Getting What You Want in 2016

Another new year is upon us, and yet another old year has passed. First and foremost, congratulations for surviving another 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days on the planet Earth with all the shenanigans of every day life hanging over you. What did your year look like? Did you meet all your goals? Did you keep all your resolutions? Did you succeed in all things and have a wonderful life full of accomplishment?

If you answered “yes” to all of those, this article has nothing to offer you! You clearly have determined the best route through life, and if you have the time, please write us a quick letter with your strategy so we can follow your lead. If you answered “no” to most, or all, of those questions, chances are you fall into the 99.99999% of people in the world who had an okay year that could have been better. Maybe you didn’t travel like you wanted to, or maybe you were hoping to take another class towards your degree. Maybe your six pack abs remain elusive or maybe you just didn’t get out of the house and socialize enough.

Whatever it is you missed, it’s time to make a plan for the upcoming year, so that maybe this time, you don’t miss the things that are important to you. Let’s do it!

Step 1: What do you want?

You need to know what your goals are before you can accomplish them! Here are the factors involved in a good goal:

It should be concrete. When you say “I want…” you can end that sentence with something abstract, like “world peace” or “to be healthier”, or you can end it with something concrete like “to donate $500 to charity this year” or “to have visible abdominal muscles”. The difference is, the concrete goal is something measurable, while the abstract goal isn’t. In all cases, you are almost infinitely more likely to accomplish a concrete goal for this reason alone.

It should be measurable. If you don’t have a way of determining when you’ve met your goal, then you have no way of meeting that goal in the first place. This is an offshoot of the concrete/abstract idea above with the same importance. Any goal you set should have an easily determined “end point” at which you can say, without question, that you have achieved what you wanted to achieve.

It should be reasonable. Some goals are reasonable and some are, well, a little crazy. If you’ve never run before, are 30 lbs overweight, and have a bad foot, then setting a goal to finish first in the Boston Marathon half way through the year is an unreasonable goal. But that same person could set the goal to run their first marathon and finish at all, which would be very reasonable. Keep in mind that “reasonable” goals are not “easy” goals. Something can be very hard, but still reasonable to strive for.

It should matter to you. Don’t set a goal to run a marathon if you don’t want to run a marathon, and don’t set a goal to travel to Japan if you have no interest in going. The goals that you set should either be something you really want or something you really need.

Step 2: When do you want it?

Next, we need to set the time frame for accomplishing the goal you’re interested in. This step is very closely tied to Step 3, so be prepared to come back and adjust your timeline based on the smaller steps we’ll detail a little later. Here are the factors which go into determining if the time frame you’ve selected works:

It should be goal specific. Very few people will have one goal for an entire year, and when you set multiple goals you have to go through the process of determining whether or not the goal works (as above) and the timeline for each goal you set. For instance, running a marathon might be a whole year goal for you, whereas reading a new book might take you a month. Don’t be lazy and say, “I will do this in 2016”. Chances are, you won’t accomplish anything if you’re so vague.

It should be a reasonable deadline. Since our timelines are goal specific, it means we have to really take the time upfront to determine how long it should take to reach the point we want to reach. Using the examples above, if you can only jog 3 miles before you need to stop, then in order to get to 26 miles you’re going to take a fair bit of time. On the other hand, if you’re a very fast reader, you might be able to finish a new book every two weeks, and rack up an impressive 24 new books in the coming year. The amount of effort it takes to get from Start to Finish, as well as a realistic look at how fast it’s possible to progress, will determine your goal deadline.

It should be as concrete as possible. We know that each goal needs it’s own deadline and that the relative difficulty of the goal for you will inform how long it should take to accomplish. The last step here is to set a start date and end date based on these factors. If you know marathon preparation will take 10 months, and you are starting on January 1st, then your marathon deadline should be in the beginning of October.

Step 3: What do you need to do to get to your goal point?

This step goes hand in hand with Step 2, and will help you refine your timeline to become an effective plan. What we’re going to do is break down our year into Macro, Meso, and Micro goals.

A Macro goal is one that takes the whole year to accomplish. In our examples, this has been running a marathon, but it could also be a big vacation or career move (like opening your own business). This goal should be complicated, aspirational, and require a decent amount of work to get to. The timeline here is 11-12 months.

A Meso goal is a smaller goal that feeds into your Macro goal, but takes significantly less time. The best practice is to have one Meso goal for every three month period, for a total of 3 Meso goals leading up to the Macro goal. These steps should be something that will lead directly into accomplishing the big “thing” you’re aiming for. Examples for our aspiring marathon runner could be completing races that become longer at each interval (5k, 10k, 15k) and a good example for someone who wants to write a novel in 2016 would be meeting target word counts throughout the year. Generally it also works best if one Meso goal builds on the one that comes before it.

A Micro goal is a division of your Meso goals, typically taking one month to finish. You should have 10-12 Micro goals per year. The first few should lead to Meso Goal 1, the next set to Meso Goal 2, and so on. Again, we’re dividing our one big goal into smaller, digestible chunks and decreasing complexity, with the ultimate aim of building a pattern of success over time.

Note that not every individual goal needs to take 12 months to accomplish. Some Macro goals can be completed in 9, 6, or 3 months. In these cases, your Meso and Micro goals contract accordingly:

  • 12 month Macro > 3 month Meso goals > 1 month Micro goals
  • 9 month Macro > 10 week Meso goals > 18 day Micro goals
  • 6 month Macro > 6 week Meso goals > 2 week Micro goals
  • 3 month Macro > 1 month Meso goals > 1 week Micro goals

Yes, those are very specific, but being specific and creating a Plan is what gets you from “wanting” to “having” in the most expedient way possible with the highest chance of success.

Closing

So there you have it! Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to effectively set goals that can be accomplished, break them down into manageable sub-parts, and set a timeline that carries you from start to finish. Success is very much a mindset that can be developed over time, and all it takes is the will to stick to a plan over time. The only thing stopping you from getting where you want, is very likely yourself.

It’s 2016. Shouldn’t you be the master of yourself this year?