5 Thinking-Outside-the-Box Goal Setting IdeasIn one day it will be April and I'm sure your New Year's resolutions are at least one fourth completed! You're on your way to the best year ever! Woo hoo!

Wait. What? You what? You started strong and dropped out on January 6? You intended to start, but never got out of the gate? You've decided to roll your 2014 goals over into 2015 and tape a nap until then? Nooooooooo!

Unfortunately even the best intentions can run out of steam or right off the track very quickly. As much as we dream to great (or even mediocre but at least completed) things, change is hard. It just is. But it's possible!

A few years ago I wrote about how to do a hurricane kick and noted one of my favorite quotes:

That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do has increased.

It's true that once a habit is established, it's actually harder to stop than to persist. So how do we create those elusive habits? How do we push through to make our dreams come true? How do we become the person we want to be, living the life we want to live?

We all know about goal setting, We've heard it a million times. Set SMART goals! Make them:


Great. Super cute. We have an acrostic. But does it truly help us reach our goals? If you're a complete goal-setting neophyte, I suppose it does. I mean if you're still setting goals like this:

Someday I want to do something so amazing that it will go down in history as the most amazing thing that has ever, ever happened ever.

…then, yea. You need to study the SMART goal system. But all of us goal setting veterans (not to be confused with goal achieving veterans) are incredibly skilled at planning out perfect goals. We just get stuck in the execution phase.

In this post I've set out to find some of the best new ways of thinking about achievement and forward progress; some out-of-the-box, out-of-the-ordinary ways to envision our ideal future and to take action.

Please comment and let me know what resources or ideas most helped you move forward with your goals!

#1 An Almost Foolproof Way to Achieve Every Goal You Set

by Jeff Haden

For over a decade I've been teaching the value of systems. In fact, it's a core part of my homeschooling book (that will be published someday) and many of my conference presentations. I have systems for:

  1. organizing stuff
  2. home cleaning and maintenance
  3. laundry
  4. meal planning
  5. homeschooling

The end result of these systems is:

  1. We can find the things we need when we need them.
  2. Home is sanitary, beautiful, functional, and enjoyable.
  3. Clothes are ready to wear when needed.
  4. Meals are quick, inexpensive, taste good, and rotate our emergency food storage.
  5. The kids learn what is essential, find things they are interested in, and move forward as bright, productive, interesting adults.

This article explains how systems get results, when goal setting doesn't. This is the stuff I believe in and love, explained in a nutshell.

Haden quotes Jeff Clear in the article. Don't forget to click through to his site, too. If you sign up for his newsletter, you'll get a free copy of his 45-page guide: Transform Your Habits.

#2 100 Day Challenge

by Gary Ryan Blair

Are you the kind of person who needs accountability? a timeline? a goal buddy? Does it help to have very specific steps to progress and a way to keep your mind focused on forward momentum? If so, this is the program for you.

I'm not just talking through my hat here. I purchased the program myself. I worked through the entire program myself. And — this is the biggest accomplishment of all — I blogged every single day of the 100 Day Challenge program without missing a single one.

The next 100 Day Challenge starts April 1. There are only certain times of the year you can register and participate. It's a time-centered, continual progression program that truly moved me forward in some of my biggest goals.

#3 One of the Best Goal Setting Exercises

by Arina Nikitina

I might have a case of blog envy. Lifehack is one of those sites I like so much that I'm tempted to just swipe the content and repost it as my own. Of course, I never would, but so many of the posts there are so helpful, I could be jealous. If I was the jealous type.

Someone very smart once said, “How we spend our days is how we spend our life”. Life doesn’t usually change overnight (as much as we would often hope it would). It changes, because we make little tweaks in our daily habits. Sometimes we do it intentionally. But a lot of times we just kind of start doing something differently, considering it to be insignificant minor change, but these small actions add up to huge life changes over time.

Really isn't this the key to an amazing life? To recognize that the seconds make up the minute, the minutes make up the hours, the hours make up the days, and the days accumulate to make up our entire lives?

