Creating your “Encore” Life Part #3

Part Three of Weekly Three Part Series started 6/14/19.

Part 3 – Goal Setting

If you aren’t setting goals, start – now.

If you are setting goals, do it the right way.

Based on the Encore Wheel of Life exercises you completed in Part 2, you should have many ideas that, if accomplished, will increase your level of satisfaction in one or more of the life domains included on the Wheels. The next step is to determine the ideas that you really want to pursue and mold those ideas into clearly articulated goals that you will be highly motivated to achieve.

How we think about the future is a key determinant of our success.  When we recognize a direct connection between a future that we want and our behaviors and attitudes today, effort and commitment will soar.

How to Set Goals – the Right Way

1. Visualize – Start by trying to create a mental image of an outcome you would like to create. Forming a mental image has been shown to enhance motivation.  It does so by helping a person not only identify goals, but develop goal-directed behavior.  In other words, imagining your future success can actually improve your performance and effort in achieving that success. 

 Goal setting is about what is possible, not what is certain.  Clear mental imagery of positive future events actually increases the likelihood that those events will occur.

 This is a proven approach that many high-performance athletes use.  It works for them, and it will work for you. 

2. Write Goals Down – You may have heard the saying, “A goal not written is just a wish.” As you work through the steps below, make and amend your notes, whether that’s on paper or your computer.  Having a written record of your goal-making will make it far easier

  • Edit and expand upon goals;
  • Pick up your thought processes where you left off the next time you decide to work on them;
  • Keep your goals “top of mind” by posting them on your bathroom mirror, fridge or somewhere else where you’ll see them several times a day;
  • See what you’ve already accomplished (which will motivate you to keep going and drive you to make further progress).

3. Prioritize – Because some goals are bigger than others and will take longer to achieve, try to organize and prioritize them according to their importance to you. You don’t want to ignore the most important goals just because they seem too difficult or overwhelming.     

4. Break Down Big Goals – Some high-value “Big Picture” goals have many moving parts, and therefore may take an extended period of time to accomplish. They might also evolve over time.  Because of the commitment required to achieve such goals, it is important to break them down into smaller, shorter-term and more achievable pieces.

By being able to accomplish medium- and shorter-term component pieces of a large goal, you can see that you’re making progress from where you started, and those small victories will build momentum and self-confidence.  Be sure to recognize and celebrate key milestones toward your larger goals.

5. Remember Change is a Process, Not an Event– Developing a goal usually involves some element of change, and change can be difficult. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to try to work through a change process.  Start by listing/articulating what changes might need to be made, and why each change is important for accomplishing the goal.  You need to see clearly that each change is important in order to achieve the bigger objective, or you won’t change.  

You don’t need to share (with your spouse/partner or anyone else) anything about a given goal unless you want to, but you do need to be honest with yourself about the changes you need to make to reach a given goal.  Some will be small changes that are easy for you.  Others may be larger and much more difficult. 

6. Create Habits – As with big goals, try to break big/difficult changes into smaller pieces. Then work them into your daily routine, one by one, so that they become new habits. If one of your big goals is to improve your health, for instance, and your smaller change goals include going for a walk every morning, drinking a number of glasses of water, etc., remember that implementing such changes to make them habits is a process, not an event.

7. Acknowledge Both Benefits and Costs – If you do not fully understand the benefit that will result from making a change, and the challenges/difficulties that will be involved (i.e., the “cost” of making the change), the goal is unlikely to be achieved. You may want to rate your commitment to the change, and to reaching the goal, on a scale of 1-10, with one being “not at all committed” and ten being “totally committed.”  If you can’t rate your commitment well above 5, you need to go back to the drawing board and redefine what is important to you.

Many people overlook or underestimate the challenges that inevitably arise. Rarely is the path to achieving a goal free of struggle, obstacles or hurdles.  Rather than deal with hurdles reactively as they occur, you will improve your odds of success by anticipating what some of those hurdles might be, and considering an alternative course of action, a “Plan B”, so that when you see a hurdle coming you can jump over it and continue down the track.

