It is the year-end and then the beginning of a fresh New Year. So how can I not talk about planning and goal-setting for the New Year?
However, this time we will take a long-term view.
A year = 12 months = 4 quarters.
A year is a good time to review the plans and goals that you set 12 months ago.
You should build 4 check-points during the year. One per quarter.
This is when you can check your progress against the goals. If a goal takes longer to reach, then you can build in interim milestones.
The quarterly pulse-check should help you know if you are on track. If not, then examine why not. Some activities may not start until the previous one has completed. And others could be waiting for things beyond your control.
It is important to know the reasons, and understand the progress.
For some milestones or objectives, you may feel that those are not relevant anymore.
Sometimes you may reach the “fork in the road” that you had been working towards. At this point you will take one path and ignore the other. So all the work and preparation done for the path that you ignore would not be relevant anymore.
It is perfectly fine to discontinue those, as long as you are headed towards your larger objective, or the “goal of your goals”.
This “goal of your goals” is your ultimate objective. You should set these in 5-year timeframes.
The five-year objective and the annual goal setting are a means to achieve the ultimate objective.
So every once in a while when you assess your progress, you may find the need to jettison an interim goal or two.
The big thing to inch towards is your ultimate objective.
Every so often you come across a news item, a research report, a person or an event and it has a huge impact on you. Such instances help re-define your purpose and leave you with a larger goal to aspire for in life.
Earlier this year, I came across a UN report that highlighted a severe problem of mal-nutrition in India. This problem occurs mainly in villages and affects pregnant women and children. It also manifests in two ways – one: the under-nourished people suffer from stunting, i.e. they are shorter for their age, and two: they suffer from wasting, i.e. they are underweight for their height.
This double whammy results in impairing their mind. So their brains are not as sharp.
As my ultimate objective, I want to solve this protein problem for at least one village. I want to ensure that for this village, the new generation is not only healthier, but also cleverer.
This has now caused me to think more deeply about how I can get there – i.e. to my ultimate goal.
Now I need to closely examine my short-term objectives and ensure that they position me firmly for achieving the ultimate objective.
The short-term objectives must always be a means to achieve your long-term goals.
Short-term or near-term objectives must fulfil the following objectives:
- Help build resources and assets that you can deploy later.
- Help build skill-sets and experience in you to take on the ultimate objective.
- Help generate awareness and fine-tune your plan to accomplish the ultimate objective.
It helps to aim much higher than you feel you can reach, i.e. aspire to set a hugely transformational objective.
Take the example of Elon Musk.
Musk’s ultimate objective (at this time) is to solve the space problem on earth. As the human population grows beyond 10 billion in the next 30-50 years, he foresees a shortage of living space, and wants to colonize Mars or some other inhabitable planet for humans as a secondary living space.
This is as lofty an ultimate objective as it gets.
Let’s look at Musk’s achievements so far:
- Has had a pretty good education (big name universities, Stanford and University of Pennsylvania).
- Sold his first company Zip2 to Compaq, and netted about $20 million (i.e. built resources).
- Sold his second company Paypal to eBay and netted a further $150 million (i.e. more resources).
- Brought the electric car to market with Tesla.
- Brought reality to the concept of a “reusable rocket”.
- Established a track record of executing on his ideas.
The last one is very pertinent since that can translate into funding for Musk’s ideas.
With a current net worth of over $10 billion, Musk can now take on any idea no matter how wild or transformational. Not only can he put in the initial seed money, but he can also attract investors on the basis of the successful track record that he has set.
Larry Page of Google is reported to have said that he would leave all of his wealth to Elon Musk, since Musk can best serve mankind by executing on his hugely transformational ideas.
Let’s check Musk’s goals after 5 years. If he moves closer towards the goal of a secondary living space, then I am sure he will recalibrate and set the next higher goal, ostensibly for his next 5 years.
I deliberate chose Musk as an extreme example to make a point. While our ultimate objectives may not be as grandiose (or require funding in the billions of dollars), we should try to aim as high as we are able to.
So how does all this translate into New Year resolutions?
Here are some steps:
- Think of longer-term goals; say in 5-year time spans.
- Look back at the past 5-years and look at accomplishments, self-development and areas for improvement.
- Use the next 12 months to set short-term milestones that advance you towards the medium-term goals.
- Use each quarter to assess whether you are on track to hit the milestones.
- Keep looking out for seminal moments or incidents which cause you to take on higher and loftier goals.
To break this up differently:
The first one-third of your time should be spent in self-development and gaining basic/primary skills to execute your job or to set yourself on a career path.
The second one-third should be spent realizing your potential. This would also be the phase when you build assets/resources, network and establish a solid track-record.
The final one-third can then be spent working on self-actualization objectives for the benefit of others.
It is not as clear-cut, but you get the idea. There will be significant overlaps especially with self-development objectives.
To quote Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. If you think about your life this way, and structure your objectives accordingly, you will be able to better examine your life and where you are headed.
I hope you are enjoying some down-time at the end of the year.
I also wish you a very happy New Year, and would be very interested in learning about your views on goal-setting.