incremental goal setting: 6 months at a time


When talking about goal setting - or planning your ideal life - you will often hear people talk about envisioning your life 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or maybe even further. Look into the future, and work back from there. 

Now, I agree with this idea. I think the best way to get where you want to go, is to imagine being there already, and work backwards from there. Planning out every moment, every move, to get you where you want to go. Without a clear path, how can you be expected to get where your going?  

But the problem with going so far into the future, is simple. Things change. Think back to the person you were 10 years ago. I am guessing you have changed a bit. You had different dreams, different goals, an entirely different view of who you would be. And who do you think you will be 10 years from now? 

Too often we plan out the things we want right now, for 5, 10, 20 years down the road. But by planning out our current desires so far ahead, we are removing the possibility of them happening right now. 

Instead, I find that incremental goal setting can be far more productive - and really lead to better results. There is nothing wrong with envisioning a future years from now - but for more immediate change, start with a more reasonable time frame. Say 6 months. 

By working within a 6 month timeline, we are able to influence the choices we have a direct effect on right now. It is completely realistic to prepare and plan for the next 6 months of our lives, but beyond that - who knows where things could lead us? 

I have found that even thinking an entire year in advance can get overwhelming. And moving month by month, or even week by week, isn't enough time for anything tangible to manifest. 

So instead, stick with a 6 month time frame. Just enough time to make realistic change, but not enough to be overwhelming. 

Where do you want to be in 10 years? Who knows.

Where do you want to be in 6 months? Now that sounds a lot more reasonable doesn't it? 

Then, work backwards, just like you would do with that 5 year plan. But with only a 6 month time frame, you can be more realistic, and more specific. 

With 6 months - it is easy to break down action steps by months, weeks, and even days. You can plan out a clear path that will have you exactly where you want to be 6 months from now. 

And with only planning 6 months at a time, you give yourself room to shift. Room to explore new ideas, and unexpected opportunities.

When we are working towards a 5 year goal, we can often times become frozen or debilitated when an alternative route presents itself. How could we possibly veer off course only 8 months in? Yet if you are working with more incremental goal setting, shifting perspective, or even shifting your path all together feels more tangible and far more reasonable. 

It may look nice on paper to plan out every moment of the next 5, 10, or 20 years. But we all know that life just simply does not work that way. Paths split. Desires change. And we are never the person tomorrow that we were yesterday. 

Embrace the possibilities. Embrace the shifts that life may present. A fork in the road is not a flaw in the plan, but an opportunity to shift in an even more intentional direction. Sometimes we don't know what we are looking for, until we accidentally stubble upon it. 

So now that we are already half way through January - and we all know those resolutions are staring to fade - I challenge you to think about the next 6 months. Do not get overwhelmed with anything beyond that. 

This may give you greater focus for those resolutions that are already starting to falter. Or maybe bring a goal you have for the future, into more present focus.

If there is something you want to do, start doing it today. Because you can not predict where life will take you 10 years from now. And how absolutely amazing is that?