Carolyn, a woman who attended one of our seminars, had a problem — she had so many goals she didn’t know where to start. She felt good that she had lots of interests, but also felt like a bit of a slacker because she couldn’t get started. Carolyn didn’t know it, but her problem was not unique. Prior to working with us, many of our coaching clients had difficulty prioritizing multiple goals. We developed a strategy to address competing priorities in our book, GOAL! and helped Carolyn think through hers.
On her list of goals, none of them were time sensitive and none of them were dependent on accomplishing other goals. However, there was a subset of her goals that were mutually exclusive, so she did have to make a decision among those. The other goals were not mutually exclusive and theoretically, she could have picked any one out of a hat and just started. She hadn’t started on anything so far because she was unsure on how to proceed. Carolyn’s goals were: Starting a business (mutually exclusive options), finishing her degree, writing a book and volunteering her time. Here’s how we helped Carolyn get going:
For Goals That Are Not Dependent on Other Goals – If there’s no sequence to your goals (i.e., none depend on the completion of other goals) then look at other factors. For example, is one an event driven goal? Those goals are tied to some specific future date, like losing weight to attend a college reunion or planning for retirement. If that’s the case then the date is going to drive when you should start these. If it’s not an event driven goal then you need to determine which goal is more advantageous versus the other.
Figure Out Which Goal Has the Advantage – If there are goals that have a common objective, (“I’ve identified two businesses which I can start that will both net me $100k”), figure out which one of those has an advantage over the other. Which one will require less time and energy? Which is less risky? Which one requires less capital? Or, which one will give you more joy? Figuring out the advantages will help you decide which one to go after.
If Both Goals Are Equal? If they are both equal in every aspect and you can’t figure out which one you should do, just arbitrarily pick one and start on that one. If they’re not mutually exclusive, when you reach one goal then start on the other. It’s important to take action because people will often end up doing nothing because they can’t decide between two good goals.
A Grid for Multiple Goals – Again, if all your goals seem equal and you can’t figure out which one to start first, you may want to make a grid. We can hear you analytical types saying “yes!”. Vertically down the page list the various goals you have in mind. These could be things like finishing up your college degree, writing a book and volunteering your time. Across the top of the page, list horizontally the key factors in your decision process, like: time, financial investment, enjoyment doing, satisfaction on completion, ability to involve your spouse, etc. You choose the criteria. Now you have created a grid. Give each of these a value from 1-10, 10 being the highest value to you (the shorter the time the higher the value, the lower the cost the higher the value). When you have filled in all the spaces on the grid, add the totals across for each goal and see which goal has the highest total. This will lead you towards the top goal(s). This puts you in a better position to choose which goal to tackle first.
What If You Can’t Identify a Goal? We always tell people to start with what they like doing. Sometimes people will say they’re not sure. If this is the case, start with what interests you and see if that leads you to something you like. For example, if you’re trying to select a career goal, start out with what you like doing or at least are interested in and figure out what careers would satisfy that. If you can’t figure it out on your own, hire a career coach and he or she can help you identify the careers that will leverage your strengths and be most fulfilling. If your goal is to find a fun hobby then again, start with what you’re interest in. A lot of people are interested in photography. Take a course or spend time photographing things and see where that leads. Someone we know had an interest in photography and noticed that all of her pictures tended to be of plants. That led to a garden hobby.
Goals can be incredibly fulfilling and amazingly frustrating if you don’t know where to begin. Lots of goals require lots of time, so get started now. The sooner you start the more fulfilling your life will be. Carolyn started business “A” and is volunteering her time on the weekends. She’s never been busier and never been happier, “Once I got started, everything fell into place.”