I’ve been setting goals since before I could write. I know this because I have a small red journal that my parents started for me when I was just four years old, and an early entry is about my goals. One of my favorite goals from this time period is “Don’t put hands on hips.” I guess I needed to work on being less sassy.
Goal setting with Dad
My dad was always very big on goal setting. Before January, my dad would ask me what goals I wanted to set for the year. Often, he would encourage my siblings and me to set goals in different areas, but all of our goals were supposed to be self-selected and ones we wanted to achieve.
We wrote our goals down in a little book, and as the year progressed, my dad would hold monthly interviews with each of us kids to ask how we were doing. Depending on our goals, he might ask “How high can you count now?” or “Are you making your bed each day?”
Over time, we graduated to “goal sheets” that had our name at the top and a spreadsheet below where we would hand write our goals. To the right of our goals were columns for each month and a square for us to evaluate how we were progressing. If we were progressing, we entered a plus sign. If we weren’t progressing, we would enter a minus sign. And if we had completed the goal for the month, we would enter a check mark in the box.
My dad would always post his goals in the corner of the bathroom mirror as a daily reminder. I don’t recall any of his goals except for “Do Air Force exercises daily” or something like that.
Earning a trip to Walt Disney World
When I was 15, we decided to set a goal as a family to earn a trip to Walt Disney World. My dad hung butcher paper on the wall and drew a “course” leading to a castle at the top with our names at the bottom. We each got to choose a color that represented our progress along the course. When we completed a goal, we could color in a bar within the course. As we accomplished more goals, our “lane” would get colored in.
There was just one caveat. We ALL had to make it to the castle. If someone didn’t complete their goals, then NONE of us would get to go to Disney World. For some people (like our next-door neighbors), Disney World wasn’t a big deal. For our family, it would be the very first time we had ever been to the Magic Kingdom. Talk about incentive! Fortunately for me and my 15-year-old self, we all completed our goals and earned the trip to Disney World.
Goal setting with my own kids
Because goal setting was so effective for me growing up, I’ve continued the tradition with my own kids. One of my favorite 2010 goals for one of my kids was “No karate chopping or hitting.” I also love this gem: “Flush toilet (wipe each time).” Classic.
My goal setting today
30+ years later, I’m still setting personal goals. And up until this year, I was even using the same goal sheets I used as a child. However, I’ve now graduated to a more granular view to outline why I’m doing something, what I hope to accomplish, and how I’ll accomplish it.
I try and review my goals every Sunday morning at 7 am with my younger brother, Ben, who’s my accountability partner. For me this has been very effective. I know I’ll be reporting to him every week and want to show that I’m committed.
Although the end of December is typically when I set new goals (or resolutions), I also use the beginning of every month or week to set new ones or recommit myself to current ones if I’ve fallen behind. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (a favorite book of mine), has said that “Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit. This is a distinguishing feature between winners and losers.”
For me, I want to be a winner. However, if I miss a day, I don’t beat myself up. I just remind myself of why my goals are important to me and get back on track.
I know some people don’t like setting goals. That’s okay. For me, it’s how I was able to accomplish a lot of my List of 50 Things to Do Before I Turn 50. And, I’m still working on my List (I think I still have 12 things to cross off, but I’m making progress).
Some of my goals for 2023
Some of my goals this year include: Read 50 books, travel to the Philippines, learn how to ski, learn how to row (with a rowing machine), start a business, take an overnight trip on a train, write a book, write a blog entry weekly, cut out sweets, and stop hitting the snooze button. The last one is a really hard one for me (even harder than cutting out sweets).
I think I could use some more accountability partners to encourage me and keep me going—especially with the blog posts. Who’s in?