So, you have some audacious dreams and you think a goal setting worksheet may help…
Perhaps you’ve played around with the idea of goal setting before, but have always written it off as too much work.
Instead, you float, pushed and pulled by circumstance, adrift in the sea.
Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we should go with the flow and see where life takes us. There’s a time for spontaneity and surrender.
Eventually, however, you may find yourself washed up on an undesirable desert shore.
The fact is that many of us want to progress in different areas of our lives, but have no real strategy in place to move forward.
This is where goals and, more specifically, goal setting worksheets can help (albeit with a vital caveat that we’ll explore soon.)
Firstly though, let’s do a little prep, so you get the most of them.
To skip the goal setting tips and see the recommended goal setting worksheets, scroll to the bottom of the article – I’ll only be mildly offended 😉
Why Is Goal Setting Important?
Goals keep us accountable. They’re the signal of commitment, transforming vague notions into concrete action.
Before setting goals, all we have are woolly sentiments. We want to do this and should do that. But we’re simply dreamers, not doers.
And while fetishising over an idyllic future is an important component of the goal setting worksheet process, to stop there is to leave a job half finished.
Even if you do want to be the next Uri Gella, simply thinking really hard about bending spoons won’t make it happen.
It’s so easy to convince yourself you’re making progress through sheer thought alone, but until you make a commitment, draw a line in the sand and task yourself with achieving a goal, you’re going nowhere.
Goal setting cauterises ambition and clarifies desire. By thinking through the nuts of bolts of your goal, it’s likely you’ll shed superfluous ambition that may detract from your primary objective.
Maybe you’ll decide that a sexy beach body, Benjamin Franklins in the bank and a designer dog with its own Instagram account aren’t necessary after all. Who knew?!
Setting goals permit laser-like thinking and shedding desires of questionable importance.
Goal setting’s not only vital as a personal marker for progress, but also as an external indicator to those around you.
When your loved ones see your dogged determination, they often become goal enablers, assisting your journey.
In contrast, if you don’t have firm goals, it’s all too easy to be swayed by the masses.
If you’re eating crap and only have a vague desire to consume more fruit and vegetables, any challenge from friends and family can easily destroy our resolve.
Such external resistance can be a useful tool, a sign that we should lean into discomfort.
Is Goal-Setting Dangerous?
Many of us (me included) have a stormy relationship with the old goal setting worksheet. Just like a feisty relationship, it’s easy to oscillate in and out of love.
Because, in truth, there’s a dark side to goal-setting. Let’s take a look:
Are you setting goals that are in your best interests?
Many goals look great on the surface, but as soon as you start the pursuit, a darker underbelly emerges.
Perhaps you’ve been conditioned by your upbringing or environment to pursue wealth and status, dictating certain goals and behaviour.
If you’ve never looked inward and peeled back the technicolour onion of life, you may well be dissatisfied.
I mean, it’s a bit of cliche now, isn’t it? A famous person rises from nothing through sheer grit and determination only to realise that the pursuit of notoriety holds little intrinsic meaning, before spiralling into depression.
Completing a goal setting worksheet without adequate self-reflection is a slippery fish and should be held with caution.
Before setting any goals, ensure that you set your sights on a meaningful outcome. The peripheral rewards don’t matter as much as the intrinsic satisfaction derived from the journey itself.
Are you too fixated on the result?
A quick story: Once, there was a group of climbers who were trying to scale Everest. During their climb, adverse weather conditions began to affect their expedition.
Being a long way into the ascent, they had a decision to make. Take the safe option and let the weather govern their behaviour, or push forward to try and summit before the storm hit.
Unfortunately, they opted for the latter and didn’t make it back alive.
When their compatriots at basecamp were interviewed about the incident, it appeared that goal setting had played a part in the group’s demise.
After becoming fixated with the goal of climbing Everest, many of the climbers were far to emotionally invested in the result to see the situation clearly and act on the available evidence.
Though far less risky in most situations, the same danger applies for our own goals.
Becoming intoxicated on a distant goal, we become blinkered to what’s going on around us.
Unhealthy goal obsessions can blind us to financial, relationship and health issues.
Are you focusing on your locus of control?
Grand goal setting’s all very well.
For some, it might mean setting up a human colony on Mars, while for you it might just mean giving your kids a good education.
