A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Goals and Priorities

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.

— James C. Collins

Some people are born with an amazing talent and they know at an early age that they are destined for greatness and will be a star athlete, famous, singer or beautiful dancer. If they are lucky, and they work hard, they can achieve their dreams.

But for many of us, we need to be very disciplined and focus on creating our goals in order to realize our own little dreams. It can be like putting a puzzle together. Or like cooking a stew with ingredients that are already in the freeze and pantry.

One of my favorite passages on achieving great dreams in both the business world and the individual world come from James C. Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t:

“When [what you are deeply passionate about, what you can be best in the world at and what drives your economic engine] come together, not only does your work move toward greatness, but so does your life. For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered.”

So how does one really achieve greatness? Here are some simple step-by-step guidelines that I have used over the years to turn goals into dreams.

Step 1: Brainstorm

It all starts out with asking yourself questions. Take some time — at least a week or so. Here are some sample questions:

· What do I really want to do?

· What am I deeply passionate about?

· What can I do better than anyone else?

· What kind of person do I want to be when I am age 50, 60, 70, and so on.

· What areas of myself really need improvement over the next year?

· Which projects do I want to work on in the coming year?

· What things do I want to start letting go of?

· What and where are the current opportunities?

· How much time do I want to invest?

· Who are possible collaborators if I need them?

Step 2: Write It Down

Make a list of anything that comes to mind with answers to your questions. I like to write my thoughts down and keep them either on my computer or in a notebook. When you are done with the brainstorm list, look it over and try to find 3–10 themes or “buckets” of like items. Here are some ideas:

· BE

· Build a business

· Have more fun

· Develop healthier habits

· Create a financial plan

· Create a retirement plan

· Learn new things

· Grow spiritually

· Become more disciplined

· Practice, practice, practice

· Simplify life

Step 3: Organize

Organize your brainstorm list into themes. You will likely refine the list — adding some other items, deleting theirs, and refining the titles of your themes.

Step 4: Prioritize

Determine the priority of your goal or goals. While it is good to have under a dozen themes and numerous little goals organized under the themes, I try to focus on a few priority projects each year as the most important ones.

Once you have a goal-setting process in place, review it regularly and update it at least once a year — preferable around the New Year. I keep an annual list of 6 or so goals with a least 3–5 specifics — all on one page

It is gratifying to see the progress that we can make to achieve our own greatness, understand the work that has yet to be done, and uncover new dreams for the year and the years ahead!

Originally published at medium.com