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Types of life goals
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the number of definitions and terminology used around goals. In this chapter, I am going to simplify everything for you.
Many of the goal types that you may have heard of have several different names, which adds to the confusion.
We will start with the broad buckets that are used and then get into more practical areas of your life where it would be good to have some goals set.
Towards the end of the chapter, I will give my personal recommendations. Basically, ignore most types of goals.
While reading, keep in mind that it is what you choose, not what you don't choose that makes you happy in life.
Outcome goals, process goals, and performance goals
There are five major types of goals to consider when setting goals.
To explain the differences between these types I'll use the example of running. We will see how running goals vary when viewed through each of the five different goal-type lenses.
An outcome goal is a goal with a definite end result. An example might be I will complete the New York marathon in 2021. With this type of goal, it is very clear if you have achieved it or not. Outcome goals do not detail how you will achieve the goal.
Process goals are similar to setting a habit. They are ongoing behaviours that you will stick to. For example, I will become a runner and I will train 5 days a week. It can be very useful to set process goals in order to aid with outcome-based goals. Process goals are focus on how you will do things.
A performance goal is a personal standard that you set for your activities. For example, I will complete the New York marathon in 2021 with a time less than 4 hours. The difference between performance and outcome goals is how well you will achieve the outcome.
A topic goal is a goal where you want to focus on an area of your life. For example, I want running to be an important part of my life. This might include, joining clubs, blogging about running, learning all about the benefits and mechanics of running properly.
A time-based goal is a personal goal that makes the deadline the most important element of the goal. For example, six months from now I will be the best runner that I can be. You do not have a specific outcome or performance level in mind but you are going to do everything that you can do in the next six months to improve.
Life goals categories
It is not an accident that health is the first category in this list. If you do not take responsibility and manage your health then all other goals fall by the way-side. If you are not healthy and vibrant you will not have the energy or motivation to work on anything else.
If you've ever had a toothache you know that everything else becomes unimportant. It is all-consuming and it is the only thing that you can focus on.
I recommend that people have between 3 and 5 active life goals. The only category that you should definitely always have a goal in is health.
Health goals should encompass fitness / sleep / nutrition and any persistent ailments that you have. Dedicate time to these things every week.
Educate yourself on how the body works and learn skills. If you learn how to use a kettlebell (or similar) really well, you can build a strong and resilient body that minimizes your downtime and increases your chances of achieving all of your other goals.
If you ignore everything else in this article, please don't ignore your health.
Getting to a stable / comfortable financial position is also one of those things that is a gateway to more meaningful goals. It is hard to work on your relationships or romantic goals if the bills are piling up.
Aiming to be rich can be the goal but I would suggest that it should not be a goal in this category. Studies have shown that the amount of happiness that is derived from your income diminishes drastically beyond around $75,000 USD for an average American.
Obviously, you need to adjust that number for your country and its' cost of living. And that is not saying that your happiness won't improve, it will just improve less and less for every thousand additional dollars that you earn.
Knowing this fact is useful but truly understanding it can be powerful. It is difficult for most to internalize and believe it to be true. But the sooner you do, the sooner you can start to focus on other more meaningful aspects of life.
Don't let your financial goals dominate your focus.
Setting relationship goals and actively working on them is often overlooked. Even though it is possibly the easiest way to dramatically improve your life and your overall happiness.
Having a strong support network of loved ones, friends and family can lead to a very happy and fulfilled life with the standard trappings of "success".
Below I discuss the three most important relationship types. When you are constructing a goal in the relationship category you should probably address each of these three types.
Romantic relationship goals
Even if you are married you should consider addressing your spouse separately. That one-on-one relationship can be a linchpin in your overall happiness.
In an ideal world, how would your interactions be with this person every day? Even on tough days? How would you treat each other even after years of being together?
If you're single. What kind of person are you looking for? Don't make a huge long list of their attributes. Focus on how you would interact with them. Their personal attributes are much less important than the interplay between you both. Having a long list of dealbreaker attributes is not a good idea for a relationship that you want to build to last.
Family relationship goals
This one is tricky in a lot of cases. Some of us are lucky and have loving family members that are easy to get on with. Others, not so lucky.
The fact that we can't choose our family (other than spouses) means that we need to be creative and flexible with our goals. You may need to have specific goals for specific people.
Or, a better way might just be to set a goal about who you are going to be. Someone who is always friendly, loving and supportive regardless of the situation. Easier said than done I know. But if you can become that person. Over time strained relationships with your family members can heal and become positive and add joy to your life.
You only have control of your half of the relationship. Do not stress about that which you cannot control. Consciously decide how you want to act put regular large deposits into the bank of trust and hope that you eventually reap dividends in the relationship. If you don't, at least you can sleep at night knowing that you did your best.
