I’m guessing that you’re reading this article because you’ve reached a point of stasis: life’s good; life’s comfortable; but, oh my, life’s rather dull, stuck on a loop of the same-old, same-old.
Worse still, you can see your life stretching apparently endlessly and pointlessly into the future.
Surely there has to be more to life than this, you ask: more enthusiasm, more excitement and, most important of all, more sense of achievement?
Do You Need A Master Plan?
On the other hand, I may have made a completely wrong assumption about you, dear reader.
Perhaps you’re absolutely content. Maybe you adhere to John Lennon’s philosophy, believing that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans” and you’re absolutely determined not to sacrifice the present on the altar of the future.
I’m hopeful that this article will help persuade you that by identifying different types of goals, you can set yourself a master plan.
That plan will enhance your life experience going forward but still allow you to appreciate the now, not least because your new set of goals won’t all be about the future.
Is Your Inner Caveman/woman Holding You Back?
A third alternative is that you’re the type whose life is governed by an inner caveman or woman. One who’s never happier than when there’s nothing on the horizon that’s likely to upset the harmony of cave life.
That approach served us well when rampaging mammoths were wreaking havoc, or nearby tribes were hell bent on pillage. Realistically, it’s probably the instinct which led to our survival as a species, so hats off to our antediluvian ancestors, but…
In the comparative civilization and comfort of 21st century existence, the inner caveman serves little purpose other than to hold us back and ultimately prevent us from being the best versions of ourselves.
Don’t listen to him/her. Look beyond the horizon and start setting yourself some goals beyond the safety of that comfy cave.
Why Do We Need Goals?
Before we take a look at the different types of goals you might set yourself in life and the optimum time frame for each, let’s think about why having such aims and ambitions is so important.
Distinguished educator and social activist, Benjamin E. Mays, declared:
It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.
We only have one chance at this life, so treating life as a journey of personal development, with plenty of challenges along the way, has to be the best way of ensuring we get the very most out of our allotted span.
Once you get started with goal setting, some targets you identify will be straightforward. Some are likely to be challenging, however, and others will test you to your limits.
If you’re going to achieve them, you’re going to have to push yourself long and hard.
Don’t be afraid, though, of any ambitions you may have which seem to verge on the impossible, so-called ‘moonshot’ goals.
The very name ‘moonshot’ derives from President Kennedy’s seemingly impossible vision in 1961 to get a man on the moon within 10 short years – now that was a super-ambitious goal which was, in fact, achieved in less than 9 years!
Before you can start the task of identifying specific goals, you’ll find it helpful to categorize the various elements of your life.
Some of these areas will have a higher importance to you than others. Once you identify their significance in your own life, you’ll be on the way to prioritizing your goals.
The trick is to keep your ambitions broad in their scope and not to focus on one single area or target.
You may find that you only have one goal in one area and a whole list in another. That matters not one jot! Always remember that this is your life and not a box-ticking exercise.
So, here are 10 goal-setting categories to start those mental cogs turning.
(The first seven are based on those stated by Jack Canfield in his book Success Principles, while the final three are areas which I feel are equally worthy of your consideration.)
To grow and change, first we must learn. You may think of education as just school, but it goes further into university studies, vocational courses, and professional qualifications.
It’s no surprise, then, that educational goals are likely to change as you move through formal education, come out into a career, and then negotiate your way through promotions and changes of direction.
The key is to remember that the time for education is never past. Lifelong learning is an opportunity to expand your mind in so many ways, so don’t think of education as something which is only relevant to the young.
The goals you may identify in relation to education will differ according to your chosen career path. Maybe, though, they’ll extend as far as preparing for a career change in the future which will require re-training in a whole new area.
Physical & Health Goals
Our body, health, and physical capabilities have a major influence on our lives and what we are able to achieve.
Goals in this area will differ vastly depending on your age and your existing state of health.
If you’re young and fit, you’re likely to want to push yourself further and faster, with a significant physical fitness goal such as a marathon as your target.
If you’re a middle-aged and deskbound exec who’s let things slide (in every sense!), then just keeping within normal ranges for your age may well be your aspiration – make no mistake, though, that is still a goal!
Maybe you’re targeting a long life, and to stay mentally and physically active as appropriate for each life stage.
While we are all complete in ourselves, the people in our lives play a huge role in how we feel and what we can accomplish.
Relationship goals are interesting because they’re often unselfish goals that are set for yourself, and will be life enhancing, but are also for the benefit of significant others.
How successful you are at achieving them will have a deep impact on your personal happiness.
Clearly, there’s the not insignificant task of finding a life partner and how to achieve that, if that’s your dream. Once that box is ticked, caring for that person and any children you have will doubtless create further goals for you.
