Wheel of Life Approach to Life Balance & Goal Setting

Hardy quoteThe one skill most responsible for the abundance in my life is learning how to effectively set and achieve goals.” –Darren Hardy (author of The Compound Effect and former publisher of SUCCESS magazine)

In my last two posts I have talked about how to set goals and how to make changes in your life. This week I am going to cover what areas of life you should set goals in.

A preliminary note, though – before you set goals it is important that you consider the answer to the question, “Who do I truly want to become?” As the oft-repeated quote goes, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” Everyone knows “successful” people who lost everything that was important on their way to the “top.” They lost family, friends, trust and so much more.

Clayton Christensen wrote an excellent book titled, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” He tells a story about how, at his 10-year Harvard Business School reunion, all of his classmates seemed to be doing well. Many of them were on their way to the top of their companies and were earning enormous amounts of money. What he found out, though, was that many of them were unhappy.

Many did not enjoy what they did for a living and there were numerous divorces or unhappy marriages. One of his classmates told him he hadn’t talked to his children in years.

As the years went by, things got progressively worse. One of his brightest classmates, who earned more than $100 million in a single year as Enron’s CEO, ended up in jail for his role in the Enron scandal.

Christensen shares these stories with his students on the last day of class and then writes these questions on the board:

How can I be sure that:

  • I will be successful and happy in my career?
  • My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?
  • I live a life of integrity – and stay out of jail?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? If not, now is a good time to do so. Pull up a note and write out the answers to them. It can be an enlightening experience, and critical to setting goals that ensure your ladder is leaning on the right wall.

With that as a background, let’s move on to what areas of your life you should set goals in. I’ve read a number of different ideas, but I find the Wheel of Life approach to be the most comprehensive and easiest to use. My two main sources of inspiration on this are Zig Ziglar and Darren Hardy. The seven areas of the Wheel of Life are:

Wheel of Life

  • Personal & Social
  • Work & Career
  • Family
  • Spiritual
  • Financial
  • Mind/Intellect
  • Physical/Health

You need to get specific, though! You need to define specifically what success looks like in each area, and you rate each one on a scale of 1-10, with one being very poor and 10 being outstanding.

To help you set this up properly, I have created a Wheel of Life planning worksheet with some suggestions by both Zig Ziglar and Darren Hardy.

You can access that here: http://blog.ryanhlaw.com/resources/

Let’s look at an example. For Physical/Health one suggestion is, “I eat a healthy breakfast every day.” If I eat a healthy breakfast 3-4 days a week I might rate myself a 5 in that area. I can then follow up with a few questions:

  • What number would I like to get to?
  • What will it take to get me to that number?
  • Am I ready to make a change in this area (am I am the Preparation stage of the Stages of Change)?
  • If I am ready to make a change, what small step can I commit to – one that I am guaranteed not to fail? Another way to look at this would be to ask, “What will take me to a 5.5?”

Does this amount of work seem daunting or overwhelming to you? If it does, let me take you back to Darren Hardy’s quote from the beginning of the article:

“The one skill most responsible for the abundance in my life is learning how to effectively set and achieve goals.”

This type of work is what Stephen Covey calls Quadrant II work – important but not urgent. Commit to set some time aside to properly plan your life.

You can find the Wheel of Life Planning worksheet here:

http://blog.ryanhlaw.com/resources/

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Changing for Good

Successful author, entrepreneur and speaker Jim Rohn said, “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

Are there areas of your life that you want to change? Do you want to lose weight, get in shape, stop a bad habit or start a good habit? None of these things are going to happen by chance. They are only going to happen if you make a decision to change. In my last post I talked about goals – I want to dig deeper today into how you actually make the changes in your life that you want to make and how goal setting fits in to this.

Back in the early 90’s three researchers – James Prochaska, Carlo DiClemente and John Norcross wanted to know the answer to the question: “How did people make changes in their lives?” They were expecting to find some common denominators among those who had made changes and maintained them. What they ended up finding, though, was a model that they called Stages of Change.

In this post I am going to walk you through the five Stages of Change and discuss some ways you can incorporate them to make a positive changes in your life.

stagesofchangegraphicThe first stage is Precontemplation. In this stage you don’t know that you have a problem. It’s the alcoholic that says “I don’t have a drinking problem – I can stop anytime I want” or the person who is in the early stages of heart disease due to their lifestyle but isn’t aware of it. For those in the precontemplation stage there is no intention to change their behavior. They may wish to change, but this is different from intending to change.

The second stage is Contemplation. In this stage they are aware that a problem exists, but they haven’t taken any steps to overcome it. They are contemplating changing sometime in the next six months, but research has shown that people will contemplate changing for years before actually doing anything about it.

