How to Focus Your Resources on Achieving Your Goals
Many people spend more time planning a single vacation than planning their lives.
The press of daily events makes it easy to put ourselves on the back burner. Yet every day spent without focus is like water flowing through your hands.
Time, like water, is a precious resource that cannot be recovered once it’s gone.
As the new year begins, resolve to think through your life purpose — your personal mission statement — and then focus your time, your activities and your resources to make sure you’re making steady progress toward well-defined goals that support your life mission. Be sure to consider all the important aspects of your life: family/friends, health/personal interests, career/finances and spirituality/giving back.
I believe so strongly in the power of goals (based on plenty of personal experience and learning from experts) that I present an occasional workshop to share my thoughts and document best practices on this vital topic. It’s impossible to share all the learnings from a multi-day workshop in the space of a single article, but I will hit the highlights here and provide a resource list if you’d like to learn more.
Why bother? Because Oprah has it right with her focus on “living your best life,” and that’s exactly what smart goals help us do.
Start with the big picture
After a discussion about values that drive personal codes of conduct (it’s a particularly timely topic given our current cultural issues), I ask workshop participants the $64,000 question: “What is your ultimate purpose?” Or, put another way, “What’s the primary question that you’re trying to answer with your life?”
This question leads to other questions, such as:
- “Why was I put here?”
- “Why do I want to do this?”
- “What’s the purpose of my life?”
- “Why do I want to be the kind of person that I am?”
Take the time to really wrestle with these big-picture questions. The answers you come up with will form the foundation of your personal life mission statement and the goals to support it.
If you are struggling, borrow a page from Huckleberry Finn and imagine your own funeral. Visualize the people in attendance and imagine what they would say about you. This exercise can tell you a lot about who you are now and, most importantly, who you want to be.
Ideally, your daily work not only financially supports you (and those you love), but also supports your big-picture reason for being on earth. If not, maybe it’s time to think about making some changes — either at your current job or somewhere new.
This happened to me early in my career when I realized I wanted to make a recognizable difference in the lives of my customers. Working at a large corporation would never give me that opportunity, thus my IT consulting and training company was launched soon thereafter.
Define goals that support your mission
When thinking about work goals, consider these questions:
- What’s the ideal role for your professional life?
- How much money do you want to make when you are at the top of your earning potential?
- In what ways can you provide the absolute most value to your organization?
- Think of times when you were at your absolute best in terms of performance. What do those days have in common? How do you make this the standard for every day?
- What are things you can either not do or can delegate in your work life?
- What tools, technologies or methodologies can you leverage to be the most productive?
- Who can be a mentor in your career?
- What organizations have members that could provide insights and relevant experience to help you shine in your career?
- What books, CDs or courses could help you advance your career?
Thomas Edison reportedly once said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” This is why it’s important to get all your big-goal decisions on paper.
Be clear about what you want and, most importantly, why you want it. (Does each goal support the things that you’ve decided matter most to you?)
Some people struggle with this phase of the process because they’re not 100 percent sure about certain goals. I advise weighing each option that could lead to a similar outcome by looking at the pros and cons of each. After weighing consequences and insuring you’ve reasonably limited the downside risks, make choices and resolve to succeed.
I’ve found that having my mission, values and goals clearly written and posted in multiple places — exercise equipment, desk, notebook, bathroom mirror — where I can see them every day helps me to stay focused. When a new decision must be made relative to my time or other resources, I can weigh the choice against these well-articulated priorities. It saves time and, most critically, keeps me from wasting my time or money on things that do not move me closer to achieving my goals.
No matter where you land with your goals — work-related and otherwise — keep in mind that happiness matters and it’s easier to achieve than you might think. Research consistently has shown that people who report feeling happy and fulfilled in their daily lives share three common attributes:
- Healthy relationships
- Sense of purpose
- Appreciation for everything good in their lives
Some people even manage to appreciate their problems and challenges as the learning opportunities that they are.
So, remember to engage with life in meaningful ways, say thank you, and spend quality time with the people who matter most. At the end of your life, you may be lucky enough to enjoy your own funeral — even if you’re not there to appreciate it.
This article was written by Tom Salonek, the founder and CEO of Intertech, an IT consulting and training company, who has published more than 100 articles on business, leadership and technology.
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