Goal Setting vs. Goal Planning



“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” — Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens

Why do so many people fail to reach their goals, even if they do goal setting?

Because goal setting is less than half the battle.

Goal setting is great.  But, to actually achieve your goals, it takes goal planning.

The good news is that goal planning can be more than half the battle.  It sets you up for success mentally, emotionally, and, especially time-wise.

Most people don’t step into what achieving their goal would actually take, so they get frustrated or disheartened when they bump into the first obstacles.   Worse, they usually don’t align their schedule and their habits or environment to help them.  They want their goals, they think about their goals, but they don’t put enough structure in place to support them when they need it most, especially if it’s a big habit change.

Don’t let this be you.

The Power of Goal Planning

You will know exactly how to achieve your goals if you want to.

If you master the art of goal planning, then you will exponentially increase your chances of achieving your goals.  Goal planning helps you build a roadmap of activities, make proper time on your schedule, and deal with obstacles more effectively.

Goal Setting vs. Goal Planning

You can think of goal setting as figuring out what you want to achieve.  It’s really a focus on the “WHY” and the “HOW.”

You can think of goal planning as figuring out the “HOW” to achieve your goal.

Simply put, the output of goal setting is a list of goals, and the output of goal planning is an action plan.

Most people don’t achieve their goals because they stop at goal setting.  They might get as far as, this year, I want to lose 25 pounds.  Or this year, I’m going to write my book.   Or this month, I’m going to learn a new skill.

They figure out WHAT they want.  Hopefully, they also know WHY they want it (and, they usually do.)   But, they don’t figure out HOW they are going to achieve it.

Goal planning is the difference that makes the difference.

Keep in mind, it actually makes sense to split goal setting and goal planning.  They are different activities with a different focus and require different levels of thinking and analysis.

Goal Planning in a Nutshell

If you’ve never done goal planning, here’s how to start.  Simply take a goal and break it down into the work or effort required.

If you don’t know what’s required, then find somebody who can help you figure it out.

The chances are that somebody, somewhere, at some point in time, has already done what you are trying to do.  See if you can learn from them, or at least get some insight into what the effort really involved.

5 Questions to Help with Effective Goal Planning

Here is a list of questions to help you with goal planning:

  1. What is the specific work or effort required to achieve your goal?
  2. What resources or dependencies do you need to help you succeed?
  3. What is your action plan to achieve this goal?
  4. What time investment is actually required?   What should your weekly schedule look like to support achieving this goal? (Can you be a world-class violinist if you practice 5 minutes a day?)
  5. What obstacles will you face and how will you respond?

As you can imagine, this process is incredibly revealing as to what it really takes to achieve your goal.  You might figure out that now is not the time for that particular goal because your ability to execute is low.  It’s better to figure this out now than waste your time and effort.

Think of Action Plans as a Simple Story of What You’ll Do Each Week

If you get tripped up trying to figure out your action plan, then try turning it into a simple story for now, such as “Three days a week, I’ll practice from 7:30 to 8:00.”   If you can figure out what you’ll do when, such as what day, or even better what time on what day, then you really take the guesswork out of whether you’ll achieve your goal.

Worst case, you’ll make significant progress.

If you can find a way to enjoy the process of reaching your goal.

Exploration Phase to Help Your Goal Planning

One more tip before I go.   Include an exploration phase after you decide on your goals.  For example, let’s use New Year’s Resolutions.   Use January to explore your goal planning, so that you can execute well in February.   During January, simply take your goals for a little test drive.  Step into them to figure out what they really take.  Find people to model from and learn what you can.  Take the month to invest in your planning for this year to have your best year ever.

If you can commit to the process and enjoy the journey, you will succeed in many more ways than first meets the eye.

Best wishes on your goal setting and goal planning efforts.

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