Goal Setting: A Way of Life

I am a self-admitted goal-setting addict. My addiction began in my early thirties when I listened to the motivational tapes – yep, back then we listened to tapes on our car tape players – of Earl Nightingale.You become what you think about was Earl’s primary thesis and it resonated with me. So, I began to focus on what I thought about by following his advice to write down goals and review them regularly.

This time of year is especially important for my goal-setting addiction, since I formed the habit of formally revisiting and revising my goals on New Year’s Day or shortly thereafter in the tradition of establishing New Year’s resolutions. Several principles guide my goal-setting: 

  • no more than five per year
  • very specific but simply stated
  • should be a combination of business and personal goals 

Some advise sharing goals with others, but for me they are my private guideposts. I revisit my goals on a regular basis throughout the year to assess progress, but in no case do I change them until the following year.

I have learned the hard way that some specific wording can backfire. For example, for many years I set the goal of “breaking par” in golf, my lifelong favorite avocation. My wording was something like: “My goal is to improve my chipping and putting this year, and to break par at least once.” Looking back, this wording implied that breaking par once would accomplish the goal. In 1992 I shot a 69, breaking par by three shots for the first and, so far, the only time. I have since then focused much more on carefully wording my goals. 

I have set numerous business goals for Infotech over the years, both cultural and monetary, and nearly all of them have been met or exceeded. Random chance? Perhaps, but as a statistician I think chance explanations are often a cop-out.

The pandemic certainly impacted some of my 2020 goals — some had to be put on hold, others re-doubled. For example, I had some travel goals for my wife and I this year that had to be pandemic-postponed. In contrast, I expanded both the time and frequency of my exercise goals. I also had a goal of working with Infotech Consulting President and my daughter, Dr. Jamie McClave Baldwin to advance our Consulting business. I think the pandemic has actually resulted in our working with increased focus on building and strengthening our team, and as a result we are ahead of schedule on this goal. 

I look forward to establishing my 2021 goals in the light of our “new reality.” My first goal for 2021 is: I will get my COVID-19 vaccination at the earliest time at which it becomes available to me. I’m still working on the other four. I think goal-setting is especially important this year. In some sense the main goal for 2020 was just to get through the year safely, and to help our family, friends, and co-workers do the same. I believe 2021 is a time to look forward with hope and determination. My goals will reflect a determination to apply lessons learned from 2020 to make 2021 a better year in all respects. If you have never tried goal-setting, with 2020 finally behind us I suggest that 2021 offers an ideal time to start!