The problem with any goal though, is that it’s completely outside of our control. That’s right, we have zero knowledge of whether our goals are actually attainable.
Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? I mean, why bother at all if we have no control? Well, luckily, there’s a workaround.
Have you heard of the Stoics? The clever old philosophers from ancient Greece. They proposed that to live a happy life, you should focus only on what’s in your locus of control.
This really means that we only concentrate on our immediate mindset and behaviour, rather than setting our sights on a particular outcome.
Really, it boils down to a change in perception. If you’ve got a huge goal to tackle, it has to be broken down into smaller chunks and then even further to digestible daily activities.
You see, without taking small consistent steps of daily action, the goal can never be attained.
And this is where so many of us falter.
We constantly envisage the distant, shiny future whence all goals have been achieved and dreams fulfilled, rather than focusing on the nitty-gritty trenches of daily life, where the real action happens.
There are a couple of pieces of advice before diving headfirst into a goal setting worksheet:
As we’ve said, many people pursue the wrong goals. At least the wrong goals for them.
And before they know it, they’ve spent years chasing a mirage.
That’s why it’s advisable to perform some self-reflection first. This shouldn’t be an excuse to simply dither in indecision. It should rather be an active process that allows you to uncover your intuition.
You see, deep down, we all know what we really want to do. As Stephen King says about his stories, you just have to dust off the bones like an archaeologist.
One method that’s really helped me declutter my irrational brain is meditation. Simply sitting and observing my thoughts, while bringing my attention back to my breath.
Another method, which is proselytised by many, is the morning pages ritual. Popularised by Julia Cameron in her splendid book, ’The Artist’s Way’, Cameron advises sitting down at a desk every morning and writing three A4 pages in long-hand.
The content can be about anything you please, but just keep writing. After a while, you’ll be able to dive below the surface level flotsam and reach the good stuff underneath.
Many goals we set can appear daunting at the outset.
Glistening, ephemeral spires that we can see, but not touch.
That’s why we need to bring them closer to home. Make them more tangible. Breaking your goals down into processes and systems that you can complete each day will take your mind off the future and into the present.
The goal suddenly disappears as you focus simply on the daily system, knowing full well that each mini-action is a mini-step towards your goal.
Congratulate yourself whenever you perform your scheduled step for the day.
There’s nothing wrong with not achieving your goals.
When you focus on a system, you acknowledge that the goal is outside of your control and you simply let the result take care of itself.
That liberates you to ensure you’re only trying your best to stick to your system on a daily basis.
You must change your mindset from win-lose to win-learn. If you don’t quite hit your target, treat it as a valuable learning experience to iterate upon moving forwards.
How to Use a Goal Setting Worksheet
Objectives and Key Results
Before completing your goal setting worksheet, check out the video below which talks about the objective and key results (OKR) goal setting framework.
I’ve personally used this method with some of my marketing clients, and it’s a fantastic way to keep a team accountable.
Try to use the SMART goals template to ensure you’re getting the most out of your chosen goal setting worksheet. While various substitute words are applied to this formula, this is my preferred version:
Specific – The more specific you can get with your goal setting, the better. If you’re setting up a system-related goal, try to drill down on the exact activities you need to perform to achieve your aim.
Measurable – As Peter Drucker is purported to have said, “What gets measured, gets managed”. Setting up trackable systems to ensure you’re hitting your targets is important. One example in my own life is using Toggl, a free browser-based time tracker to ensure that my time is being spent on the right projects.
Achievable – While dreaming big is always good, setting realistic goals is also important. While it would be nice to be the next Warren Buffet, set yourself achievable targets that can motivate you to progress to the next level.
Relevant – Are the goals you’re setting congruent with your overall purpose and direction? Setting mini goals that don’t contribute to your overall aims will produce poor results.
Time Bound – When completing your goal setting worksheet, give yourself a specific period of time after which you’ll assess your results. It might be that you need to tweak your approach and test a different angle altogether to achieve your objective.
8 Goal Setting Worksheets
2. Spark People
5. Jessi Fearon
Designing Your Life
Whether you want to achieve fitness goals, academic goals or just hit certain targets at work, a goal setting worksheet can help.
Although these templates are a great way to gain clarity, ensure that you enjoy the journey as much as attaining the goal itself.
Once you have an objective, stay present, put in the reps and let the results take care of themselves.