So by now you’ve probably seen dozens of posts, images, and videos about 2020 goals (insert joke about having a clear vision). This is not one of those…
I want to talk a little about how to set goals, or at least how I want to set them this year.
Goals should not be something set without a purpose, just set because it’s something we’re told to do or expected to do. Goals have the power to transform our lives, to give it direction, to help us seek out the future in an intentional way. Goals allow us to seek the vision we have for ourselves.
Goals allow us to seek the vision we have for ourselves.JW Harris
Why do we set goals?
The short answer is that without goals we aren’t going to know where we’re heading – goals are targets. Without goals we have no framework for how we make decisions and judgments – goals are guides for achieving our destination.
Imagine for a moment you started a journey, by car, bike or even just walking. Now when you imagined yourself getting into the car, onto the bike or taking that first step, you were probably already thinking of where you were going to end up, or at least a general direction you wanted to head, right? Imagine, now, what if you began your journey without knowing your destination or the direction you wanted to head. Maybe you’d be riding around in circles, or you might even be frozen in your tracks with indecision about which way you needed to go.
Goal setting is how we build a vision for our life – for our own version of our best self. Without setting goals we won’t know which way we need to head or even how to start.
What’s the difference between Vision, Goals and Objectives
Understanding the importance of goals, let’s talk about the difference between goals, objectives and vision. Going back to our journey, by car, bike or walking, think of objectives as the directions we have to get us to our destination. When you’ve taken a trip, you had specific points you needed to pass and turns you needed to take in order to get to your destination – those were objectives. Imagine for a moment if you knew where you needed to go, but your only direction was to take an initial path and nothing else. Our journey to our goals is made up of several objectives, all achievable and intended to help us get there.
The vision for our journey is a harder concept to understand. If objectives are the directions we need to reach our destination, our goals, then vision is ultimately where we see ourselves heading. In our lives, we have multiple journeys as part of our life-long journey. One journey might be your professional experience. Another journey might be when you’re starting a family. The life-long journey is determined ultimately by our vision for our life. The mini-journeys are the goals we need to reach, guided by the objectives, in order to live out our vision. The vision for our own personal journey is a deeply personal matter that can only be determined by each of us individually. Sometimes we share and develop our vision with others, those closest to us – friends, family and partners. But it is up to each of us to seek out to define our vision for ourselves, and the goals and objectives needed to reach it. We must define the vision for our own lives first. Then, establish goals with measurable objectives to ensure we reach that vision.
We must define the vision for our own lives first. Then, establish goals with measurable objectives to ensure we reach that vision.JW Harris
Defining Your Vision
Sometimes defining this vision for our own lives is a lifelong process. Sometimes it takes years to fully and honestly understand what the vision for our life is. Once we reach the peace knowing that we have defined or even narrowed down our own vision for our life, that’s when we can begin the journey in earnest to living out our vision. It’s important while you’re developing your healthy money management habits to begin formulating this vision for your life – to begin thinking about and designing the vision for your life.
What actually determines our vision for ourselves? Asked another way, how do we define our vision for ourselves? The process of defining a vision involves a great deal of thought, introspection and reflection. Sometimes this comes naturally to people. Sometimes, it’s a process that takes a great deal of painful honesty. I’m personally a fan of the George Kinder questions used in his Financial Life Planning process. They’re a great way to begin the process of forming a vision for your life, identifying what’s most important to you in living your best life. To get started, ask yourself some guiding questions – and be honest with yourself, your answers are going to help you refine and define your vision for your life.
- I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is, how would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
- This time, you visit your doctor who tells you that you have five to ten years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? How would you live your life differently than answered in the first question?
- This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done? What did I miss?
Reflecting on the answers the above questions allow you to see clearly the vision for your life. If that picture isn’t clear yet, take more time to reflect. In reflecting on what our vision is for our life, we are clarifying what our own version of our best self looks like.
(Above questions taken from George Kinder, Money Maturity)
Building Goals that Match Your Vision
With an understanding of the vision we see for ourselves, we can begin to build goals and objectives. Remember that goals are the destinations we want to reach in our journey along the way to living out our vision. Objectives are the milestones and directions we plan to take.
When setting goals, we should always ask ourselves the question, “Is this goal going to help me live my vision?” If the answer is no, we’re wasting our time. If the answer is yes, we’re on the right path. Sometimes this reflection is painful and causes us to have feelings of regret or disappointment. If we establish our vision, the goals to live that vision and the objectives to reach those goals early in our lives, we’ll live with more intention in our actions and avoid much of the feelings of regret and disappointment.
Setting goals should be a cyclical process – completed on a regular process. Evaluating goals should be a continuous process – completed each day as you reach towards those goals and your vision.
My Goals for 2020
Well, if you’ve read this far, hang in a little bit longer because here are my goals for 2020:
Seek Healthy Lifestyle I’d like to be more active, more aware of my choices, and reflect on the choices I do make. Some active things I’m doing are eating less fast food, getting the garage set up as a home gym and use it 2-3 times a week (nothing crazy, but 40-60 minutes of cardio and light weights, or time on the rowing machine), and getting out to golf a little bit more this year.
Seek Knowledge I’m in a doctoral program, so reading a lot is par for the course. I’d still like to read 10+ books (not journal articles!) this year. I have a shelf full of books on subjects ranging from qualitative research methods, teaching pedagogy, deaf mental health, child development theories, organizational leadership, and even my own mental health. I’ll do my best to update here what I’m reading and my reflections.
Seek Scholarship This is a lofty goal – I’d like to submit at least 4 academic projects for publication consideration this year, complete the first complete draft of my Personal Finance textbook, and draft the outline of a new book that’s been kicking around in my head for a while. This is definitely going to stretch me, but I’m working on a new organization and time management system that I think will really help me stay focused.
Seek Service I’ve been a board member with the Financial Therapy Association since 2018. Last year (2019) we accomplished so much, including launching a new certification in Financial Therapy, growing our membership, and becoming a little more focused on long-term growth. I’m excited for 2020 with the continued development of advanced certification in Financial Therapy and to continue my role as Treasurer in helping the organization grow into the new decade.
Seek Fellowship This is a big one for me. I struggled with this in 2019, mainly from over committing myself to projects that didn’t align with my goals and vision. I really want to be more present with my friends and family, spend more time with my spouse, and ultimately be more conscious about where/how my time is spent and with who. This could range from my professional relationships, mentoring students, engaging with my doctoral cohort, and those who I just like to kick back with and watch a good movie or game.
Hopefully this helps you in your own journey to seek the best version of yourself through setting goals this new year (and decade!).