In December a couple of years ago, I had not had a good year.
It had been difficult, and I had hardly achieved any of the goals I set out for myself.
So I wanted to make sure the next one would not be the same.
I wasn't really sure how to go about this, but as a fan of planning, I set about doing my annual plan. Except this time, I planned more carefully and with greater attention to all the different areas of my life than I'd ever done before.
I hibernated for quite some time.
It took several days.
But when I emerged, I had covered and set goals for everything important to me, from parts of my health, to my finances, to the way I wanted to live and how I wanted my home to be.
The best part about giving myself time and space to do this was that I allowed myself to breath and get creative and honest with myself.
On this list, among some other things, was a very specific financial goal that I wanted to achieve within 3 months.
It was more than triple the amount I had been earning the months before. Looking at the new number made me feel a bit wary of how much of a challenge it would be.
But I wrote the number down anyway and told myself I would do it.
I reminded myself of that number for weeks, every single day.
Not much happened for a while, but I kept working toward this goal.
And then, after a few weeks, an opportunity came up where I was offered an amount just short of the amount I wanted.
Since there was scope for negotiating, I really tried to push to get the precise number I wanted - but I was still happy that I was getting so close to the number I'd written. In the end, they said it wasn't possible, so I told myself I would do something else to generate the remaining amount.
Just a couple of hours after I’d accepted the amount and the contract - they rang me back...
...And told me they had been able to raise contract price (!).
I still remember, as he was telling me the amount of money in Euros, I had no idea if the new amount would match my precise number…
So I quickly typed the amount in Euros into my currency calculator, and I was so shocked to find the amount converted to be EXACTLY the same in Dirhams that I’d had as my goal. (That is so difficult to do with a fluctuating price exchange!).
I had goosebumps, and was super happy!
This story still makes me smile: it was more money than I’d made before, and beyond that, I could see that the opportunity would be expansive, taking me to countries I had never visited, and doing collaborative work I’d never imagined possible before.
The power of being specific...
I’ve learned that the more specific I get, the more I can relax and work on my goals.
Perhaps now, your mind is trying to draw a parallel, to see if you, too have ever had such an experience?
Or maybe you can’t think of one. And that's totally fine.
In fact, it is great.
Because there is another way to set goals, from a different angle, and arguably, it has a different kind of power that works for many people:
…The power of being non-specific
You might find that you see a goal like the one I told you about in this story above, and you feel anxious or stressed by it.
Imagine the pressure of writing down to the tiniest detail all of the things you want to do, become or get in the next few months?
I told a friend about this, and they said it just doesn't work for them: when they've gotten so specific and it doesn't work out, they feel disappointed.
For some people it makes them feel calm and collected to have details written out.
And for some people, just having a general sense of what they are after, and how they want to feel is enough for them to be able to make significant progress every day.
Most goal setting will insist that you make your goals specific.
But if you intuitively know that this kind of goal setting will stress you out, why do it?
It might work better instead to have a non-specific, yet very clear sense of how you want to feel and how you want something to look or even taste/smell like in the future.
For many people, this alone will generate enough motivation to start making serious progress towards achieving these kind of goals.
Specific vs Non-Specific Goals: Examples
To help you figure out which one you prefer, here are some examples. While you read them, think about which one makes you feel clear and calm:
Example of a specific goal:
An apartment in the West side of X area in X building, facing the park, costing exactly X amount per month that I can pay flexibly, with windows in the living room facing the sunrise, 2 bedrooms, a garden and on the ground floor. I can get to work in 10 minutes by walk fast from the apartment. It's furnished with contemporary art and furniture. Apartment found by January 31st.
Example of a similar, non specific goal:
An apartment in X city, with 1 or 2 bedrooms, around X amount per month. It feels light and roomy when I stand in the centre of the home. I can walk to work if I want. We move within the next 3-5 months.
Example of a specific goal:
A university course where I specifically learn advanced Adobe programmes including inDesign and PhotoShop, I graphically design my own clothes, I meet other girls my age and slightly older, who are also interested in fashion and design, and have a similar culture and set of values to me, starting in a cohort with teaching beginning January 31st and graduating in X year, costing no more than X amount in tuition fees.
Example of a similar non specific goal:
A course where I can be creative, meet new people and have fun, starting in the next year or so, preferably on a scholarship.
From these examples you can see the details of a specific goal versus a non specific goal.
A non specific plan/goal gives you a general sense of feeling and knowing how you want something to be and to look like or even feel like for you, while leaving the goal posts slightly open for you to explore as you work on your goal.
A specific plan/goal carries more details and means you will be honing in on certain areas. You may need to adjust the goal posts and decide which factors are most important while you work on these goals.
Which one do you lean towards more?
So, are you a person who would get stressed out by the details of a goal, and being so specific about it?
Or would it make you feel relaxed, knowing that it's so specific?
If you had a general idea of how you wanted to feel in the future, would that make you feel calm and collected, and ready to go to work on your goal?
Or would you feel lost and stressed about it?
Planning is very personal to you.
For me, being specific about my goals means SMART goals work well for me. I enjoy knowing the details about things. It makes me feel calm and focused.
Which type of plan you like to make? And once you've decided... where do you start next?
We'll be covering this exact question in the next and final post in this series next week. :)