The only goal setting strategy that really works in the 21st century

The only goal setting strategy that really works in the 21st century

I have been testing and experimenting with different goal setting strategies for more than 15 years. I tried more than 10 different systems and they all let me down.

Most techniques do help you clarify what you want out of life, but many times they’re nothing but wishful thinking and close to useless exercise. Even more, with every day that passes by, these standard goal setting techniques are less effective.

The reason is quite simple. The times have become too complex, volatile and fast-changing. The pace of technological, social and political changes is accelerating. The new post-information creative society is bringing a mixture of completely new values, possibilities and threats.

Especially the rate of technological change is skyrocketing. In a few years, we will have self-driving cars and in a few decades, we will populate Mars and maybe even other planets.

If you know that the environment will be unimaginably different in a few years, how can you set long-term goals? You can’t. The old ways of goal setting are like writing a business plan. It doesn’t work anymore.

Tech changes

Nobody can accurately forecast the future. You have no idea what life has prepared for you. You have no idea how things will be shaped in a few years. But not everything is dark. What you can do is to give your best every day to go towards your goals and then regularly adjust to how things in the environment are changing.

No static superficial plan survives the first contact with the reality.

And there is more. If we go from outside changes to your feelings, what often happens is that when you meet a goal set in the traditional way, you may find out that it doesn’t make you happy. It’s not something that you really wanted, you just went after it because you read it in some magazine that is cool to have it.

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Achieving a written-down goal on time and as planned has no value if you don’t enjoy it and if it doesn’t make you happy. Things that really make you happy and things you assume will make you happy are two different things. Thus you must assume nothing.

Wrong assumptions are the mother of all fuckups. When you set goals in the traditional way, you make a bunch of assumptions about yourself, others and the environment paradigms.

That’s why a new framework for setting goals is needed. A modern goal setting framework that works. This article is exactly about that. You will learn how to set goals in a way that is efficient and effective, makes sense and won’t make you feel like a failure if something didn’t work out as planned.

Before we go to the new framework, let’s sum up why the old traditional goal setting techniques don’t work and look at a few practical examples from my own experience of how I failed in traditional goal setting.SMART goal setting

  • Reality never unfolds according to plans.
  • Your S.M.A.R.T. goal is nothing but a bunch of untested assumptions.
  • There is no room for failure and adjustments in traditional goal setting.
  • In the beginning, you have no real idea what will be the process that will take you to the goal, what kind of effort it will require, how long it will take and how much other resources will be needed. The best you can do are educated guesses.
  • There is a difference between what you think is valuable to you and what really is valuable to you and makes you happy, and in traditional ways there is no room for discovery and exploration.
  • Everything is changing too fast to make any detailed plans for more than a year.
  • You have to focus more on the process, your habits, your environment together with people around you than on the actual goal. It's more about the carefully orchestrated process, not the final event.

These are all the problems that the new framework solves. And now let's go to all the funny or sad stories from my life.

The old way to set goals in life

The best way to explain the old non-working ways of goal setting is through my personal experience. In my early twenties, I decided to do something out of my life. So I started to read personal development books and there is practically no self-help book that doesn’t mention goal setting.

In the first year that I started to set my goals, I used the most superficial technique. Well, it was the easiest one to begin with. For New Years’ Eve, I wrote down 10 goals I wanted to achieve in the upcoming year, placed the list in an envelope, sealed it and put it in my drawer. I had read in a book or an article that with such an exercise, you put your subconscious mind to work and at least 8 of 10 things you write down should come true. I know, I was young and naïve.

I opened the envelope a year later, looked at my goals and crossed 1 out of 10 goals from the list. I felt like a complete failure. I almost gave up on myself.

But then I read about the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting technique. You write down goal statements in first person (I have, I am…) as if they already came true, but in a lot more detail. You have to make sure that your written down goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant and Time-bound.

I went from 10 goals to seven, followed all the S.M.A.R.T rules and even put the list with my goals in a visible place. I looked at the goals every day and felt bad, because I wasn’t moving towards the goals as quickly as I wanted. I was focused more on the goal itself than on the process of how to get there.

A goal I thought will take me only a few months to achieve took me years in reality, years after I gave up the S.M.A.R.T. goals technique. When you have zero experience in something, everything seems realistic and achievable. You can write a book in a few months right, it’s no big deal? You can’t know it if you don’t have any experience with it. Period.

When you have zero experience with something, everything seems realistic and achievable.

I tried many other different goal setting techniques. I had a vision notebook with pictures of yachts, villas and expensive watches. Now that I know myself better, I know I don’t want any of that. I had a fancy car and only had headaches with it.

Now I don’t own a car and I feel much better. I spent many holidays on yachts and sailing boats until I figured out that I don’t really like it. It’s not what motivates me or what would bring me happiness in life. Back then, I just didn’t have any better ideas and I didn’t know myself that well. But let's move on.

Too many goals

One year, following another technique, I wrote down where I see myself in one, five, ten, twenty and fifty years. What I wrote down for where I see myself in 10 years and what really happened are two completely different things.

There was a big financial crisis in these 10 years that hit me bad. Back then it was normal to have your first kid in your early 20s and today it’s not – at least in my country. These are only two changes in the environment that brought me to a completely different situation than planned.

Today I know that planning for more than a year is impossible, and what will happen in twenty years is a complete mystery. Maybe I will live on Mars or maybe I will be long dead because of WW3. I hope that the former will come true, but that’s nothing but wishful thinking.

