After my college graduation, I had a conversation with my older brother about what was next in life. Everyone, it seemed, had a keen interest in me up to that point. They always wanted to know I wanted to be when I grew up, what college I was going to, and what I was going to major in.
But I never had one conversation about what happened after that. How do I start a successful marriage (I didn’t do that one well)? How do I grow in emotional health (took a lot of trips to the therapist’s office)? How do I pass on key values to my children (still figuring that one out…)?
The problem was that no one had taught me how to set goals for what came after graduation.
I wasted a lot of time (and hurt a lot of people) because I was a goalless drifter.
People without goals are people without a future.
Ready, Set, Goal!
One key to sustainable success is the daily habit of setting, reviewing, and reestablishing goals.
One of my practices is to use Michael Hyatt’sFull Focus Planner. I’ve used it for over a year now and absolutely love both the structure and order it gives me, while also allowing a great deal of freedom in the process.
I’ve also discovered the power of paper and what it means to write goals down. It’s easy to think, “My goal is…” because we often forget it. But by writing goals down, it not only gives us a visual reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish but cements it into our brain better.
By getting clear and specific on what we are aiming at, we gain a strategic advantage to sustainable success. The key discipline though is to make our goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.
When you’re ready to say, “Ready, Set, Goal!” you must begin by making sure you have the right format.
S: Specific. Make sure the goals you set are clear on the intended destination. Don’t think, “Lose weight.” Instead write, “I want to lose twenty pounds.”
M: Measurable. Similar to specific, measurable makes sure that what you’re aiming for can actually be hit. Avoid using jargon or filler words in your goal-setting times. Don’t think, “Be more productive.” Instead, write that you want to, “Use my time wisely by spending no more than thirty minutes a day on social media.” Ouch. That one may hurt a bit, but it’s measurable. You can use apps or the integrated Apple Screen Time (if you’re an iPhone user) to track how you’re spending your time on your phone.
A: Actionable. Start your goals with action-oriented verbs (as opposed to “to-be” verbs). This focuses your attention on what needs to be accomplished. Don’t write, “Be better at date nights.” Instead, try, “Take my spouse on one date night every week.” Now you know how to take action to accomplish your goal.
R: Realistic. This one can be challenging, and we’ll talk about short and long term goals in a second. But realism is important in goal setting. Too often, goals fail because they either don’t inspire us or are unattainable. Realistic goals should do both. “Complete my ebook and submit to the publisher by the end of quarter three.” This goal meets the first three points and is entirely realistic (even if you’re not very far into your book). However creating a goal like, “Establish the first hotel chain on the moon by the end of the year” meets the first three steps in the process, but not the last one. To take action that inspires, your goal must be reasonable.
T: Timely. Put some hustle in it. This is where I work hard with my clients to push ourselves on our goals. Strive for greatness and see what you can do. If your goal is to gain three new speaking opportunities for your business, fantastic! But put yourself under a time constraint to reach that goal. “Acquire three new speaking opportunities by the end of August.” It’s clear, concise, and gives you a visible target to know if you’ve hit your goal. It also pushes you to keep working and avoid drifting from your goal. The end of August is coming up quick after all.
E: Exciting. Your goals should scare you a little bit. If not, you’ll never grow. This is honestly one of my big descriptors for the clients that I work with. We always work a little scared. If you’re making $50,000 a year and want to work with me, and your goal is to make $50,000 next year as well, we probably won’t be a good fit. You still might have some great goals, but I want my clients to push themselves. My clients are making $50,000 but want to make $125,000. They know they need to get serious about pursuing their dreams.
And it works in all areas of life too. Want a better marriage? Don’t take your spouse on four dates a year, take them on two a week. That shows me you’re serious about reprioritizing your schedule to thrive in your relationship.
R: Relevant. This one matters, but more in the daily habits of life. I regularly review my goals to make sure they are still what I want. Every year, I sit down and try to project out a year to set goals throughout. A number of times I’ve set a goal in January, gotten to May, and then realized it was no longer relevant. That’s not a bad thing! Those goals pushed me and stretched me in new ways that have forever changed me. But in that growth process, I realized that I needed to rechart my course and set a new destination.
Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your goals and start a new direction. That’s the fun part of goal setting.
The jarring blare of the alarm pries your eye-lids open and rips you into the land of the living.
What’s your first instinct?
The snooze button or the bounding first leap of a new baby gazelle?