Preparation is the next stage. Those in this stage intend to change their behavior in the next 30 days. They may have already taken some small steps, such as purchasing running shoes.

Preparation is where goal setting kicks in. If you want to stop eating sugar, for example, but you are still in the contemplation stage then setting a goal isn’t going to help – in fact, it can be harmful because you aren’t going to keep your commitment. If you are ready to commit, though, and you are ready to make a change in the next 30 days, then use my last post (http://blog.ryanhlaw.com/how-to-set-and-achieve-your-goals/) to set your goals!

Action is the stage where you take decisive action. You actually go running, you throw away all your cigarettes or take any other action that exhibits positive behavior. You enter the action stage on day one and stay in this stage for six consecutive months. That means that if a smoker, for example, goes three months without a cigarette then smokes one on a stressful day, then quits again, they start this stage back over.

The final stage is Maintenance. Those in this stage have changed their behavior for at least six months. This stage was originally called Termination but was modified to reflect that maintenance is not static – it is a continuation of change. For example – at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings everyone introduces themselves as an Alcoholic, even if they have been dry for years. They recognize that they need to maintain the change.

I differ from the authors in only one regard. Action is seen as the step where you completely stop or start doing something. You completely quit smoking, or you exercise for 30 minutes every day, or you completely cut out sugar, or whatever the action is.

For many people (myself included) that’s too overwhelming. Smaller changes, where you are guaranteed not to fail, have proven to be more effective. I’ll give you an example from my own life. I would like to be better at studying the scriptures. My ultimate goal would be 30 minutes each morning, but I often get overwhelmed when I think about doing that and it’s the first thing to go. Sometimes reading even one full chapter seems daunting. Recently I gave myself permission to think small. Just a verse or two per day. That I can do (and, consequently, I have the last few days). Does that mean I have failed? No! Am I where I want to be? Not yet, but it’s better than where I was. The focus, for me, is on getting better, incrementally, not perfection.

Getting better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps this means I am still in the preparation stage for scripture reading, but I’m OK with that.

Think about a change you would like to make in your life. What stage are you at? Are you ready to move to the next level? What small goal can you set for yourself – so small, in fact, that you are guaranteed not to fail?

Remember, life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.

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How to Set and Achieve Your Goals

GoalsSuccessful entrepreneur, author and public speaker Jim Rohn tells a story about meeting his boss and mentor, Earl Shoaff, for breakfast early in his career to discuss success. Shoaff suggested they start by reviewing Rohn’s list of written goals.

“I don’t have them with me,” Rohn responded.

Surprised, Shoaff asked, “Well are they out in your car?”

Hesitatingly Rohn responded, “Well…no…when I say I don’t have them with me, I mean that I don’t have a written list of goals at all.”

“Then,” Shoaff responded, “I know exactly where we need to start.”

Jim Rohn became an avid goal setter and credits it as one of the key principles behind his success, and he isn’t alone. Many other successful people credit goal setting with their success as well.

To be honest, I’ve known about goal setting for years, but I haven’t been great at actually writing them down and tracking my progress. Most people are similar. The average American sets the same resolution ten years in a row unsuccessfully, and most resolutions are abandoned within four months.

I’m working on changing some of my habits, though, and setting goals is a great place to begin.

I’ve been doing some research and want to share with you some thoughts on how to set and achieve your goals.

“I thought this was a personal finance blog, not personal development” you might be thinking. It is! Setting clear, concrete, specific financial goals is one of the keys to success in your personal finances. Goals gives you a reason to budget and to say “no” now because you are focused on what you want to achieve long-term. Also, personal development is one of my favorite topics to study, so as I learn things I will continue to share them here. I hope you find it helpful.

Let’s get to it, then. Here are the seven steps to successful goal setting and achievement[i].

Step One: Get specific

Many of us have vague goals in mind, such as, “I would really like to lose some weight,” or “I would love to be financially successful.” This is a good start, but it doesn’t answer a key question: How will you know when you have reached your goal? In other words, what does success look like?

“I would like to lose fifteen pounds” is much better than “I want to lose some weight.” After all, if you go down by a pound you have technically achieved your goal of losing some weight, but that isn’t what success really meant.

Step Two: Decide when you are going to act

Setting and achieving a goal requires you to change your behavior in some way. To lose weight you need to eat healthier and exercise. To be successful financially you need to start budgeting, paying off debt, and saving for the future. The most successful goal setters realize that behavior change is hard, though, and they set up a plan for when they are going to do the new action (such as exercise or budget).

They do this with a specific technique called if-then planning. If they have a goal to exercise regularly, they get specific about when to act by saying, “If it is 7 AM, then I will work out for 30 minutes.”

