I have a love/hate relationship with goal setting. Over the last 30 years, I have meticulously set goals for the upcoming year, only to be frustrated by how few I accomplish. I always rationalized that even though I didn’t get everything done, I did more than if I didn’t set goals at all. 

A few years ago, I changed up the process in a way that has helped me. This new process is simpler, creates greater focus, and helps me achieve more meaningful results. Goals have been confined for too long to losing weight, exercising more, drinking less, or some other unappealing “ought.” Couple this with the problem that most people take on far too many challenging goals, making success near impossible. I share this in the hope that those who do not like setting goals will give goal setting another try and that those who struggle with making meaningful progress will discover new levels of accomplishment.

The process begins with The Big Eight. The Big Eight are the eight areas of our life that together make up a holistic, balanced life. They are Faith, Family, Finances, Relationships, Health, Experiences, Lifestyle, Mission. If perhaps you want to tweak the categories, feel free.

Step 1 – List each of these areas on a sheet of paper. Take some quiet time and list the one most impactful goal for each area that, if accomplished, would move you forward in the upcoming year. Don’t worry if you can’t think of one for a particular area. The point is to use the eight categories to ensure that we think broadly and holistically about our lives.

Step 2 – This is the crucial step! From your singular key goals in each area, think through which goal is the absolute most important. Ask yourself, “what one thing might I do that, if I accomplish it, will move me meaningfully toward the person I deeply want to become?” This becomes your One Thing (from Gary Keller’s excellent book, The One Thing). This One Thing should be so compelling that if you did this one thing and nothing else, you would consider the year a success.

Step 3 – After you have absolute clarity about your One Thing, then you may choose to pick two, no more than three, other primary goals that would be very meaningful to accomplish. This One Thing, coupled with a few other key areas of focus, become your goals. You can list other goals as long as you don’t allow the other goals to dilute your total commitment to your One Thing.

Here are a few examples of Simple Goals:

  • My One Thing – Get up at 6:00 every weekday morning to give myself at least 30 minutes to settle myself and think through life and the day ahead.
  • My One Thing – Give undivided attention (without a cell phone) to my family and friends at every meal.
  • My One Thing – Find a church for my family and me and attend at least twice per month.
  • My One Thing – Find a way to pay off my credit card each month.

You might have other reasonable goals, such as exercise or reading goals, but in the end, your commitment is absolute on your One Thing, and firm on a couple of other goals. 

If you and I were to identify the most important thing that would move us ahead in the next year and accomplish it with complete focus and commitment, our growth would be incredible.

Over these last weeks of our tumultuous 2020, spend time clarifying your One Thing for 2021 and be ready to leap forward with fresh optimism and hope.

What is your One Thing?

PS – Check out my podcast, Space for Life, for a 3-part deeper dive into goals!

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