What do you want by the end of 2023?
There are people who refuse to answer that question, because they’ve come up empty at the end of so many years past.
For these folks, setting goals for the new year feels like a recipe for not accomplishing them.
If you relate to this, let me take the pressure of by making a key distinction:
Usually what these people call goals are really targets.
Here’s the difference:
Targets are something you aim for. They don’t have to be within your control. You can aim at anything. The moon. Becoming a famous actor. Hosting Saturday night live. Buying a yacht for your mother.
There’s an expression: a goal with out a deadline is just a pipedream.
But that’s only partially helpful. Becoming famous by January 1st 2029 is still a target, not a goal. And I’d say it’s still a pipedream, because it’s pretty vague: famous for what?
For practical purposes, goals must align with Ye Olde SMART acronym: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive. (There are debates regarding the ‘R’ because if something is attainable, it must already be realistic. So you could instead say ‘right-sized’ or ‘risky’. Whatever.)
The point is, you know you have a goal if you can break it down into chronological actions and finish it within a certain time frame as long as you fulfill each step.
Other than exigencies such illness, death, war, or natural disaster a goal is completely with your control.
In contrast to goals, targets are what allow us to aspire.
Targets point us in the direction of our values in terms of what is important to us.
The other thing about goals is that in and of themselves they are boring unless they are established in service of a target.
Without keeping that target in plain sight, we can forget why we’re working on accomplishing our goals, get bored, and walk away. (Especially if you have ADHD. And frankly, even if you don’t.)
Having goals without targets is a recipe for existential crisis: There’s no point to them in and of themselves.
But here’s the rub when it comes to targets: They need to change when we do.
Hopefully, we evolve, and so do our values and what is important to us. And it makes no sense to keep aiming at something we no longer align with.
That’s why its a good idea to reflect on what you want at the beginning of each year.
If you recognize that you need to change your target(s) to stay aligned with what matters to you, that’s not failure, that’s growth.
Once you’ve reestablished appropriate targets, only then are you ready to design some goals.
So perhaps, for now, you don’t need to worry so much about goals.
Yes, you do need them. Goals created in the service of targets aligned with your current values pull you forward into constructive action.
Only you can establish targets worthy of creating goals for, and that takes reflection.
That’s the type of reflection I wonder whether you’ve done in a while. What are you aiming for this year? You may not get it, but that’s not a criteria when it comes to knowing what you still want.
Here’s a question I invite you to journal on: where are you now in relation to something that matters to you? It could be in any area of your life, but just choose something. It could be being in a loving relationship, or selling your artwork. It could be mastering the violin.
Those targets are enough to get you going in terms of creating a set of goals that are completely within your control. You succeed if you fulfill those goals, whether or not you hit your targets.
The result of this success will be that you are closer to hitting your target, whether or not you do this year. Or you will realize that you actually want to aim for something else.
Either way, you’re headed in the right direction.
So while the year is still fresh, I invite you to look at your targets, not your goals. Are you still interested in aiming at them, or are they no longer relevant to what matters to you?
Maybe its time to redefine your destination.