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Living an Intentionally Driven Life: Ready, set, goal!

As physicians you are no doubt very capable of setting lofty goals and accomplishing them.  You set a goal to graduate college, something only about a third of Americans have done.  Maybe you also got a masters degree, which a little over 10% of Americans have accomplished, but then you went on to get a doctorate, which less than 5% of Americans have accomplished.  So there is no question you can set goals and accomplish them! 

However, when we ask fellow doctors, family, friends, etc. if they have goals related to key areas in their lives, specifically written goals, we often find the answer is “no”.  Why is it so few people set written goals, and does it even matter?  These are just a few questions we answer in this week’s blog post.  Even if you do set goals we guarantee you’ll learn something to help you do it more efficiently and effectively.  Let’s get started!

Why goals matter to winning with just about everything in life.

Have you ever heard the adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”?  No one deliberately plans to fail, but all too often without a plan we end up failing at many things.  For example, one of Scott’s goals this year is to read 50 books.  Without some sort of reading plan it’s unlikely he’s going to just magically finish 50 books by the end of the year.  So how is he planning to succeed?  By setting aside 30 minutes each day to dedicate to reading, and by always having at least one book with him at all times to fill time gaps (i.e. waiting in line at grocery store, Starbucks, etc.).  Without this plan there’s very little hope that he’ll achieve his goal, and the same can also be said of you and the goals you want to achieve.  Let’s dig further into why goals are so important to success.

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. 

-Tony Robbins

One reason setting goals is so critical to success is that our time is limited.  Time is the one resource where it doesn’t matter if you’re Jeff Bezos or a homeless person living on the street.  There’s only 24 hours in a day regardless of who you are, what you do, or what your net worth is.  The problem is that without goals we tend to wander through each day with no real focus in sight, which could lead to a very unproductive life.

Speaking of wandering through the days of our lives-you’ve probably experienced one or a thousand of those “wandering” days in your life, right?  How did you feel at the end of those days?  Did you feel accomplished?  Joyful?  Excited?  Energized?  Probably not.  You probably felt like you just wasted another day of your life that you’ll never get back.  Now compare that day(s) to one in which you had a plan to be intentional with your time.  How did you feel at the end of that day?  Probably the opposite of how you felt on your wasted day.  Goals have the power to bring more joy to our days, and who couldn’t use more joy in their life?!?! 

Another reason goals are critical to success is using them to better manage your time will lead to better results in nearly every aspect of your life.  If you don’t take control of your time someone else will!  Goals help you use the limited time you have in a more efficient and effective way each and every day. 

One final reason for setting goals comes from the research on wealthy people.  Tom Corley, author of the book Rich Habits, reported that nearly two-thirds of the wealthy people he studied set both long and short term goals.  Chris Hogan, in his study of over 10,000 millionaires also found most set goals and live an intentional life. 

Forget the research for a second and think about how many people you know who are successful who just sort of “winged it” to get where they are?  You probably don’t know many people like this (unless they’re a lottery winner) because they don’t exist in big numbers.  If we had to pick one characteristic that separates those who win versus those who lose with money, goal setting would be near the top of the list.  Ask anyone struggling with their finances what their money plan / goals are and the most common answer you’ll get is, “What’s a money plan / goal?”. 

Having a plan is a path that leads to accomplishing a goal.  Without a plan you end up wandering around never reaching your desired destination, or taking five times as long to get where you want to end up.

Creating your first set of goals.

Setting goals is actually pretty easy, but we still need to discuss what we’ve found to be an effective approach that may work for you.  We start with the basis that having a great life means we live intentionally by focusing on seven key areas illustrated below.

Zig Ziglar made this concept famous calling it the “wheel of life”.  If you consider, for example, a bicycle wheel has many spokes.  Each spoke is used to make it spin properly without any wobble.  Each of the spokes has to be tensioned equally for the wheel to spin.  If any spokes are too tight or loose the wheel will wobble from side-to-side and / or up-and-down.  Life is kind of like this wheel in that, for example, if you focus too much on the career spoke and neglect the relationships spoke your life will be out of balance.

We’re not saying that you need to focus equally on each element equally all the time, but over time you should spend intentional time on each of these areas.  For example, you may put more time into your career as you get your practice started or being your career after residency, but then once you get yourself established in your career the time may shift more toward another element such as your family.

The seven areas we’ve shared here are just a starting point that work for most people, so feel free to modify them as needed.  Once you have your spokes identified the next step is to start establishing goals for each one.

Setting SMART value-linked goals.

You have likely heard of the SMART goal acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic or Relevant, and Time-bound goals and it’s a good check to make sure your goals are solid.  Another thing to consider are your family values and ensuring each of your goals aligns with at least one of your values.  Check out a previous blog post on values, which is a great starting point for establishing your goals.

A simple way to start is to pick one of the seven areas and determine what you want to have accomplished 10-20 years from now.  Stephen Covey’s second habit of highly effective people is to start with the end in mind.  This is one characteristic that contrasts the difference between wealthy people and poor people.  Poor people tend to have a month-end mindset (i.e. What is this going to cost me each month?) whereas wealthy people generally focus on the long term impact their decisions will have on their lives (i.e. How will this affect me in 10 years?).  If you can’t see past the end of the month it’s going to be hard to win in the long term, especially with money!

We learned early in this process not to be too aggressive in how many goals you set in each area.  We’d suggest starting with one or two so you don’t get overwhelmed with lots of goals and feel defeated when you don’t accomplish them.

Next, work backwards from where you want to be and set interim goals for mid-term (i.e. 3-5 years out) and for the next calendar year.  Finally, and this is where the power in this process comes from, set a 90 day goal.

When you stack them all up you will see by focusing on your 90 day goal it will lead you one step closer to your annual goal that will lead you one step closer to your mid-term goal that will lead you to your long term goal.  All you need to do is focus on the next 90 days!

If you aim at nothing you’re bound to hit it.

-Zig Ziglar

Why 90 days?  Consider this analogy.  Lots of people set New Year’s Resolutions such as going to the gym more often to get in shape.  Visit a gym in early January and you may have to wait in line to get on the machine you want, but go back in May and the place will look like a ghost town.  Why?  Because beyond 90 days we tend to lose focus on our goal. 

By setting-and-forgetting your longer term goals and putting all your focus on the next 90 days you are more likely to succeed because 90 day goals tend to be easier to accomplish than long term goals, and the win you get every 90 days will fuel the next 90 days and the 90 days after that, etc.

You can do this!  You’ve already proven you have the perseverance to achieve long term goals by finishing medical school and residency, which for many is nearly a decade of education and training.  We’re here to help so if you need a little guidance click here to find out more about setting up a coaching call with us where we can share our goal setting process and / or just discuss your situation to guide you closer to your goals.  

We’d also love to hear from you on our social media sites linked below.  We’ve also just setup a Facebook DFMD group to provide another way to interact.  We’d love for you to share with us your challenges and wins when it comes to goal setting.   



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