Friend relationship goals
Research has shown that those who have close friends (emotionally and geographically) live longer than those who don't. FB / Insta / twitter friends don't count, unfortunately.
In fact, not having a close network of friends can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day!
Developing new friendships gets harder and more daunting the older we get. But it is far from impossible and you should be open to making new friends every time you meet someone new. But realistically, nurturing the friends that you already have is a more effective goal for you to set.
Your goal should be to meet in person as frequently as you can and make memories with different activities once per year. A weekend away with your best friends every year can be a fantastic bonding experience and something that everyone can look forward to.
Be fun. It's fun to be fun.
Education has changed a lot over the past 10 years. It is no longer limited to high-school or college degrees. The internet has put some of the best educators in the world at all of our fingertips in affordable ways.
It is becoming more and more important that we adopt the mentality of the lifelong learner. Work is changing too quickly not to.
Most of us will have several different careers in our lifetimes. If we are to succeed, financially and otherwise, we need to constantly learn new skills.
If framed in the right light, having educational goals will help us to achieve our other goals. It can also be epically fun. Learning how to code or dance, or a new language can be engrossing hobbies.
Selecting the right educational goals can be complete life-changers. Spend the time and think carefully about them.
Personal development goals
Personal development or self-improvement is a very general category that can be a catch-all that overlaps with many other categories. That being said, many of my favourite topics fall into it.
The most popular topics for this type of goal, include: improving your productivity/time management (which I am passionate about), becoming more a more confident/positive person, improving your intelligence quotient or emotional intelligence. Shaking bad habits or conquering your fears. See, I told you it was broad :)
The trick with this type of goal is to not have too many. Stop multitasking. Multitasking is mostly a bad idea. Deep work and focus on one of these goals at a time. These types of goals often have a finish line, so can give you a great sense of satisfaction.
Use relatively short "finish-line" goals to build your momentum towards other goals. Success breeds enthusiasm. You need to give yourself some quick-wins.
What would you do if you had enough money and you didn't care about what people thought?
Not worrying about what people think is very important here. Forget about thoughts like: I went to university and studied x, so I should work in x.
Thinking about your career though that type of lens allows you to determine if you are on the right ladder or if you need to jump to another.
If you're confident that you are on the right ladder. Then you should set time-bound progression goals. If you regularly think about this type of goal it will affect the hundreds of micro-decisions that you make during a standard work-day.
Having a clear career goal can be very useful when deciding on other types of goals discussed in this chapter. For example, your short to medium term educational goals can be designed to support your career goal by upskilling yourself for the position that you eventually want to get to.
Thinking about your own psychological health is often overlooked. Too many of us (me included) avoid this topic. We put too much stress on ourselves to become successful.
This can have the opposite effect.
We need regular pit-stops, change the tires, wipe the windshield etc. Without taking the time to take care of ourselves mentally we slow down. This generally happens in an imperceptible way.
Everyone should have regular breaks or activities to de-stress ourselves. Too often we feel that these types of pit-stops are frivolous luxuries. Try not to view them in that light. Without fresh tyres, you are much more likely to get off the track when you come to an inevitable tight corner.
Your lifestyle goals can be very linked to your financial situation. But if you can try and have some that don't require lottery level winnings that you can do right now.
Having your dream house or three foreign holidays per year are not bad long-term goals. But you need to live the journey. Have some lifestyle goals that are attainable without major changes to your finances.
I've broken lifestyle goals into two sub-types. Experiential goals and
There's a common saying "collect memories, not things". I am a huge fan of this philosophy to life.
Beautiful moments/experiences enrich the soul more than the newest gadget, in my opinion.
Designing and planning experiences for yourself and your family create those magical stories that are told for years to come. I particularly like designing trips away with friends to cement relationships.
We only live once. It's a dull ride if you don't do your best to enjoy it.
Unfortunately, when you become an adult, nobody else will help you prioritize making your life fun. It's all on you.
Hobbies / friends are important! Don't continuously put off enjoying life until you hit a specific career goal or dollar amount in your bank account. That is the best way to have miserable years if not decades that you cannot get back. Trust me on this.
If you are like me and find it hard to prioritize this type of goal, then look for multi-purpose leisure activities.
Choose leisure activities that are fun but that could potentially make you healthier / wealthier or improve your relationships. Two birds with one stone.
We all want to enjoy our retirement. We should start planning for it early. Earlier than most of us do.
If we do start planning early, the only aspect that we generally think about is financial.
Don't get me wrong, that is extremely important. Downgrading our lifestyles when we retire is not an ideal scenario.
But if you think about what your retirement goals are in detail you may come up with really interesting things to do now to prepare.
Maybe you should start learning another language so that you can retire in another country. One with better weather!
Or maybe you'll take up a hobby now that you think would be a great way to spend your free time. Golf is the first one that comes to mind but the options are limitless here. The options are only limited by your imagination.
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