Woman looking at a guide book.

Your goals can be your roadmap.

We set goals to help channel our energy and filter out the less relevant demands on our time and attention.  Goals should reflect what is important to you now and be sticky enough help keep you on track when things get tough. However, context and circumstances do change, and when they do, goals can change.  For example, one of my neighbors had set a goal of canoeing in the Canadian wilderness in all four seasons in 2015. The goal had to be replaced when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He replaced the original goal with a new more pertinent goal. Given the importance of goals to direct our behavior, allocate our effort and to defend our attention, a simple checklist might be useful when creating resolutions or setting annual goals.

  • Spend time reflecting on what you want from the next year.
    Introspection is an important first step in setting goals that are not quickly overtaken by circumstances.
  • Consider at least one big hairy audacious goal (BHAG).
    Having a big hairy audacious goal is a great way to challenge your inhibitions and the status quo.
  • Make sure the BHAG is beyond the boundary of certain success and courts failure.
    A BHAG is typically at the edge of possible performance and should push the envelope of what is possible. [
  • Write all tactical (non-BHAG) goals using the SMART framework.
    Using the SMART (or other similar frameworks) will help you to craft goals that not only are attainable but also provide feedback on how you are progressing.
  • Construct goals so that they motivate you to higher performance.
    Goals are a tool to prompt and guide you to an achievement or level of performance.
  • Develop goals that, if achieved, will feed your sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.
    Goals that feed your sense of accomplishment will act as a positive feedback loop for motivation.
  • Write goals that you have control over achieving.
    Writing individual goals that you are the mercy of others to achieve tends to reduce motivation and significantly lower the probability of achievement.
  • Prioritize your goals.
    All goals are not created equal. Understand which goal (or goals) are the most important and which can be deprioritized if absolutely necessary.
  • State your goals in a positive fashion.
    Goals stated in a positive fashion provide more motivation by helping to frame feedback in a positive fashion (most true for novice and intermediate personnel). 
  • Set your goals with a clear and level head. (New Year’s Eve and Day special)
    Impaired thinking will yield promises that are very quickly shed.
  • Plan specific points in time for retrospectives and planning.
    Retrospectives provide time to reflect on progress and to re-plan how you will meet the goals you have set for the year.

Goal setting is an important method of providing guidance.  Goals setting in some contexts can be a formal process with rules, frameworks and forms, or can be slapdash in other contexts.  This simple checklist is offered as a tool to help you maximize the value you get from the process of setting goals.

Happy New Year!