Goals and Taxes

If you are like most people, you may experience a similar feeling when you think about goal setting and completing your taxes.



The similarities struck me as I was assembling my tax documents this year. I waited until the last possible moment. I dreaded the anticipation of it. I put it off. I told myself that I didn’t have time to do taxes. And I felt a huge wave of relief when they were done.



The previous paragraph describes how many people feel about strategic planning meetings and goal setting. It’s like taking our medicine – we know it is supposed to be good for us; we don’t necessarily enjoy doing it; often somebody makes us do it; and we are, often, glad after we did.



Keep in mind that I am a strategic planner.  I love goal setting and when I work with organizations and individuals, we actually have fun setting goals. A well-crafted goal is a beautiful and productive thing. Goals help us articulate our dreams and outline the specifics. What’s not to love about having goals established in a way that makes life easier and sets a path for a successful future?



It’s a fabulous time of year to remember that goals are not like taxes. Here are some thoughts to reboot your efforts.



Goals are good for us. 



They focus our thoughts and our actions. They eliminate distractions and allow us to track our progress. They increase our confidence and outline a path for moving forward. As David Campbell says, “You can’t get where you’re going without knowing where you’re going.” Goals help us set targets for forward motion.



Goals give us a reason to assess and articulate what we are wanting – this is a critical question and everyone one of us ought to give it some thought. What are you wanting – in your work life and in your personal life? (Write it down – it will be helpful to you.) The process of knowing what we are wanting – and being able to express it is a magical process. Let yourself go there.



Goals must start with a vision.



It’s important to have a sense of direction – a vision for the future. Vision is fun to think about – it’s like taking a trip into the future. It is said that “vision is not seeing things as they are but as we would like them to be” (source unknown).  Norman Rockwell, famous American painter, said “I paint life as would like it to be.” How would you like your life to be – in the future?



If you had trouble with the question above (i.e., what are you wanting?), then I have two other questions that may help. I regard these next two questions as the “magic visioning questions;” I use these questions with clients in every setting – whether it is a strategic planning meeting or an individual coaching session. Here are the “magic visioning questions:”

  • Where am I now?

  • Where would I like to be?


Write down your answers. Here’s what you might expect to hear yourself saying....There will be a lot of different topics as you talk about your vision for the future. That’s okay – in fact, it’s great. If you are answering these questions in an organization, you might come up with answers related to communication, productivity, sales, revenue, culture, morale, etc. If you are answering these questions related to your personal life you may find a range of topics as well – health, career, personal relationships, volunteer activities, confidence, work/life balance, etc.



When you have your topics, prioritize them. Choose your top priorities and then expand on the vision for that area. If your organization wants to improve communication, then it may be helpful to talk about what “better communication” looks like when you are doing it well. On the personal side of things, let’s say you wanted to be “healthier.” If you want to be healthier, what do you mean by that? If you want to lose weight, how much is realistic and in what timeframe can you achieve success in that area. Establish the vision for what things look like in the future. What are you doing more of/less of? Are you shopping for new clothes? Going out more? Dancing? If you can, use your five senses to bring even more focus to the vision. See it. Hear it. Taste it. Smell it. Feel it. Once you have a specific vision in mind (and on paper), you are ready to begin goal-setting. 



Goals outline the path to reach the vision – one step at a time – one day at a time.



A lot of people start right here at goal setting – if you do, you will still get somewhere, but I really want to recommend the more comprehensive approach outlined in this article. If you establish a clear vision before getting to this step, you will get farther, faster with more focus.



You know where you want to go (vision) – now you can ask yourself the next most important question:

  • How am I going to get there?


What do you need to DO in order to make it happen? Break it down – step-by step. What’s step number 1? Number 2? What are steps 3-10 to make it happen? Write down as much as you can – even the smallest step. A phone call to a coworker or doctor requires time and may have taken great effort. Write it down and do it! What are the other steps?



Remember that goals state what we are going to do, when we are going to do it and how we are going to do it.



Here are some extra tips to support your success:

  • Write your goals down.

  • Place your goals where you can see them.

  • Check your progress.


Reward yourself for each step successfully taken.



Look at your list of goals and be sure to reward every step taken. If things are written down, you will be able to look back on what has been accomplished. We don’t give ourselves enough credit and it can be very hard to remember when we are making positive steps forward. Goals, when written down, allow you to track your progress in a quantifiable way.  I encourage you to write in your rewards on your list of goals.



How long is this going to take?



Take 15 minutes to start. Then take another 15 minutes tomorrow. Do what you can and start with the most important thing first. It takes more words to teach goal-setting than it does to establish them. Unlike taxes, we are not shooting for perfection here. Your plans will emerge and change, but you want to get things written down so you have somewhere to start.



Set aside some time to start the process in a new area of your life in the next few days. Where are you now? Where would you like to be? How are you going to get there? What a delightful thing it is to dream and put plans in place to make our dreams a reality.



Goals are not taxes. They are a tool that you can incorporate to accelerate your path forward. The rewards received are better than a tax refund. All it takes is an investment of a little time and effort on the front end.



© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact kathy@refreshmentzone.com for more information. 


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