Goal Setting Series: Part 1-Reflect on the Past

We practice goal setting all the time in business settings. If you’re an employee you usually receive your goals every year or every six months, which would align with the strategic goals of the company.  At the end of the semester you review your achievements with your boss against the defined goals, you discuss what worked, what didn’t, and why.  

However, we usually coast through our personal lives, letting things happen to us and reacting as necessary. We are not charting our own paths to where we want to go. We are walking pre-defined paths for us. That’s why our days and years look a lot like each other. We are not living goal-oriented lives, we are not living on purpose.  This gap in goal setting between our work life and personal life was an insight that clicked for me in a conversation with a business leader and a mentor I’m lucky to have met called Iman Mutlaq. I’ll be always grateful for helping me notice this.  

It’s true, many of us set new year’s resolutions, but resolutions without a plan are not goals, they are only hopes and aspirations, that’s why they fail by mid-February.  

Lucky for you, I have good news. Goal setting can be done anytime. You can do it at the beginning of each year, on your birthday, every month,  every quarter or whenever you decide to pursue something new. As Lara Casey always says: “There is nothing magical about  January 1st“.  

In this series I will share with you what I have learned about goal setting from my favorite authors on the subject Michael Hyatt and Lara Casey. 

This Post is part 1 of 4.  

Goal Setting Starts in the Past.  

Your past has only one value, learning from it. Reviewing your past will help you design the right goals for you. If you start goal setting with reviewing the past you’re more likely to set meaningful goals that you will invest time and effort to achieve. 

First: Do a Life Audit 

Our lives are multi-faceted as Michael Hyatt asserts. Our lives are not just our careers or health or families. These life domains are all connected. When we’re not doing well in one domain of our life we can feel it impacting the satisfaction we have in other areas. 

We start the life audit by rating the key life areas on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 means you are not satisfied and want to see a big change there, and 10 means you’re happy with how you’re showing up in this domain. While at it, write a few words about the reason you selected the score for each domain. State facts and how you feel, honesty is key here because opportunity for improvement starts taking shape now, the lowest scores indicate the bigger opportunity to make a change.  

Life domains are differently grouped depending on the writer, you can add categories or remove those that don’t apply to you. Feel free to make your own life categories that work for your unique life. 

The categories I recommend are: 

  • Health: How you feel about your body. 
  • Mental/Emotional: How you feel about your psychological well-being. 
  • Relationships: How you feel about your relationship to: 
    • Spouse/Significant other 
    • Friends
    • Family
  • Finances: Your personal or family’s financial situation 
  • Work: Your job, your 9-5, and side projects.  
  • Spiritual Growth: You connection to God. 
  • Learning: Your educational development. 
  • Personal Environment: Your home and work environment.  
  • Fun & Recreation: Your hobbies, playtime, relaxation, and adventure experiences.  
  • Service & Contribution: how you serve the world/ volunteer work. 

You can also take an assessment I really like by Michael Hyatt to assess how you are generally doing in life’s different domains by answering a series of helpful questions. Make sure to save your answers so you can go back to them after a while. I guarantee you will see improvements after you commit to setting goals in areas where your satisfaction was the lowest.  

SecondEvaluate your past. 

Select how far you’d like to go in your past, 6 months, one year, 3 years? Answer accordingly.  

I assumed you want to go back one year and wrote the tips accordingly: 

  • Start with the positive: While our human tendency is to remember the negative first, it is recommended to start with the good. This will help us have energy to complete the past exercise. Write a list of the wonderful things that happened to you. What are you most proud of? What worked well last year? A few ways to remember:
    •  You can consult your family and friends to remind you of your highlights 
    • You can check your social media posts to remember  
    • You can go through your camera roll. 
    • You can check your calendar or planner. 
    • You can check your goals from last time, celebrate what’s done. 
    • You can check your past financial statements, this will remind you of you priorities and events. 
  • Name the challenges: Write a list answering questions like what did not work this past year? What disappointments or regrets did you experience? What goals you wanted to achieve but did not? What were some blocks you faced? What achievements you wanted to be acknowledged for but were not? It is hard to write our answers here. But power through it. This list will guide your focus when you set your goals, your challenges are your biggest opportunities for improvements.  
  • Distill the lessons: What did the positive and the negative from the past year teach you? Make them into short sentences of wisdom that you can repeat over and over to yourself.  

Third:  State what you are grateful for. 

  • Gratitude time: Write the names of people who helped you during this past year. Find a way to thank them for specific things they did for you or ways they stood by you. Feeling gratitude is one thing, expressing it to those who caused it is such an another level. They will be so surprised, and you are going to make someone’s day.  