8. Be SMART – One often-used approach to setting goals goes by the acronym SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you are setting business goals at work, this approach works wells. For setting personal life goals, however, our metrics and definitions of SMART need to be a little different.

  • Significant and Specific – These are personal, life goals; they need to be significant to you, as well as being clear and specific enough that you know when you have achieved them. The more important they are to you, the more motivated you will be to achieve them. If you see a goal as challenging but achievable, i.e., a “stretch” goal, you will likely commit the time and effort necessary to make it happen. That, in turn, will increase your self-confidence and motivation to accomplish other goals.
  • Meaningful – These are your goals. Don’t compare them to others’. People often set goals based on the needs and influence of others – families, friends, employers. To be inspiring and satisfying to you, your goals should be aligned with your values, your strengths, and your priorities.  Make sure the goal has a meaning or purpose for you personally.
  • Attracting – Your goal should be formulated as something that pulls, or “attracts,” your movement toward a specific state of being or objective, rather than a goal of avoidance, i.e., stopping or quitting something. For example, your natural motivation toward taking a healthy cooking class will be stronger than stopping the eating of junk food.  An attracting goal is usually accompanied by positive thoughts, whereas an avoidance goal is usually negative.
  • Realistic and Rewarding – The goal needs to realistic enough that you are confident that, with the right amount of effort, you can achieve it. When you do, there is a reward at the end that is sufficient to make it worth that effort.
  • Timely – To avoid procrastination, a goal should have a start date, a launch date to get you started, and a target date for completion. It should be fairly easy to set a target date for completion with goals that are shorter-term and very specific. 

For big picture, longer-term goals, a specific completion date may be more difficult to set.  Those types of goals are often more of a work in progress.  Setting a fuzzy target date in the future and missing that date can be discouraging, even if you’ve made a great deal of progress.  A more constructive approach to a longer-term journey, therefore, is to remain flexible and measure progress, rather than focusing on a completion date. 

9. Get a Goal Buddy – A goal buddy system works best when two people act as a team to support each other in achieving their goals. The goal buddy supports you, as you pursue your goals, through words of encouragement or words of accountability, whichever is appropriate at the time. 

Your buddy needs to be honest with you and offer a balanced perspective on your efforts.  You should do the same for them.  Commit to a schedule of meetings to review each other’s progress, discuss obstacles/setbacks, and adjust plans as needed for both of you to continue moving forward.

Speaking of reviewing progress, research has shown that setting goals with target dates around “temporal landmarks” (special occasions or calendar events, such as birthdays, holidays or the beginning of a week/month/year) creates a stronger motivational attraction toward achieving the goal.  The more meaningful the landmark, the stronger the motivational pull.

10. Review and Celebrate Your Progress – Achieving your goals is directly related to the amount of feedback you receive and your ability to measure your progress. An airplane can fly across the country from Seattle to New York on autopilot. During the journey, wind, weather, payload and a host of other factors push the plane off course, so the plane is technically off course most of the way. But the autopilot regularly measures progress toward the destination and makes course corrections along the way, so the plane ultimately reaches New York on time.

That’s how it is with your personal goals. By setting goals that are specific and clear to you, and breaking them down to smaller, measurable component parts, you will be able to measure the degree to which you are off course, and make necessary course corrections so that you, too, can reach your goal and do it on time.

Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to make progress between review periods.  Monitoring too often and measuring very little progress can be discouraging, whereas monitoring less frequently and seeing real progress can be both encouraging and motivating.  The length of time between monitoring/reviewing depends on the desired length of time from beginning to completion of the goal.  It might be measured in days, weeks, months or even years.

Goal attainment is a major benchmark for the experience of well-being.  When asked what makes for a happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life, people spontaneously discuss their life goals, wishes and dreams for the future.  Goals are an essential component of a person’s life experience, and an important measure of whether people feel their lives are meaningful and worthwhile, so be sure to make them a big part of your Encore Life.


“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

~Henry David Thoreau~

For a copy of the complete three part series Creating Your Encore Life, click here

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