Is your first thought, “Why me?” or “Why wait any longer?”
The way we set our mind first thing determines the much of the rest of the day.
Richard Whatley once said, “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.”
Our mindset at the outset of the day determines our outcome. Whether we choose to attack the day or begrudgingly back into it determines how much we will get done.
And this has nothing to do with being a morning person or a night owl (but shout out to all my fellow morning people!).
Instead, it has everything to do with what we purpose in our hearts as valuable and worth investing in.
Our morning rituals have the chance to shape our souls, our character, our potential, and our enjoyment in life.
Habits on Purpose
Anyone who has worked with me knows we spend a lot of time talking about “habits on purpose.” Our morning rituals are no exception. Many of us waste large sections of our mornings instead of intentionally crafting them to serve us and help us reach our goals.
Two scenarios, which sounds more like you (be honest!):
“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.” – Richard Whatley
The alarm goes off. After snoozing the alarm a time or two, you begrudgingly get out of bed. Saunter down to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. After waiting for it to brew, you put on the television, drink the cup of coffee, and pray for “a few moments of quiet.” The (real) problem is not that these moments aren’t quiet. Instead, it’s that they aren’t productive or stimulating. After an hour of television and another cup of coffee (or two), you manage to scrounge up a quick (and mostly unhealthy) breakfast, rush out the door, only to wait in traffic on the way to work. You spend the rest of the morning wondering how you’re going to fit in everything you have to do.
After work, you might rush off to the gym, if you’re feeling up to it, stagger in the door, and eat a quick bite of dinner with your family. Some more television, and on the good days a few pages of light reading before a late-night Netflix series as you pass out into bed.
The weekends, only somewhat different. Instead of filling your days with work, it’s full of a week’s worth of overlooked errands and obligations. By the time Sunday ends, you dread the thought of going back to work, still tired, still behind, and still wondering where all your time went.
The alarm goes off, but you were already stirring. Gently awakening from a good nights sleep, you quietly make your way to the kitchen. After drinking twenty ounces of water to rehydrate your body, you then make a small cup of coffee and tip-toe into the den. Here, you engage in thirty minutes of intentionally designed habits that give you life and direction. Scripture reading and prayer, meditation, yoga, and a good personal development book are frequent habits. After that, you sneak off to the gym for a good thirty-minute sweat session. You return home just as the rest of the family is waking up. You’re fully awake, charged up, and ready to attack the day. You enjoy a good, nutritious breakfast with your family before heading off to work with purpose and conviction.
After work, you are still awake enough to get a few critical errands done, work on your side hustle, and enjoy another meal with your family. After dinner, you enjoy a myriad of activities together: movies, books, chess, or sports. Whatever it is, you’re excited by the purpose and direction you’ve given your life.
The weekends are similar. They are intentionally designed, purpose-driven, and leave you excited for another week to grow, learn, and serve new people.
I’m guessing you identify with one of these stories.
I identify with both.
For years, I would have firmly placed myself in option one. My life was chaotic, disorganized, and I was “average” (at best).
After intentionally taking steps to counter this drift, seeking out some great coaches, and getting a grip on my life and my purpose, I now find myself firmly in option two.
The difference along the way for me has been a lot of intentional habits and disciplines, specifically and most importantly, my morning rituals.
Now, they’re far from perfect. Right now, my morning habits are really broken up into to separate blocks. That’s the status of my work life right now. Eventually, it will happen in one chunk as I sense that will work the best for me.
So while I may not have my “ideal” calendar of morning rituals in place, I do have a target. I know what I’m aiming for. Otherwise, I’m like the boy learning archery who shot an arrow and then ran over to pain the bullseye around it. Instead, I want to know what the target is and then put all of my effort and talent into hitting it every time.
Below are the habits of my morning ritual and roughly how much time I spend on each one.
20oz of water within ten minutes of waking up
1 cup of coffee
Bible Reading and Prayer (10-15 Minutes)
Personal Development Book (15-20 Minutes)
Exercise (45 minutes)
Within the first 90 minutes of my day, I have exercised my body, brain, and spiritual muscles. I have found that this gives me focus, intensity, and purpose to my days. I’m still tweaking exactly how to flow from one activity to the next more smoothly but would love to hear from you.
What are your morning rituals?
What are your daily habits and routines?
How are you using your time to intentionally invest in bettering yourself at the start of the day?