Too often we are waiting for something to happen. Something big. Winning the lotto or seeing an angel, perhaps. Unfortunately we are more likely to be compelled to action by really bad stuff. Divorce. Disease. Death. How much better to take action — by choice — when we have everything going for us? (Or most things. Or a lot of things. Or more things than we could have if we were hit by some crisis.)

[Sam and I have been reading The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret by Richie Norton this past week. If you want to learn more about the hows, whys, and wherefores of not putting your life on hold, this is an amazing read!]

In this post, Nikitina focuses on four ways to change the way you pursue your dreams.

  1. Small steps matter
  2. The way we pick, set, and pursue our goals is largely to blame
  3. The “Average Perfect Day”
  4. Start with the smallest changes and work your way up

If you're looking for a personal kickstarter, read this post.

#4 The Robes Patton Method

My dear friend, Robes, died in the fall of 1998 from brain cancer. We loved him, his wife, his kids. I sang at his funeral. I still miss his quirky sense of humor and style and how he remembered every little thing anyone ever told him about anything. He still comes up in conversations about our best times living in Boca Raton.

  • Robes accomplished more goals than anyone I've ever known in my life. Since I can't interview him about his goal setting technique, I'll tell you what I remember from our conversations.
  • He wrote down a list, with dozens of goals every year, and just worked at them as the year progressed.
  • His goals often followed my rule for setting the first action of a goal: they were ridiculously simple, so simple that you'd feed stupid if you didn't just buckle down and do them.
  • The accumulation of all the “ridiculously simple” and not so ridiculously simple was a mass of good stuff.

Robes once gave a talk in church titled, “Closer to Heaven in '97” where he read his incredible goal list for the coming year. I was in the congregation that day, as usual. Best talk ever.

It would be only a few months later — just before Easter — when he would be diagnosed as having a brain tumor. Perhaps his goals changed as the year went on, but maybe not. Here are my favorites:

  • Discover and articulate righteous dreams for myself and my family and work toward making them come true.
  • Use my baseball mitt more.
  • Sing louder.
  • Pray more on my knees and less in my car. 

#5 Getting Things Done

by David Allen

I've been a fan of David Allen since before he had fans. I'm a productivity freak and this book/method/lifestyle put together the perfect system for organizing the stuff in my life (see  idea #1 above). And you know how I love systems! I've been using it (imperfectly and modified to suit) for over a decade now and it's made an enormous difference in my effectiveness and efficiency.

Getting Things Done (GTD) is really a process — a system — to take you through theses steps:

  1. Identifying all the stuff you need to deal with
  2. Dealing with all the stuff you need to deal with

It's not just a way to empty out your in box. It's a way to take everything from small tasks to enormous projects from conception to completion.

I use the OmniFocus app. It's GTD-centric and it's available on my desktop computer, my iPad, and my iPhone. My only complaint with it is that it still has not implemented a full calendar function, so I have to keep all my projects and actions in one place and my calendared items in another. Dumb. (I use BusyCal for my calendar. Also on desktop and mobile devices.)

If you're overwhelmed, if you have 50 things going on at once, if you find yourself running to keep up, if you keep forgetting things, and missing appointments and due dates this is the best way I've found to get a total brain dump so you can be focused and relaxed for optimum productivity.

More On Goals

Don't Even Try It

by Barbara Williams

Ever been discouraged from doing something you really wanted to? Don't let it happen. Live life on your terms. See how Barbara did it. (Plus, a serious — although incidental — indictment of public school counselors. Booyah!)

Top 20 New Year’s Resolutions…of the Rich

by Anita Fowler

While I was growing up, my parents were what you might call millionaire-next-door-frugal. They were careful about every expenditure. Dad wore shoes until they literally wore through the soles. We went on annual vacations camping in a tent. In a family with six kids, a half gallon of ice cream lasted until it got that nasty skin on top and a bag of potato chips lasted until they were stale.

Anita writes about Jim Rohn's “20 Things the Rich Do Everyday.” It pretty accurately follows the 80/20 principle…and my parent's habits. Well worth reading over and taking stock of your own habits.

Some New Year's Goals & My Mom's Awesome Tacos

by Kathleen Coe Clegg

Kathleen must have read the Robes Rules. Her post lists seven goals that are doable. Plus tacos.