Over the last year, I’ve learned that goals mean nothing if you’re not in the mindset to make those goals a reality. At the start of every year, I spend a day thinking through big goals I want to achieve for the year, and then I write a plan detailing how I’ll make those goals a reality. But, as we’ve rolled into 2023, I have set zero goals.
As explain, you don’t have to set yourself concrete goals to make strides towards an achievement that’s important to you.
Forgoing concrete goals doesn’t make you aimless; it means you’re open to opportunities that may come along, you can change course if you want to, and you can follow your curiosity.
If you’re unsure of the best time to set goals, here are some points to consider:
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re motivated to take the action steps required to achieve your targets. Achieving big goals is rarely plain sailing. Working towards goals can be one of the most valuable learning experiences you can encounter, and you’ll need to be in a headspace where you can weather the storm when challenges come your way. You’ll need to be able to pick yourself up and continue to keep moving forward when obstacles knock you off course.
Motivation isn’t all you need to achieve goals, but it can often carry you through the highs and lows of the journey to get there. If you set an ambitious goal when you’re feeling depleted in areas such as energy or time, you may set yourself up to feel disappointed as your motivation wanes and you find yourself avoiding the action steps required to achieve your targets.
Ideally, you want to be setting goals that align with your values. This will ensure you’re setting yourself targets that mean something to you, which can help you to remain committed to achieving your goals when it feels like a tricky process. You may be inclined to think that if the goal is important enough, you will achieve it no matter what, and this mindset can be a benefit. On the flip side however, it can also lead to you missing out on achievements because you simply can’t allocate the time required, or you may end up reaching your goal, but in a way that’s harmful to your health or relationships.
If you’re in the business of being strategic about your goal setting and giving yourself the best shot at reaching your goals, time is a critical consideration. We only have so much of it, and to reach your goals you might have to limit time spent on other activities – such as projects you’re currently working on, activities with friends or family, or rest.
To create focus, you need to be crystal clear on your priorities. Of course, you may be lucky at times and find that opportunities come your way, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to achieving goals unless these opportunities are based on the hard work you put in previously.
If you’re debating whether to set big goals right now, ask yourself whether you can prioritise the action steps involved. For example, I’ve been trying to get to the place where I can launch a podcast for eighteen months (it’s coming in 2023). As frustrating as it was not being able to get to the work I really want to do, I had to wrap up my existing commitments – a book and finishing my doctorate. I knew I could only do a great job once the podcast could be a primary focus.
We can only focus on so many priorities simultaneously; setting goals when you can’t realistically commit can be demotivating in the long run. I work to the rule of three, where I commit to a maximum of three key priorities at once. One of those priorities is my family, so in reality, I can work on two other projects at the same time.
Getting the timing right
These considerations aren’t there to put you off setting ambitious goals; they’re to help you get the timing right to help you achieve things that are important to you. You may not have the motivation to work towards a goal right now, or the time to take action. You might not be able to prioritise a new goal this month, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up. Your future goal can sit on the horizon until the timing is right.
I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that goal setting in January is more effective than doing the same thing at any other time of the year. You can set and achieve your goals any time of year.
What are your tips for getting the timing right for setting and achieving goals? Have you ever got the timing spot on? Or completely wrong? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.