A Simple Goal Setting Method

Goal setting works. But how do you go about deciding what your goals will be?

The late Stephen Covey, emphasizes in at least two of his bestsellers (First Things First and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) the concept of time management and therefore goal setting based on importance of well, what’s important.

The method for setting your goals (or big rocks as he terms them) is simple.  Ask yourself two questions:

  • What is the one thing that if I STARTED doing it, would make a tremendous positive difference in my life?
  • What is the one thing that if I STOPPED doing it, would make a tremendous positive difference in my life?

Answer these two questions and you have you goals.  For some, asking these two questions in the context of different segments or roles in life may be necessary, or important. For example, asking it related to your personal life and then to your professional life, leading you to end up with four focuses instead of two. But once you begin to ask yourself these questions in the context of too many things, the whole emphasis on importance gets thrown out the window making the process irrelevant.

The interesting part of this goal setting processes is twofold:

  1. If you truly start and stop doing the one thing that really will make the most difference in your life, you end up with a spillover effect, inadvertently accomplishing more than you set out to do. The simple focus on just two things ends up impacting way more than two things.

For example, my one thing to start in years past was to get up early in the morning (5:00 or 5:30 am) to get a workout and devotional time in. When I do this one thing- get my feet to hit the floor before anyone else wakes up in my house on a regular basis- the day always goes better.  I have more energy for the day, the morning routine of kids cleaned, dressed, fed and out the door to school happy is accomplished so much easier, and I’m more focused and productive throughout the day.

  1. This method of goal setting is also action plan oriented. Often goal setting emphasizes the setting of the goal with no true mechanism built in to get you there.  This method does both.  It gives you long-term focus and short-term action, breeding habits that change behaviors and change lives.

This method is best for people who prefer to keep things as simple as possible and need the daily incorporation of action to create habits that lead to results.  Its downfall is also its greatest strength- it may be too simple.  Life is complex and focusing in so narrowly may inhibit people from accomplishing all that they can and should.

Regardless of whether or not this is the best method for you to set goals, it is always good, as we begin a New Year, to consider what do we need to start doing and, often more importantly what do we need to stop doing.


Like this post? You may also like:

Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing” List.

One Goal from Pat Flynn

Set Goals Then Forget About Them

Goal Setting – A Series

Goal Setting – Diminishing Returns

Goal Setting – Feedback


Mary Ila Ward

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