This concept has been tested over and over. For example, there was a group of people who all said they wanted to exercise regularly. The first group was taught about if-then planning and they collectively agreed that, “If it is Monday, Wednesday or Friday, then I will hit the gym for 30 minutes before work.”

Group two had no specific plan for when to act.

Weeks later 39% of group two was still exercising regularly, while 91% of the if-then planners were still exercising!

Step Three: Take small steps

When we decide we want to achieve a goal we usually get excited and want to jump in the deep end. For some people, this might work, but the majority of people are going to sink. Research has shown that taking really small steps can be the best way to achieve a goal. Robert Maurer, author of “One Small Step Can Change Your Life” tells a story about a girl named Julie who needed to lose weight and get her blood pressure down. He was tempted to tell her to exercise aerobically for 30 minutes every day, but he knew from experience that while the advice was good, she was unlikely to do it and would just feel misunderstood and guilty.

Maurer decided to try something different. “How about if you just march in place in front of the television, each day, for one minute?” Julie responded that of course she could do that. After all, there was no way she couldn’t succeed.

Was she going to get healthier exercising for a minute a day? Probably not. What happened the next week, though, was that Julie came back excited that she had achieved her goal. Together they built up the exercise habit, minute by minute, for a few months, until she started exercising for 30 minutes each day.

If you set really small steps towards your goal you will achieve success over time. The steps should be so small that you are guaranteed success.

This can be easily incorporated with if-then planning:

“If it is a commercial break during this show then I will march in place during one commercial.”

“If it is noon I will go on a five-minute walk.”

“If it is 8:00 in the morning I will read one verse in the Bible.”

“If I am getting home from work I will spend five minutes connecting with my spouse.”

“If it is after dinner I will play with my kids for three minutes.”

Step Four: Honest and regular monitoring

Thomas S. Monson said, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

Honest and regular monitoring, and preferably reporting your progress to someone else, will help you improve.

Different goals will have different monitoring periods, but monitoring weekly is a good step for most goals. “Did I stick to my budget this week” or, “did I hit the gym three times?” or, “what is my current weight?” are all great weekly questions to ask. Remember that early on the goal should be much smaller. Did you march in place during one commercial break each night? Did you read one verse of scripture each day?

You need to set aside a specific day and time to review your progress. I have read that reviewing your progress on a Wednesday is a good idea – you are half-way through the week and can still make some changes before the week is over. You should review your goals daily, but track your progress on a Wednesday.

Step Five: Be realistic

There is a vital difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily. A group of people who were enrolled in a weight-loss problem were interviewed and asked if they thought it would be hard when they were faced with temptation, such as free donuts in the breakroom. Some said it would be easy to avoid temptation while others thought it would be hard, but believed they could be successful.

The second group (the ones who recognized that it would be hard but believed they could do it) lost 24 pounds more than the ones who thought it would be easy!

For most people, behavior change is hard. Believe in yourself, but be realistic about obstacles you are going to face.

Step Six: Focus on getting better, rather than being perfect

My seven-year old son is playing coach-pitch baseball this year, so he goes to practice each week and he and I play catch and practice batting. Do I expect him to be perfect – to hit every ball and throw every ball perfectly? Of course not! Is he getting better, though? Absolutely. He and I both recognize that is the goal – to get better.

It is important to remember that you are developing ability and learning to master a new skill. A smoker, for example, may have the goal to quit smoking. If he has been smoking 20 cigarettes a day but has cut down to 10 has he failed? No! He is getting better and that should be celebrated.

Step Seven: Build willpower

Most goals have one thing in common – resisting temptation, and you need willpower to resist those temptation.

Willpower, however, varies from moment to moment, and gets depleted with use. Willpower is like a muscle – it needs time to bounce back, but it does get stronger over time.

Making and keeping commitments to yourself is one of the best ways to strengthen your willpower muscle. If you commit to get up at a certain time, do it! If you commit to track your spending every day, do it! Don’t commit to do something unless you are going to keep it. Making a commitment to yourself and then breaking it will weaken that muscle. For this reason you shouldn’t take on two challenging goals at once.

Here are the seven steps again:

  1. Get specific
  2. Decide when you are going to act (If…then thinking)
  3. Take small steps
  4. Honest and regular monitoring
  5. Be realistic
  6. Focus on getting better, rather than being perfect
  7. Build willpower

I encourage you to take some time this week to set some goals using these steps. I commit to do this.

 

[i] I have gathered this material from a number of sources, but I am a fan of using research to back things up, rather than anecdotal evidence. Two books that I have really enjoyed are “9 Things Successful People Do Differently” by Heidi Grant Halvorson and “One Small Step Can Change Your Life” by Robert Maurer. “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy is a great follow-up to these books.

 

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