Goal Setting for 5770

I wrote an article several months ago (back in January, to be precise) about my goals for 2009 and the importance of having goals. You can read that article, which is fairly short, here. As today is the first day following Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in Judaism, I thought I would look back at those goals, and share a few additional thoughts on the general idea of having goals.

First, an update on the status of my goals. As I wrote in the previous article, my goals for 2009 were to:

  • Complete all outstanding contracts and move into the maintenance stage of the software lifecycle with them
  • Pick up one new contract per month which can be completed in about that amount of time and then turned into a maintenance contract
  • Take a few courses that would expose me to new technologies
  • Continue to learn C# and become familiar with the .NET framework to a level where I would be considered “competent”

In order, I have managed so far to achieve the following:

  1. I have only one outstanding contract which is not in maintenance mode, and it should be in maintenance mode within another month or so
  2. I have not managed to pick up many new contracts, but have picked up a few, and the pace is rising, though slowly
  3. I have learned a little bit about a variety of technologies in the recent months, although I have not taken any courses
  4. I have developed an application in C# (a full enterprise-scale application) and am continuing to develop my C# skills, and have developed some level of competency, although I would like to continue developing that competency

Goals are important because they help us define our path in advance, to provide us with an end to strive for. Creating goals also allows us to reflect on the past, and how we have managed to perform.

A downside to setting goals is that on reflection, we may realize that although we had many high and noble goals in the past, they were quickly forgotten. How many New Year’s resolutions are completed versus those which are forgotten or abandoned? While I don’t have a precise number, my suspicion is that people’s performance in general is not very impressive. This can be quite discouraging when setting goals – why should you bother, if you’re past shows that you aren’t likely to reach those goals?

I believe that one of the primary reasons that people fail to achieve their goals is because they fail to perform the second half of setting goals, which is to create a road map to reach those goals. Making a goal to spend more time with your family, for example, sounds great and impressive, but if you have a packed schedule to begin with, it may be impossible to achieve that goal. If, however, when setting that goal, you create a way to achieve it, for example, you commit to getting up 30 minutes earlier each day to free up some time later in the day, then you are more likely to reach that goal.

What are your thoughts on goal setting? How do you set yourself up to succeed in reaching your goals?