professional development and a goal is reading a book in your field every month, your question might be: “Did you do some reading since our last call?” If you consistently answer “yes,” you know you are making progress in that area and can take that question off your list. If you consistently answer “no,” you may want to change your approach to achieving that goal or change your question.
The final aspect of monitoring includes acknowledging and celebrating goal achievement. We all enjoy the feeling of a “job well done” and need to establish ways to celebrate our successes. Resist the urge to ignore those moments and focus on “what’s next.” This is also a time to look at what worked well in your goal achievement process and how that can inform goal planning and development in other areas.
Staying on target demands that we know what the target looks like, including the distance from where we stand. It takes practice and is not always easy. If you can begin the process now, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier and your AIM will greatly improve. | EVT