The key ingredient you might be missing in goal setting

by Shannon Talbot

Buy a Skip-It - a toy from the 80’s best described as a plastic skipping rope with a ball on one end and a ring on the other for your ankle in order to skip over it with your other leg. Buying this toy was a goal I had when I was little. At the time I made a handwritten spreadsheet showing how much money the toy was, how much I had and how much I needed, followed by a written “uh-oh” as I was quite short of my goal. Luckily my brother gave me one as a wedding gift, turning the reception into quite the party; it was just 16 years late.


I love goal setting. Daily, monthly, annually. But in 2012, I did something different with my goals – something I now know is a key ingredient to achieving them and what I want to share today.

Looking at the goals pictured here, I noticed that I set WAY too many goals for myself. I also had the same goals that went unmet year after year – work out more, stress less, watch less TV. Although I wrote them down, they weren’t a priority for me, so I never went after them. What was a priority for me? Adopting, travel, career development, asking for a raise (especially since we had spent the equivalent of buying a car in fertility treatments) and redecorating our dining room.


Well, 2013 turned out to be one of the best years of my life. We traveled to Aruba and I redecorated our dining room. In April, we got the call that we had been selected by birth parents to adopt their baby. And on April 15th, 2013, we met the birth family in a hospital room in London and got to hold our sweet Jackson at just one day old for the very first time. We continued to travel with Jackson and went to the East Coast for ten days and my mom, Jackson and I later went to B.C. to see family. I found out I got a new, exciting role for when I returned to work in February, and we planned a trip for us three and my parents to take a Cruise in the Caribbean before my returning to work.


So, what did I do so differently that year? I had a bigger picture of what I wanted – to become a parent (vs. getting pregnant which I’d put previously), love, happiness and financial stability. I put it out into the world and asked for it. And got it, I did.


It didn’t really click for me until I read “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis a couple of years ago. Goals should be tied to dreams. Without tying goals to a bigger picture of what you want down the road (aka dreams), you’re less motivated to achieve them. My new goal setting ritual began and has proved life changing.


Here’s a Coles notes version of my new ritual although if this interests you, I highly recommend reading “Girl, Stop Apologizing”:


1. Picture the best version of yourself in 10 years - what are you doing? What do you look like? What do you like to do? How do you talk? How do people respond to you? Let your dreams go wild. Do you own a house and if so, what does it look like? Are you married? Do you have kids? What are you doing for work? If you’re retired, what does that look like? Go big! What’s most important to you? Family? Career? Fun? All of the above?

2. Now make a list of all of the dreams that came up for you in the above exercise. Don’t hold back! Put them all down, no matter how crazy they sound in the moment.

3. Narrow down the list to 10 dreams. You don’t have to know the how yet, it will come. Just write them down.

4. Now for the important part: write down this list of 10 dreams every single day. Every. Single. Day. Write the same list on a piece of paper or type them in your phone. It doesn’t matter where. Just do it.

5. Oh, and write them as if you’ve already achieved them. No “I will have a big house in the country” but rather “I have a big house in the country”. Sounds a bit out there I know but research has shown that our subconscious starts focusing on the how when you use present tense.

6. Lastly, as Rachel says, use words like “exceptional” - not good or great. For example, I am an exceptional wife, or I have exceptional friendships.


Next what I do is set 5 goals for myself for the year I’m in. Not 11 goals like for 2013. FIVE. 5 goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based (otherwise known as SMART goals). These must tie to my 2030 dreams, or I know I’ll put them on the back burner. My general rule of thumb is this - if my goal doesn’t relate to my 2030 dreams, it gets taken off the list. I’ve also added a theme word for the year. For example, my word for 2021 is ACTION.


Since I started this ritual just over a year ago, I am already well on my way towards my 2030 dreams and couldn’t be happier. Not only do my goals align to my dreams but my daily habits now follow suit. It really is a game changer.


So I ask you now - what do you picture for yourself in ten years?

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