Effective goal setting starts with understanding where are you now. Unless there are huge challenges or problems that you need to solve ASAP, you might be considering several areas of your live to improve (otherwise you can skip to the “Set goals” part). In this post we will share a technique called “Wheel of Life Balance” which will allow you to see how balanced your life is across several areas. By combining the Wheel of Life Balance and the S.M.A.R.T.(E.R.) method you will not only be setting effective goals but also the right goals that will have the biggest impact on the quality of your life. The concept is pretty simple and easy to follow:
Create your own Wheel of Life Balance
Why is this important? Balance ensures that you:
- haven’t forgotten anything important and
- do not (unknowingly) sacrifice any area for another.
Step 1: Decide which areas of your life are most important to you right now
There’s no “one size fits all” list of important areas in life. Allow yourself at least 30 minutes so you can sit and work it out. This could be anywhere from 5 to 10 different areas. Here’s the list of areas I have come up for my life along with an explanation of what you might put in each area:
- Health and Fitness - excercise, sports, diet, healthy eating, quitting bad habits and building good ones.
- Family and Relationships - romantic, family, friends, and professional relationships.
- Community and Environment - giving back to society, improving the environment and contributions to your local community.
- Spiritual life - exploring your inner self and connecting a with higher purpose in life.
- Career and Education - building new skills, career, vocation and earning income.
- Money and Finance - investing, budgeting, saving and donations.
- Personal Growth and Learning - becoming a better version of yourself.
- Fun and Recreation - travel, hobbies, finding joy in life, new experiences and learning to re-charge yourself
You can use the above list to spark the thought process, but make sure that the final list reflects what’s important for you. Writing down what exactly falls under each area for clarity is very a important part of the whole goal setting process. Don’t worry if some areas overlap – that’s OK, don’t spend much time deciding where to put specific topic. It’s ok if some topics are included in more than one category.
Step 2: Decide how well you do in each area
As soon as you are clear on what areas are most important for you, spend a few minutes for each area thinking about how well you are currently doing on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the best you can ever hope for. You can use this template to quickly create your own Wheel of Life Balance. Don’t overthink here, just put donw what best reflects your current understanding. You can always adjust the numbers later if your overall perception is not reflected by resulting chart.
Tip: don’t lie to yourself, be as honest as you can.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
– Richard Feynman
Step 3: Set goals
As you look at your Wheel of Life Balance you can immediately see which areas of your life may need more of your attention. You can start with the areas that received the lowest scores or, decide that some other area is more important for you at this time.
Define your goal
Now that you have identified the areas you want to improve, it’s time to define your goals. For each area where you decide improvements are necessary, answer this question: what would need happen so you could improve the score by 1 point? For example, let’s say you have rated the “Fun and Recreation” part of your life as 6 out of 10. What can you do to raise the score from 6 to 7? In this case there may be several obvious options such as taking 2 weeks vacation at least once a year or visiting a new place every 6 months or perhaps starting a new hobby or reviving an old one. Only you can decide what’s right for you.
If you are a bit like me, you may find yourself bursting with different ideas on life improvement. While it’s important to write down all of those ideas, it is essential that you prioritize them so you can focus on the top 3. If you really want to accomplish something you have to focus on 1 to 3 goals at a time. As you make progress and accomplish your goals you can revistit this process and reprioritize.
S.M.A.R.T. is widely adopted framework for goal setting. The are many good interpretations for each letter, so if you are not satisfied with the list below feel free to apply any interpretation that suits you. The point here is to avoid the most common pitfalls of goal setting. Here are some suggestions on how to define S.M.A.R.T. goals plus two bonus rules (the E. and R.) to make them even smarter:
- Specific - goals and rules should not be vague. The more specific they are, the easier they are to follow. “Get to bed early” is NOT specific, “Be in bed with the lights off by 10 pm and get 7 hours of sleep per night” is much more specific.
- Measurable - you need track your progress towards your goal, so it needs be defined in quantifiable manner. Continuing with the example of sleep – you could track how many hours you’ve slept each night.
- Attainable - your goals should be challenging but it must be possible to achieve them, otherwise you will give up early.
- Relevant - goal should be relevant to your “Big Picture”. This is where the Wheel of Life Balance helps a lot to ensure your goals fit well.
- Time-bound - set yourself a deadline, otherwise, less important things can take over priority over your long-term goals.
- Ecological - you want to make sure, that your progress towards the goal will positively impact other goals (reinforcing them) and the environment (friends, family etc.). For example a goal to “read 5 books per week” might negatively impact your quality time with your family.
- Rewarding - the big “WHY?” question. It’s crucial that you can vividly imagine the positive impact of the final (and intermediate) results. This is the fuel that will drive you forward.
Now that you have your 1-3 priority goals well defined and understood, write them down so you can look at them often. Think of at least 1 thing you can do today to get one step closer to the finish line and go do it. Repeat this process daily. Read your goals twice a day – first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. If you lack discipline or persistence to keep yourself on track – starting or joining Mastermind group can help you greatly by keeping you accountable, providing support and sharing experience and ideas.
Make a plan to revisit your Wheel of Life Balance every 3-6 months and update the numbers. Put this on your calendar. As you progress with the goals, your understanding of “the best you can ever hope for” will shift, so you will be able to see the new possibilities. Re-evaluate your goals and if you have already achieved some of them set new and bigger goals. Ask yourself if the remaining goals are still Relevant? Are they Ecological? Are they Rewarding? Be honest and don’t hesitate to change your goals if you find yourself heading in the wrong direction.