Setting goals is more than one activity. It requires a lengthy thought process that identifies many other areas that must be more deeply understood before the job is done, at least for the time being.

We are all unique. Our thought processes will vary as we weave in and out of the different aspects of our ultimate goals. I will attempt to arrange and discuss these factors in a way that is logical to me. Let’s begin with a story by Denis Waitley in “Creative Goal-setting for Kids and Teens”:

“An Indian guide who displayed uncanny skills in navigating the rugged regions of the Southwest was asked how he did it. “What is your secret of being an expert tracker and trail-blazer?” a visitor asked him.

The guide answered: “There is no secret. One must only possess the far vision and the near look. The first step is to determine where you want to go. Then you must be sure that each step you take is a step in that direction.”

A dream is what you would like for life to be. A Goal is what you intend to make happen. A goal is the near look; what, specifically, you intend to do on a daily basis to get there.”

Far vision

My thought process was quite iterative, moving in a circular manner sometimes, then restarting by jumping backwards to reconsider a related area. Ideas were added, deleted, rearranged, clarified, expanded and simplified.

Dave Ellis in “Creating Your Future” (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) emphasizes reflection as follows:

“Think clearly. Rather than go through your daily routine on automatic pilot, you can be thoughtful and use simple techniques of logic to move directly toward the life of your dreams.”

As you consider where you want to go you may become somewhat philosophical and self-reflective.

1. Determine your purpose.

What is your purpose or role in life? Is it clear? Do you still need to discover the meaning of your life and the things that are happening?

When you start doing the work you were born to do, you don’t feel passion. What you feel is that nothing is missing.”

Barbara Sher, Live the Life You Love”, Delacorte Press, 1996

2. Recognize your needs.

Now we are into a myriad of factors! Books are written about this, so I’ll leave it up to you to begin detailing your needs. My wife needs to have fun to stay committed to something. I need time to plan and targets to get motivated.

3. Understand your value system.

Determine what activities you love and love the most. Understand your feelings and what it is that causes you to love these activities the most. Be able to recognize them, describe them and name them.

Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”


Near look – Determining goals

Dave Ellis in “Creating Your Future”, Houghton Mifflin, 1998, introduces strategies to move from reflection to action and introduces the need to change.

4. Survey your life.

Recognizing and understanding your effectiveness in the many areas of life eventually leads to self-improvement. The sooner you begin the quicker you will make necessary changes.

5. Notice your expectations.

Ellis stresses personal choice as opposed to reacting to others’ expectations of you. Rather than being driven by the need to gain the approval of others, internalize your thoughts. What do you really want? What are you good at? What do you enjoy?

Ask yourself, “Is this something that I freely choose, or is this goal mainly to gain the approval of others?”

6. Uncover your gifts.

As you determine and track what activities you loved and love the most, one or more themes should become evident. Understand what it is that causes you to love these activities the most. Project these themes into possible careers.

7. Recognize you worries and concerns.

What worries preoccupy you when you are in the future? What are you predicting when discussing the future?


8. Set goals in all areas of your life.

Include all areas of your life not just your career or profession.

9. Set activity goals, not outcome or production goals.

Activity will lead to production by itself. Goals can be written in three domains: having, doing (action), and being (values). Goals can be categorized as

a)     pursuing opportunities you have identified,

b)     solving problems you have recognized or anticipate, and

c)      developing or improving your skills or character.

10. Set goals that are high and challenging.

“… a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

11. Goals should be specific and measureable.

If not, they are just dreams.

12. Set short-term goals.

You must be able to measure them daily or weekly at the worst.


13. Get your priorities straight.

Sorry, but I think it’s important to repeat a quote from “Far vision” at the beginning of this discussion:

“Think clearly. Rather than go through your daily routine on automatic pilot, you can be thoughtful and use simple techniques of logic to move directly toward the life of your dreams.”

14. Align and harmonize your goals.

Your goals must harmonize with your purpose, values, each other and your plans. Whenever you detect a conflict set new priorities that will eliminate the conflict.


15. Write it down.

Better still, use computer technology. It’s easier to monitor and update.

16. Develop an idea bank.

If you can, use technology.

17. Clear the deck for action.

Clean out all the clutter – but determine why you are doing it!  What is the first project you could set up if you had the room and the time?

Identify the one thing you will do each day, not “try to do”, then get going!.

“The vitality of thought is an adventure. Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”


“You never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”

Irish proverb

18. Use an action and reflection cycle.

Honest and in-depth reflection should be followed by action and vice versa. Think about your results and what they mean to the goals you have set.  .

19. Monitor your action plan daily.

20. Review your progress weekly.

Are changes needed? If so, reset your goals. With your new understanding change and repeat the appropriate steps.

Keep working at it and you will uncover your gifts and live the life you love.

It’s possible that as you work toward achieving the life you love you will encounter other issues. Those that bothered me were:

  • Why is it so hard to change?
  • What about setbacks or mistakes?
  • My life is more complicated. It’s not just about my profession.
  • Others are almost always involved. It’s often to keep relationships at their best.

Future blogs could get into these areas.

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