Making sure you dedicate sufficient quality time both to your relationship and to your family and friends, and improving your work/life balance might be what you’re aiming for.
Change is the only universal constant, and that goes for each and every one of us. We can develop in so many different ways depending on what we value most.
Maybe you feel the need to stretch yourself mentally or physically by learning another language, learning to salsa, or mastering some new technique.
The need for personal development is just that: personal.
Some people seem to have a limitless capacity to take on and master new challenges. That’s fine and dandy, but their goals shouldn’t be yours and you shouldn’t let yourself be so awed by their acumen that you don’t get off the starting blocks.
Personal development is great, but the drive needs to come from within.
Broadening your mind through travel or reading, learning new skills, and the catch-all ‘self-improvement’ all come under the umbrella of personal enrichment.
Chances are you’ll have a few ideas in this category. It matters not whether the list is long or short.
We spend a huge chunk of our lives working. So don’t you think it’s wise to have some goals in place for such an important area of your life?
As mentioned before, this category is inextricably connected with education because you can’t really have one without the other. Making the effort to study and actively improve your skill set may open up new career avenues for you.
Most of us have a few ideas up our sleeve about our working future. Your goal may be to start your own business, to gain a particular accolade, to get a promotion, or to increase your earning power.
The act of making a concrete list of career goals, forming the basis of a master plan for your own career development, is empowering. It could be the first step to a new future.
Money makes the world go round – or at least, it does to an extent.
No wonder it’s one of the most popular areas when it comes to goal setting. No matter what rung of the ladder we’re currently on, most of us have aspirations and ambitions with the ultimate aim of making more money.
Perhaps you’re unfortunate enough to be in debt at present. If so, setting targets for your budget and seeking ways to adjust your spending habits will be top of your list.
If your dream is to buy a house, then identifying ways to save to make that dream a reality will be high on the agenda.
Retirement is another matter that requires careful thought and advance planning, so there may be some ‘stepping stone’ goals along the way with this in mind.
Since your spiritual life is your compass, this is another area which is interconnected with other types of goals – relationships and personal development, for example.
Whether or not you follow a particular religious faith, development of your spiritual side underpins pretty much everything you do.
Maybe you’ll set yourself the goal of freeing up the time to do some voluntary work or donating more money to those who are less fortunate.
Maybe your aspirations are to get involved in a charitable development project overseas.
On the other hand, you may just feel the need to be more mindful or to meditate regularly.
Your mind is where it’s at. Life that is. What we create, what happens to us and around us, what we think and feel – everything is processed by and in the mind.
So it makes sense that you might want to set some goals that relate to how your mind interacts with the world. How you perceive things, what you believe, your attitudes toward events and people, your mindset.
Your mind is the most powerful tool you have in your locker, so be willing to work on it and set goals for how you’d like it to operate.
Maybe that means learning to stay calm in situations that currently stress you out. Perhaps it’s being more open-minded to opportunities that present themselves.
Whatever it is, your mind is able to adapt and change if you have the desire to make it happen.
Most goals solely focus on your life, your success, or your dreams, but you can also set goals that put someone else first.
This was touched upon under spiritual goals and doing charitable work, but it can be far more than this.
For example, imagine that you want to live your life in a way that causes the least suffering to others. This might encompass becoming vegetarian (or only eating free range produce), minimizing your impact on the environment, or paying a little extra for ethically sourced clothes.
Or, the focus of your goal might be closer to home. Perhaps you want to help a sibling out of a tricky financial situation or support your best friend as they go through a divorce.
External goals often overlap with other areas such as financial or career. Perhaps you need a certain amount of money to help someone out, or a flexible job that gives you the time to dedicate to a cause.
Our life is made up of a series of experiences. Some experiences are mundane – driving to work, for instance – while others are truly life affirming.
If there is something that you want to do before your time is up, set a goal around it.
Do you want to bask in the northern lights and all their colorful magnificence?
How about walking the red carpet at a Hollywood film premiere?
Or is your dream to sail around the Galapagos Islands to see the amazing wildlife there?
Understandably, many experiential goals will also tie into other types of goals.
Identifying A Realistic Timeframe For Your Goals
Once you’ve broken down the different aspects of your life into separate goal-setting areas and generated a few ideas, the next step is to consider a time frame for each goal.
You’ll find that you can break them down into three broad types: short term (a few weeks to 2 years), long term (2 to 10 years), and lifetime (10 years plus).
These periods speak for themselves, but some goals will span all three.
Saving for a comfortable retirement, for example, will need short term action, gradually developing through the longer term as you put appropriate plans in place, but it is ultimately a lifetime goal.
Is It Time To Get Some Goals In Place?
When you’ve digested the concept of goal-setting and identified different types of goals, chances are you’ll conclude that it’s time for a serious rethink.
Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.