For over 25 years, I have regularly set myself some goals for the next 12 months. Before the media industry insisted that I (and everybody else) should set goals by year end, I was always doing my review in August, when I could take a small break. And I must admit... my goals between age 25 and 45 were 95% (ok, maybe 100%!) financially driven. No time, no space for much else. In insight, that was a first mistake.
I would sit with excel and various pivot tables to assess multiple KPIs (usually known as Key Performance Indicators, but here Key Personal Indicators) and ROIs (usually known as Return on Investment, but here Return on Insatiable workaholism). And I would set or readjust my sole goal (this dreaded financial one) for 12 month, 3 years, 10 years.
What was wrong with that?
Well, many things: no balance (one relentless focus), no agility (I would review only once or twice a year), limited reward (too little intermediate milestones), and a recipe for slowly enslaving yourself...
Let's start with the enslaving problem. If you want to totally control someone, give this person a very ambitious 3 years goal (one single goal with one single metric) and only one review per year. Just before the 3 years maturity, or worst case if and when the deviation between target and reality becomes too large, re-issue a new 3 years plan with another slightly different but no less ambitious target. Congratulations! You have just secured someone chasing dreams for 3, 6, 9, 12 or more years. It is already very bad when someone does this to you, but it's even worse when you inadvertently inflict this devilish plan to yourself!
It's a No-Go zone! Long term dreamy targets with no reward in between, not enough milestones, and no frequent adaptations of the plan is just bad management of yourself. I recently went to a "Financial Freedom Meetup" in London, and I listened to a person sharing his goal with the whole audience of 40-50 people. It was as simple as this: "I will quit my daily job in the next 3-5 years and be financially free". Well, I am not an extrovert as those who have met me know very well, but I could not let this be seen as a correct goal to all those attending. I replied that this is the surest way for him to renew the exact same target in 3 years time.
We work in agile development, we buy on monthly subscription, we get daily reminders of trend changes, we receive offers valid for a few minutes, and despite this, we continue to set ourselves yearly targets. How bizarre!Do yourself a favour.
- Review your goals more frequently. Every quarter? Every month?
- Set goals with intermediate milestones. I knew already in June with a pretty good certainty that I would hit my 1,000km goal by early November if I continued at the same pace of runs. I knew I would finish writing my book by February this year if I continued writing at the same pace (that was my second main goal by the way, which was hit end of April).
- Balance the nature of your goals. You can set yourself a tiny insignificant goal, just to make you smile and get the positive feeling. Nothing wrong with that.
Like we reviewed recently with the necessary parachutes, the mindset conditions for the parachutes to materialise and be of good quality (no holes or sabotage) are as important as the parachutes themselves. Likewise, the process of setting goals, reviewing them, adapting them, is somehow as important as the goals themselves, or you could end-up snooking-enslaving yourself!
Oh, and my first and main goal for 2019, what was it then? You are in for a surprise! Well, it got ticked off the list by accident early in the year. I wanted to experience not being employed and having a pause with all the related accountabilities to anyone. It seems that I got a lot more than I bargained for... But the end result is the same: I can dictate what I do with my days, every day.
As bizarre as it may seem, I gave myself no financial goals in 2019! Oh, they will come back for sure!
To your journey!