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How Strategic Are Your Personal Goals? 

If you know Tim Fulton at all, you know three things..he loves tennis, small cars, and goals…

Growing up in the Fulton household, there were two things one could be sure of every holiday season. One…there would be yard work on Thanksgiving. And two…your new year’s goals will be analyzed and documented before the first week of January.

For better or for worse, the infamous “Tim Fulton goal sheet” has been a staple in my life. Every January since I was 10 years old, my dad and I would asses how I did on the previous year’s goals and what I wanted to accomplish in the coming 12 months.

When I was younger, my primary goal was usually to end this conversation as soon as possible, because at the time, I didn’t see the purpose of the goal sheet. For me, it was like our heavy winter coats in that it hung in our laundry room for 360 days a year…untouched and collecting dust. Therefore, my goals were basically obsolete and included things like…attend school regularly, eat dinner, and shower daily.

As you can see… I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb.

It probably wasn’t until I was a junior in college when I realized that goals were actually important. I began spending significant time brainstorming new challenges and coming up with elaborate initiatives. There was only one problem… I still had no idea how to execute a goal. I was in the mindset of “if I write these down, I will do them”, which of course is furthest from the truth.

Each January, I would look at my past year’s goal sheet with disappointment and anger.

Why didn’t I accomplish these things?… Where was I all year long?… I shouldn’t have drank so much beer…(for multiple reasons).

Finally, I figured out what I was doing wrong… Two years ago I began my career as a marketing representative for a small scholarly publishing company in Lawrence, Kansas. A large chunk of my job is to write detailed strategic marketing plans for our journals and society partners. I often spend weeks analyzing data, industry trends, and our position in the marketplace in order to propose goals, strategies, and tactics to improve the publication. It was here I realized something very obvious yet very unique to me… my personal goals are no different than these marketing plans.

Before choosing my goals, I had to completely and objectively understand myself.

Where am I right now? Where do I want to be next year? Where do I want to be in five years? What are my strengths and weaknesses, and what opportunities and threats does the outside world present?

Only after honestly analyzing myself could I create attainable, realistic, and measurable goals.

But there’s more. Just because I finally had a list of strategic goals doesn’t mean I had any capacity to execute them. I needed to research and document how I was going to complete each task and the tools necessary for success. I needed strategies.

So I sat down and figured out how I was going to achieve what I set-out to do. I committed to things early, created sequences of events, listed individuals who could provide support, and set firm deadlines. While this may seem a bit over-the-top and cumbersome, these goals were important to me and history had shown I needed a new method. I needed a plan.

What happened next…? I am having the best year of my life. Through the first six months of 2013, I have run a half-marathon, received a promotion at work, successfully launched a small part-time business, taken two fantastic trips, read more than I have in years, and gotten engaged to my longtime girlfriend.

The difference maker? I now take a strategic approach to my personal, professional, and developmental goals.


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