Sunday, January 20, 2008

10 Rules for Goal Setting

Over the last few weeks, I've been talking with friends about goal setting and trying to formulate my own set of goals for the new year and beyond.

This is not a simple exercise.

Self improvement is an evergreen industry, spewing pablum, nonsense and magical thinking throughout the land. That's not all it does, of course, but the stuff making the most outrageous claims seems to find the end-caps at every big-box retailer in the USA.


So the question is, How can I craft a set of goals that will actually help me improve my life, rather than smothering me in regrets when I've failed to climb Everest, conquer Broadway, or cure cancer?


So, here's the set of rules I've come up with for myself (the fact that there are ten is an accident... honestly).

  1. Don't set impossible goals. What could be a surer way to feel lousy about yourself than to set goals you can't possibly accomplish?

  2. Big goals are fine, but there needs to be a clear, rational path from here to there (see the next rule for clarification).

  3. Create a set of goals that allows for a series of accumulated victories. If all the goals are huge, you've crushed yourself before you taking your first step.

    Accomplishing the short and mid-term goals gives invaluable encouragement along the way to bigger, more challenging goals.

    Any long-term goal that doesn't have short and mid-term goals leading to it is doomed to failure. You might as well pray for a lottery win.

  4. Don't shy from big, tough goals. The trick is to build a path of small-goal stepping stones to get there.


    Big victories (accomplishment of ambitious goals) are made of a series of small behaviors. To paraphrase John Wooden (very imprecisely, I’m sure), there are no big things, only a series of little things that add up to something big.

  5. Don't set too many goals.

    What’s too many? I have no idea (and I’m sure the number differs from person to person).. But just like setting impossible goals, setting too many can be utterly self-defeating. It’s best, I think, to go after a small handful of the most fundamental goals you can imagine for yourself. Keep in mind that the point is to stretch without guaranteeing your own failure.

  6. Goals should be effort-based, rather than results-based. You can't always control the outcome, but you can control your input.

  7. Goals should not be all-or-nothing affairs. Don't allow yourself to be made miserable for failing to achieve goals. Failure, in this regard, is relative, anyway. It’s certainly possible to make meaningful progress in life without fully achieving your goals.

  8. Goals are meant to be constructive. The minute they become destructive, you have to rethink what you're doing with them.

  9. Don't let days go by without thinking about what you're trying to accomplish. The act of creating, and chasing, goals requires breaking old habits. It’s far too easy to fall back to old behaviors if you don’t continually remind yourself of the steps required to get where you want to go.

  10. Occasionally revisit your goals to ensure that the short and mid-term activities still feel like they’re aligned with the longer-term goals.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another Showy Sunrise


Fast-moving clouds and fast-changing conditions make for all kinds of great variety in the shots I can take out my office window.

It doesn't hurt to get to work in the wee, wee hours, either.