Bonus Step 

  • Identify your hidden opportunity. the opportunity principle, which states feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointments are strongest where the chances for corrective action are clearest. Consider your setbacks this past year, brainstorm how they might point you toward your next opportunity.  

Now you are ready to move on to the next step of goal setting which is: dreaming about the future. 

New post coming up soon. 

I’m deeply grateful for Michael Hyatt and Lara Casey for all what they taught me about Goal Setting that I have shared in this blog post.  

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 7 of my podcast: 

Goal Setting Series: Part 1-Reflect on the Past

14 Tips for Waking Up Early for Beginners

  1. Define your why. The first thing I ask people who want to start waking up at 5AM is why do they want to do that? what’s missing that waking up would help them accomplish? Waking up at 5AM is not for everybody, especially not for those who already have the time to work on their self -improvement activities like journaling, reading, planning and so on during the rest of the day. Or those who appreciate their nighttime outings and want the freedom of going out any night of the week without thinking they will wake up at 5AM next day. Write your why. So when you lose your initial enthusiasm your why would remind you. Maybe it would be something like: I don’t want to feel the morning rush ever again. I want to feel I can start my day slowly and with intention. I want to go to work with my to-do list ready. I want to increase my knowledge/self-awareness/muscles.
  2. Work on your evening routine first. Observe your current bedtime and what gets in the way of sleeping on time. How does going out affect your bedtime? Notice your habits of consumption at night, whether content on TV or social media or food or caffeine. It is recommended to cut off coffee 6 hours at least before bedtime in many studies.
  3. Create something to look forward to in the morning. Examples could include fancy coffee or hot beverage or a mug you get especially for this habit. A new shiny notebook and set of pens. An exciting book you want to read. An online course you subscribe to.
  4. Dedicate a corner in your house for your morning time. It could be chair facing a window, it could be your kitchen table or a small desk you get especially to place your morning tools on it. I used an old outdoor table as a makeshift office for years before replacing it with my shiny new office from IKEA few months ago.
  5. Look for or ask some friends to join you in this new habit for accountability and to create momentum. It’s much more exciting when you wake up knowing others are sleepy but awake like you. You can create a whatsapp group and send good morning to each other like I do with my small group. You can also ask to call and wake up each other if you don’t show up on time.
  6. If no one is interested to join your challenge in creating this habit, start a public challenge on your social media announcing your implementation intentions (this early, this many days) and report on your story daily indicating how super early you are and how far you are in the habit. This is how I started and how I recommitted to it.
  7. Speaking of social media, post that update or send good morning your 5am group then put your phone far away for an hour at least to do the things you wake up for. You can’t underestimate the allure of your phone screen and how it will steal precious minutes and attention from you if given the chance. I set appblock on strict mode the night before to guard my morning routine.
  8. Change your alarm ringtone, you got so used to your current one and your body is learning a new habit so it needs a new trigger, Also put your alarm (I’m assuming phone) far from your hand’s reach so you have to stand up and walk to turn if off and you might as well leave the bedroom as planned.
  9. Remember the 5-second rule. When you hear the alarm, count down from 5, 5-4-3-2-1, and launch out of bed like rockets launch into the sky. This would not give enough time for your foggy self-talk to start, which wants you warm and cozy in bed, forgetting and abandoning your budding habit.
  10. If your feel too sleepy after you wake up and want to go back to bed, remind yourself how you would feel in 2 hours if you stay awake and true to your new habit. Like I did once, blast some music in your earphones and do some jumping jacks to wake up that body.
  11. Make your habit rewarding. Use a monthly calendar to cross off each day you wake up with a big fat X. Don’t break the chain of X. Include the X in your social media photo.
  12. Set a reward for yourself when you complete X number of days in a row. Make it so attractive and worthy of your efforts.
  13. Remember it takes an average of 66 days to make a new routine a habit. Keep going. Don’t assume it has become a habit too soon by giving yourself days off way too early. If you quit too soon you might think you are fine and you don’t need it but before you know it the old symptoms that propelled you to start will come back. They will not feel so great.
  14. Prepare for failure. Set a rule that if your break the chain you don’t break it more than 2 days. Don’t let the perfectionist in you say it’s all or nothing (I thank this book for teaching me this). Forgive yourself and jump back to it because your previous efforts are not wasted. New neural pathways are being forged in your brain as you are creating this habit and they will stay there for the days you break the chain as long as you go back.

Anything I missed? What’s your favorite tip? let me know your own secrets to waking up early.

Listen to these tips in Arabic in my podcast The Paradise Project
14 Tips for Waking Up Early for Beginners