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On Tuesday I gave a mid-year report on the progress I’ve made with the goals I set at the start of the year: some are going great, others need a bit more attention, and a few have been jettisoned in light of changes that have occurred in me and in my life since those goals were set back in January. When I outlined my annual goals over six months ago, I recognized that I would likely need to do some mid-year recalibration, and now that we are halfway through July (how is that even possible?!) I am ready to start establishing some goals for the second half of 2015. Rather than simply listing out goals I’d like to achieve over the next five months, I’ve decided to take a different approach.

I’ve written a lot lately about the holistic attitude I’m taking toward life and wellness. I’ve been focusing on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pillars of health, and in evaluating each of these four areas of my life, I’m noticing plenty of room for improvement on all fronts. My self reflection has resulted in a desire to make drastic changes all at once, and the ambitious side of me says it’s time to set some huge goals, and to immediately set about achieving them. But then I remember how rarely that has worked in the past, and how it tends to result in discouragement and shame. So, instead of making unrealistic pledges to overhaul my entire life—and likely setting myself up for failure—I’ve decided to go small, breaking my goals up into manageable chunks.

Updated Goals

My new approach is to set five weekly goals: one for each of the four pillars, plus one additional catch-all goal. Some of my goals are daily in nature (“I will ________ every day this week”) while others are one-time achievement goals (“I will accomplish _________ by the end of this week”). I’ve been setting my goals each Sunday, recording them in my journal, and writing brief daily updates as part of my journaling practice each evening. At the end of the week I reflect on how I did with my weekly goals and set new ones; if I’m not happy with the progress I made toward a particular goal I might keep that same goal for another week, with slight adjustments to make it more attainable.

I’m considering making changes to my categories to make them a bit more outward-facing rather than totally focused on self improvement. (For instance, setting a weekly parenting, marriage, or friend goal.) However, I know that whatever changes I want to see in my life need to begin with me, so for now it’s my own life habits that are getting the attention.

I’m a month into my weekly goal setting, and so far it is going well. There are a few reasons why I’m finding this approach particularly effective:

  1. Setting new goals each week means that I am able to set goals that are relevant to my present life, and not the life I imagine I will have weeks or months down the road. With Charlie growing and changing at such a rapid rate, my days look very different from week to week, so this is particularly important at this less predictable stage of my life.
  2. The weekly nature of my goals means I have a limited time to accomplish them: this eliminates my tendency to procrastinate!
  3. Setting new goals each week, and reflecting on them every evening, keeps them at the front of my mind and therefore I am more likely to work towards mastering them.
  4. The four-pillars approach guarantees that I am addressing multiple facets of my life and not hyper-focusing on one particular area.
  5. I don’t feel guilty when I fail to achieve a goal because I know that I will have a fresh start in just a few days.
  6. Five goals seems to be a good number for me: enough that I’m stretching myself, but not so many as to feel unmanageable.

As much as I’m loving this new style of goal-setting, I see it as an enhancement to my annual resolutions and I plan to continue to pursue those big-picture goals I set at the start of the year. I’ve even been moving some of those one-time annual goals (like setting a password manager) into the “other” slot on my weekly goals. Having a weekly deadline, rather than an annual one, definitely increases my chances for success!

I don’t know how long I will continue to set weekly goals. This might just be a phase, or it might become a lifelong habit. For now, this approach is working well for me. It feels good to be proactive about making necessary changes, and I’m excited about where they might lead.

Mario Andretti Quote

Have you experimented with setting short-term goals? Has it worked well for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences with goal-setting!

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