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Creating Long Term Goals

Copyright 2011, by Dave Kahle.

One of the habits often practiced by highly successful people is the habit of regular goal setting. There is a reason for that. Long term goals compel you to work with discipline and concentration rather than going about your job mindlessly and routinely. Goal-setting is a discipline that helps you focus.

This doesn´t mean that you can´t do your job without goals. You can, and many salespeople do. But the discipline of goal setting forces you to think about what you do. It moves you out of the realm of being reactive -- doing what other people want you to do -- to being proactive -- doing what you want to do.

Ours is a world that is more and more full of stuff to do; interesting things, multiple tasks and unlimited opportunities. Over the course of your career, you are going to be presented with thousands of opportunities and literally millions of decisions. If you´re going to maintain your sanity and have any kind of life, you need to focus on the most important of that chorus of possibilities crying out for your attention. That´s what long term goals help you to do.

Here´s how to go about creating long-term goals.

1.  Select an area on which to concentrate.

Since we are talking about long term goals -- say 10 or more years into the future -- you should be working with fundamental aspects of your life. I often suggest that people think first about these five areas of their lives:

    1.  Spiritual
    2.  Financial
    3.  Career
    4.  Relationships (social)
    5.  Physical
Pick one area, work on it, and then move on to another area until you have all five fundamental aspects of your life covered with long-term goals.
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2.  Brainstorm (Daydream).

Next, daydream about what you´d like to achieve with respect to that part of your life or job. Kick back, relax, and begin to list on a piece of paper all the things you´d like to accomplish in the area on which you´re focusing. Create a list of your dreams. Don´t edit or judge what you´ve written, rather, just make a long list of your dreams. Keep the time frame in mind. We´re not talking about next month. These are long term, decades ahead, lifetime-ish sorts of dreams.

Nobody else can do this for you because no one really knows your situation and your aspirations better than you do.

Here´s an example. Let´s say that you are thinking about your career, and you´ve begun to daydream about what you´d like to accomplish in that area. You write these things down:

  • make a lot more money
  • become one of the top salespeople
  • advance into management
  • successfully go into business for myself
  • become a vice-president of sales somewhere.

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3.  Prioritize.

If you´ve done a good job daydreaming, you probably have a long list of things you´d like to accomplish. Unfortunately, you can´t do everything. You just don´t have enough time and energy to do everything you'd like to do. And, some of your possibilities, your day dreams, may be mutually exclusive. So, you must prioritize and select those things that are most important to you.

There´s no formula for this, other than to think carefully about each of your daydreams, compare them to your situation, and select those that you feel are the most important to you. Remember to apply a dose of realism to this process.

    In our example, let´s say that you´ve decided to focus on two career goals:

    1.  to make a lot more money,
    2.  to move into management.

Goals are only half the solution.
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4.  Specify.

This step requires you to turn your daydreams, which are often pretty vague at this point, into specific, achievable goals.

Let´s take the first of the two examples, "to make a lot more money." What´s a lot more? After some reflection, you think along these lines: "I made $50,000 last year. But I think I´m potentially a lot better than that. Good salespeople make over six figures in today’s economy. I can be at that level." Your goal then becomes much more specific when you say, "I will consistently earn an annual income in the range of the best salespeople in the country - at this point, that´s over $100,000 a year."

Your earlier, vague goal of "making a lot more money" has now been turned into something very specific -- "Consistently earning over $100,000 a year."

This is a key step in the process because the specific detail of the goal is part of what gives it power. If your goals are vague and abstract, they have less power to shape and direct your behavior.

You should now have a piece of paper with your specific, prioritized goals written on it. When you've reached that point, you're ready for the next step.

5.  Refine.

Because the power of a goal is to direct your behavior, it´s very important that you write your goals exactly as you want them to be. You will direct a great deal of your time and effort toward achieving that goal. So, it behooves you to make sure the goal is right.

Once you have created written, specific goals, take a moment to apply some criteria to them. See if they measure up to the following questions. If so, good. If not, rewrite them to meet the criteria.

    a.  Are they specific? Does each goal specify, in detail, exactly what you want to accomplish? Can you make it more specific than what it already is?

    b.  Are they realistic? Deciding to be elected president of the United States may be a worthwhile goal, but it may not be realistic for you. This is where your daydreams meet reality. Your goals should be a stretch and require you to work hard to accomplish them, but they shouldn´t be so optimistic that you have no realistic chance of achieving them.

    c.  Are they measurable? Can somebody else tell whether or not you have achieved your goal? Have you stated it in measurable terms? Back to the example. To make a lot more money may be realistic, but it's not measurable. What´s "a lot more?" By turning that phrase into a measurable unit, "$100,000," you have made your goal measurable.

    d.  Do they have a specific time frame? Every goal should have a deadline for completion. That helps put power into it. A goal with no deadline has little motivational power. For each goal, specify the date by which the goal will be attained.

    e.  Are they worthwhile? You can spend years of your life working to achieve goals that, upon reflection, were not worth it. Don´t let that happen to you. Rather, consider, before you commit to it, whether or not this goal is worthwhile. Is it a good thing? Will you be proud of accomplishing it after the fact? If so, good. You are now ready to commit to your goal.
At this point, you will have created a set of long-term goals for each of the five fundamental aspects of your life. Good work. You´ll find them to be a major force in helping you focus your life and your energies. Now, place them someplace where you can review them every few months, and keep track of your progress.

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