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setting goals personal development

Setting Goals

Setting new goals and changing directions is something that all of us do several times in our lives and it’s an important part of our own personal development.

As our lifestyles, skills and interests change our goals both general and specific need to be adjusted. Continual reassessment of ourselves and our situations are necessary to ensure that the way we’ve been doing things is still the most beneficial, expedient and profitable.

Starting the process of assessing our present situation then setting new goals usually entails considerable time spent with paper and pad thinking about our goals, both short and long term, and even mor so when we are having or are anticipating a major life event.

Life events happen to all of us and some are:

  • Educational change
  • Marriage
  • Change of employment
  • Business
  • Religious
  • Birth
  • Illness
  • Change in an important relationship
  • Major accident
  • Death of someone close to us
  • Retirement


There are levels of importance that we consider when determining exactly what a goal should be and that is based on the effect that a decision will have on your or someone else’s life. Those changes that will have a minor effect obviously need less planning and thought than those that will have a higher impact.

Again, this is where pencil and paper, a lot of paper (or your laptop or tablet), come into play along with serious meditation and interaction with those that will be affected by your decision.

When someone is being directly affected or influenced by something you’ll be adding or changing, many times that person needs to be included in the discussion directly. Querying the other person’s ideas, attitudes and desires eliminates many future relationship problems. Ultimately what we decide is ours to own if we are the final decision maker, but whenever possible it’s important to have the interaction of others that may be affected.

At other times it’s important to seek the advice of someone who’s a professional within the area and discipline that we’re considering. We may want to talk directly with a person or we may want to access professional services or we may even take to the internet and look for reviews, forums, chat rooms and other advice outlets that will give us a broader and more experienced look at the subject of our situation. This is an important step in setting goals and in our overall personal development.

Generally the actual process of decision making and setting goals is the same. There are usually three broadly defined steps that take place which never change.

The Process

  1. Define where you are at this point in time
  2. List the steps and sub-steps required to get you or your situation to the next step.
  3. Delineate as specifically as possible where it is you want to be, what the desired outcome of this process is.
#1   Define

This sounds like something that doesn’t need to be considered in that it sounds self explanatory but you’d be surprised how many don’t see their present situation accurately. If they think something about themselves then it must be so. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Listen to what you say about yourself, your skills, your abilities – basically look at the resume’ you have in your head of yourself. Does it fit with your actual lifestyle? If not, this is exactly why you need a good comprehensive step #1. Take thoughtful time with this, it will probably be very enlightening.

#2 List the steps required

Fill in the gap between #1 and #3. These are those rational and necessary steps to accomplish the transition from #1 to #3.

The second point sound kinda, well, broad doesn’t it? Yes it is and I wrote it that way for effect because I want you to be fully understand that every “big” plan is merely a series of small steps which if taken in order will always lead to the desired goal. It’s like a treasure map. Follow the clues and you’ll find the treasure. So create a good, reasonable and comprehensive step-by-step plan and you’ll get to where you want to be.

If you look seriously at every project, prospect, idea, goal or decision, the required steps to accomplish the mission are always the same. The only difference is the number, complexity and type of the steps and sub-steps. You may think, “Wait a minute, my problem can’t be solved that easily.” Well, yes it can. The problem lies in the specific steps required to get to the goal, but the process is always the same, there is never anything else to do as far as the outline of the plan.

#3   Delineate the goal

Personally as to item #3, the goal, I like to have at least two alternatives to the main goal. There is the main goal that at this point you think you would like most of all, and then one or two others that would be acceptable alternatives because once you start the analysis of the problem and get into the actual steps required, you may come to find that another alternative becomes more attractive, so I urge you to be flexible.

But back to #2, because this is the lengthy one.

This is how I like to start the process of item #2, filling in the gap. Take a sheet of paper and across the top write the three top goals (be specific – the time has passed for generalities) from left to right in order of appeal.

Now down the left side, one below another, write in the steps that you know for a fact are required to accomplish the most favorable goal first. Start with the most appealing goal at the beginning because the other less appealing goals may start to look more appealing once you find that there may be much fewer steps and costs to accomplish them.

What we’re doing with this plan is eliminating the impossible, putting the improbable into perspective, coming up with alternative end-choices while realistically organizing the steps necessary to accomplish the main and alternative goals.

You will probably wind up with many steps depending upon the complexity of the whole problem and they will probably have to be rearranged and some subcategorized but that’s just part of the process. Then I suggest you let it rest, just for a little while. You probably will continue to think about it and as you do, new perspectives on the steps and sub-steps will emerge. Then after you feel you’ve included every step you can think of, go back and organize all of them in a linear or cost time frame.

Now putting them into linear time frame, calendarizing them so to speak, is fine but you will have to consider your financial situation. If someone of them require extra funds and / or extra time, you may have to adjust their position on the list.

Remember this: Once you start to delineate the steps required to meet your goal, the more detailed the steps are, in other words the more the steps can be broken down into smaller steps to make the whole, the better your personal sense of well being and your self image will be because your list will be getting a lot of check marks next to the steps. This may be psychological in nature, but it works. Everyone needs small victories along the way to make the larger trip seem more doable.

Then set the list aside for a day or so and just think about it. And remember, don’t get bogged down with feeling that you have to reach perfection at this point. That’s not what we’re doing right now. What we’re doing is eliminating the impossible, putting that which is required into perspective, determining what is improbable, coming up with alternative end-choices and realistically organizing the steps necessary to accomplish the main and alternative goals.

When you do come back to the list, eliminate the one’s you thought about (you will have several that you’ve determined either aren’t necessary or feasible) and add those that you think you should do that weren’t included on the first list.

Once the list, the plan, the goals, everything looks and seems as complete as it can get, determine a date to start. Don’t start thinking that you must first do such and such before you can start, because those “things” should have already been included on the list.

You see, it’s important not to think that in a while you’ll start. It’s important to see yourself, by virtue of having completed the plan, that you’ve already started. Otherwise the starting day may never come.

Good planning simply takes time so start the process as early as possible and thoughtfully give it the time and analysis you and the others that will be affected deserve.

This is in general the process and steps of goal setting and decision making. In future posts other perspectives and aspects of decision making and goal setting will be discussed but for right now this should afford you a good outline as to how to proceed so that you can get to where it is you want to be.



Author Tony Hensley



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