Dream Big, But Set Your Goals Realistically

Filed in Living by on December 31, 2015 0 Comments

New Years Resolutions 2016

‘Tis the season, as they say.

In this case, ‘tis the season for New Year’s resolutions! And you might be inclined to respond with an “Uggghhh!”

Let me see if I can help a bit with this. It doesn’t have to be so awful, and who knows, you might even achieve a lasting improvement this year.

First, I think it is useful to differentiate between goals and dreams.

I confess, I’ve never been much of a dreamer. I just never had any inclination in that direction or much use for it. In spite of my lack of experience with this, it seems to me that if you are going to dream, and hope, and wish upon a star, you might as well go big or go home. Isn’t that the whole point? So your dreams should be things like finding your soul mate, getting in peak physical condition, earning that big promotion at work, or traveling the world.

All of this is well and good, I suppose, but your goals are where “the rubber hits the road,” as they say. These are the workhorses that will cause actual change and improvement in your life.

While dreams can be expansive, goals need to be short-term, realistic, incremental, and measurable to be of any use. Step-by-step improvement is the key. I’ll give some examples from my life and experience.

During the course of my career, besides the obvious goal of completing all of my projects in a quality fashion and on time, I had the added goal of always trying to learn more, every day, day in and day out. A wise person once told me, early in my career, that the way to get promotions and pay raises, and to always be employable, is to continually learn and expand your knowledge base. I took this advice to heart, so I was always educating myself and learning new things. If I stopped learning and got bored in a particular department, I would put in for a transfer to a new area I had never worked in. And when I joined a new department, I would set another short-term development goal, like achieving a certification that would rapidly expand, and prove to others, my knowledge in that area. I made sure I was always learning, improving, and growing.

After about 15 years of setting short-term goal after short-term goal in my career, I woke up one day and realized I had gained so much knowledge that I now qualified to be a Chief Financial Officer. Look what I found! I applied for CFO positions with a couple of companies in the area, and one hired me.

What is that other saying? “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

I approach my bodybuilding in the same incremental and methodical goal-setting fashion. I might decide to develop my arms with an intense new routine for 2 – 3 months, and just “crush” them every time I go to the gym. Or the focus might be on legs, or shoulders, with an eye for detail over a few short months. Day by day, piece by piece. Heck, before you know it, I’ve actually built something!

If you choose to set any New Year’s resolutions this year, consider using this same incremental, tactical approach to setting your goals. Let’s say you want to lose a lot of weight. I would advise first setting a 30 day goal of just eating healthier foods, without even worrying much about portion control. I wouldn’t even weigh myself during this period; just focus on changing your habits to eating the right foods consistently. Then set a 30 day goal of maintaining your healthy eating habits and layering in portion control. Then, the next 30 days, begin some exercise, and start setting weight loss goals. Continue on in this fashion, slowly modifying your behavior and reinforcing it with small, achievable victories. You will be amazed at what you can achieve, and keep permanent, in this methodical, step-by-step fashion.

It’s okay to dream big, but even a journey of a thousand miles begins with, and will be accomplished by, simply putting one foot in front of the other.


About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

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