Where to Start When Setting New Goals

Setting goals can be an overwhelming process. It can feel intimating and confusing. It can be hard to know where to start when setting new goals for the future. Goals that are hard to make are hard to achieve!

I learned a powerful approach to goal setting in my 20s that I have used and shared ever since. The secret is to start by looking at the roles you play in life. You can also think of a role as the areas or categories in your life. This approach is part of Stephen Covey’s popular work around personal leadership, productivity and social interaction. I love his work! If you aren’t familiar with his main concepts, check out this good 7 Habits for Highly Effective People book summary.

The roles we play:

In Stephen Covey’s initial habits (focused on moving from dependence to independence) he suggests thinking about our life based on the roles we fill. Examples of common roles are:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Friend
  • Student
  • Employee
  • Athlete
  • Spouse
  • Pet Owner

What are your primary roles? Which ones do you tap into most often and just occasionally?

Thinking about my life roles has really helped me! It helps me plan my schedule, another approach I learned from Stephen Covey. It helps me see how my time and energy are divided between the people and activities I love. This approach also really helps me create focused goals that are motivating and achievable. It helps me know where to start when setting new goals, especially if my idea is very fuzzy. Let’s look at this impact more in depth.

Examples of role-based goals:

For 2018 I created two sets of goals: health-oriented goals that take into consideration my roles of wife, athlete and hopeful mother, and productivity goals that were specific to my role as a writer. Both sets of goals, or ultimate new year’s resolutions, have guided me well thus far and I am excited to see what else I do in the second half of this year to full-fill these goals. One of my health oriented goals was to complete a Spartan Sprint, which my husband and I did together this past April. Go team Johnson!

When thinking about my annual goals this past December/January, there were a lot of things I wanted to accomplish in 2018. I had some big dreams! By zooming in and examining the different roles I play in life I was able to confidently pin-point where I wanted to focus my energy for the coming year.

In 2017 I set goals based on my roles as a coach, resident of Estes Park, friend and nature lover.  I’ve set goals for myself as a volunteer, single lady, artist, sister, student and foodie. The options are endless, but keeping your goal tied to a specific role you play in life creates focus and minimizes goal-killing confusion.

Which role/area of your life would you pick for your new goal?

A great 2-for-1 deal:

Some of our life roles overlap or connect. For example, my role as a wife overlaps with my role as a 30-something female. My efforts to eat healthy, drink more water and exercise with purpose involve my role as a wife and a woman. Much of my health-oriented activity is done with my husband which also supports his health goals.

As a result, when I go after my exercise goals I am accomplishing something that is good for me as a woman and something that is good for my marriage! I get double benefit and double motivation because following through on one goal (such as drinking 100 oz of water a day) taps into multiple roles in my life. Who doesn’t love a great 2-for-1 deal?

Is there a second role that might also tap into your new goal?

Staying realistic:

It is important to keep realistic expectations in mind when setting new goals. As an energetic go-getter,  I need to remind myself of this point every time I set goals. If we go after too much at one time, we are only setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

Establishing goals for two or three roles at one time sets you up for success. We have limited time and personal resources to go after our goals. Establishing too many simultaneous goals dilutes our ability to conquer any one goal. Goals made this way are motivating, not overwhelming.

Is it realistic for you to add on a new goal at this time? Will you have the resources you need to find success with it right now?

Tips to remember when setting new goals:

  • Divide your life into your most important roles to start your goal setting process
  • Establishing a goal that aligns with one of your major life roles creates focus
  • Goals should feel like a stretch but also keep in mind reasonable expectations
  • Working towards goals in a maximum of two or three roles at one time increases your chance of success

Want some focused time establishing your next set of role-based goals? Check out my Day Away Experience Packages, custom designed personal retreats to help any person enjoy a little intentional “me time” any time!


Originally posted for JLJ Coaching Services by Jessica Johnson in July, 2018. Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash.

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