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The Promise of the Future
2018-12-04 • 3 minute read

A Goal Setting Process for You and Your Clients

Does it boggle your mind that the movie E.T. hit the theaters 36 years ago?  Do you shake your head when you consider that Black Monday occurred 31 years ago?  From my perspective, that time span seems like a blink of the eye. But here is the surreal part: as fast as the last 25 years whipped by, I'm convinced that the next 25 are going to zip by even faster.

With that in mind, and considering that 2018 is winding down, this week's article revolves around the importance of goal setting and a simple process for designing your vision of the ideal future.  My suggestion is that you set aside some time to walk through this process to galvanize your thoughts on paper.  If you have a team, you might want to consider an off-site team meeting and incorporate this into a team goal-setting session.  And lastly, many advisors have told me that they've adapted this approach into conversations with clients to create a more panoramic approach to help them set personal, professional and family goals to focus on what really matters to them.

Long ago, I learned of a perfect metaphor related to designing your future:

It's not the winds of opportunity that determine our level of success, it's the set of the sail.

I've learned that if we don't decide what direction we want to head in, the winds will decide for us.  Maximum achievement is by design, not by chance.  Sure it is nice to have a tailwind, but we can't rely on external dependencies.  Life is about choices, and truly accomplished people will tell you that documenting your goals is one of the best decisions you can make.

When we coach a client of ours through a personal goal-setting consultation, we have a simple, sequential process to get their wheels turning.  W5 is a framework that you can use, and it consists of these questions: What, Where, When, Why and Who. These can be a good starting point.  As you get on a roll, you can drill down and then use what you've written down as a tool to help you navigate 2019 and stay on course.

What Are You Grateful For?

One of the best ways to slow life down a bit is to reflect on the past before you plan for the future.  There is so much emphasis placed on achieving new goals that we can often trivialize what we've already achieved.  The most effective, well-rounded people possess a unique blend of perpetual ambition and palpable contentment.  The very essence of a Zen lifestyle is that you could live to be 100, or it could all be over tomorrow.  When you savour your successes, you create a foundation of peace and fulfillment.  Ironically, this activates a new level of appreciation for your value and self-motivation for your untapped potential.

This process also helps you distill everything down to what ultimately matters in your life. You can tune out the noise and do mid-course corrections in case you've drifted away from your core purpose.

It reminds you of the importance of loving what you do.  It's hard to improve on your skills and the value you are bringing, if you don't love what you do.

And finally, I believe that gratitude amplifies other important qualities to pure success in life.  Forgiveness, self-responsibility and humility are the wellspring of a balanced life that result in an inspiring legacy.  I was told long ago that lessons can be learned from every person’s code of conduct.  Every life is either a warning or an example.

Where Do You See Yourself?

Once you've looked back and reflected on your accomplishments to this point in your life, you can then invest the past into the future and create a wish list of achievements you'd like to make in the years ahead.  The key here is to pour it all out.  List out everything you'd like to accomplish going forward.  How much do you want to earn?  Where do you want to travel to?  What do you want to acquire?  What do you want to get better at?  Get it out of your head and put it all on paper.  Take your time and marvel at all that is possible for you.

When Do You Want to Accomplish This?

Once you've created your wish list, start putting timelines beside everything you've written down.  You should create a spectrum of 1, 3, 5, and 10 year goals and beyond.  Then I'd like you to circle three items that you feel you can accomplish in the next 3 years.  These should be the goals that are of paramount importance to you and will become the beacon to help you see past short term obstacles and setbacks.

Why Is This So Important To You?

Ultimately you are going to need to create a plan to help determine HOW you are going to accomplish your goals.  But something that is just as important as the HOW is the WHY.  As legendary personal and business development guru Jim Rohn often said, "The How is the process, the Why is the purpose.  When the WHY is clear in your mind, the HOW becomes that much easier."  This process is what amplifies your personal drive and sense of purpose.

Who Do You Need to Become?

Many people focus primarily on monetary goals when they go through this process initially.  In time though, they realize that while how much one earns is important, it isn't the key factor to success in life.  It's not what we earn that makes us valuable, it's who we become as a person.  So the last number in the combination to unlocking your full potential so you can breakthrough any self-imposed plateau is to focus on the skills you need to develop.  We have to make the time to develop ourselves.  If we want to earn more, we have to learn more.  If we want to become all that we can, we have to continually improve our skills.  To paraphrase Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we can never convince ourselves that we are too busy cutting wood that we never have time to sharpen our saws.

This is especially important during times when the world seems to be focusing on all that is wrong.  It's easy to get faked out and look to the future with apprehension rather than anticipation.  But you can't control any of those issues. We can't hope for conditions to get better or easier.  We have to get better and focus on what we can control.  As I often tell my kids, the best ten 2-letter words ever put together in a personal pledge are these, "If it is to be, it is up to me!"

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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