You can focus on the process in the present moment, you can plan the next quarter, you can have a rough idea of what you want to achieve in a year, but everything after that are only wishful visions for which nobody knows if they will come true.

I tried many other different techniques and approaches. The one that worked best for me was to choose one life area for a year and completely focus on drastically improving it. It’s a technique that somehow moves attention from the goal you want to achieve to the daily process.

For a year, you do every day something for your health, wealth, happiness or whichever life area you’ve chosen. Only one area with complete focus. The approach is also part of a system I will soon describe. But only focusing on one area for a year wasn’t enough. I needed something better and more sophisticated.

Luckily, I had the solution right in front of me. I was working with startups as a venture capitalist and it became the general opinion in the startup world that business plans don’t work anymore.

Business plans are nothing but a set of business goals that founders set in a very traditional way – five year forecasts that have no basis in reality. Business plans have the same problem as traditional goal setting does in personal life. As an alternative, new dynamic planning approaches started taking place. The so-called lean startup and agile development techniques.

At some point, I asked myself: if these techniques are proven to work over and over again for starting and managing businesses, why wouldn’t they work as a goal setting technique in personal lives? So I decided to take these techniques and apply it to my personal life. I tested the framework over and over again until I built something that worked for me.

It’s a slightly complicated and very dynamic goal setting framework. Not to mention that you have to feel comfortable with long-term uncertainty. But it works. It gives you the freedom to stay agile, listen to yourself, adjust to opportunities in the environment and focus more on the process than the final goal.

Because in reality, you have no idea how and when you will arrive to the desired destination, unless you have a very accurate and stable history in the shape of valid data that can somehow predict short-term future. And even that is considered in the framework.

AgileLeanLife Goal Setting Framework

The new way to setting goals in life

The AgileLeanLife Goal Setting Framework considers all the important paradigms, trends and limitations of reality and how we humans operate. These facts are:

It’s impossible to accurately describe the past, predict the future and even harder to manufacture the future exactly as you imagine it at a certain moment. This is why planning for more than a year makes no sense. There is no such thing as a visionary, only people with a superior life strategy. The only thing you can really do is to focus on the process.

We are in times of constant changes. You have to constantly deal with new challenges, unexpected obstacles and unknown problems. Thus you have to constantly improve, grow, add capabilities to your competence list and even more, you have to constantly adjust. You must have no problem crossing a planned activity from your list in a second and adjusting the course of your life into a new direction.

In addition to that, you can only set accurate goals when you know yourself really well, understand your environment and have accurate historical data that can somewhat predict short-term future. The more validated knowledge and data in terms of metrics you have, the more detailed goals you can set.

Considering all these facts, we can say that any worthwhile goal setting technique today must consist of:

  • a lot of testing, experimenting, and trying different things in the beginning
  • managing small failures that lead to validated learning and new insights
  • constantly adjusting the strategy according to environmental changes
  • constantly adjusting the strategy according to your internal world and feelings
  • slowly transitioning to more traditional goal setting when you have enough data and insights

Practically, that means that you begin in the search mode, experimenting and building a strategy that will work for you as an individual and only once you have all the necessary data and insights can you transit to the execution mode and set the goals in a more standard way. You can be in the search mode for months or even years before you enter the execution mode. The good news is that you only have to be right once.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Because the byproduct of the search mode is getting to know yourself better, madly educating yourself, defining actionable metrics you will measure and thus making sure you avoid different vanity metrics, you shape the process that you will follow, you forge new connections with people with the same goals or who will support you, and so on.

There are seven steps in the AgileLeanLife Goal Setting Framework:

  1. Define your vision list
  2. Prioritize your vision list
  3. Develop life stories for 5 – 7 items on the top of your list – specify what exactly and why
  4. Build a Goal Journey Map to build a superior strategy and define the process
  5. Use branching and forking to stay flexible with alternative paths
  6. Organize the superior execution with a 100-day plan and bi-weekly sprints
  7. Considering all the principles of the AgileLeanLife Manifesto

Now let’s dive deep into every one of the steps.

Define your life vision

Write down your vision list

Everything starts with your life vision. Your life vision is the hope for what your life could be and something you can share with people you deeply care about, want to spend time with, and who support you and empower you. The vision is your true north, the final destination to keep in mind.

Your vision should be huge and exciting and breathtaking. Your vision should be your biggest inspiration in life. It’s what makes you ready for a new adventure every morning. The life vision is your true north, the final destination to keep in mind, the sum of all different life experiences. Your life vision must be greater than any problem you encounter on the path towards your goals.

To define your life vision, you should answer three simple questions:

  • Who do you want to become (your personal evolution)? … and make your ideal-self persona.
  • What do you want to experience in life (and how to enjoy it)? … and make a list of it.
  • What kind of a legacy do you want to leave behind (what will you create)? … and write down a strong emotional statement.

You can help yourself by browsing through different online bucket lists, Pinterest boards, magazines, you can ask other people what they’d like to experience together with you, you can get inspired by achievements of your role models, there are many ways that can help you prepare your vision list.

If you take enough time, browse for ideas in these several places I mentioned and answer the three vision questions, you should have 50 – 150 items on your vision list. Nevertheless, the vision list is not a static document. Your life vision constantly changes. At least every quarter, you should update the list by adding new items, removing some of them, reshuffling your priorities and hopefully crossing one or two items from the list.

As important as it is to regularly update your life vision, you must also be aware that you can’t achieve everything at the same time. Your life vision is a sum of everything you want to do with your life in decades or, to be more exact, for as long as you’re going to live on this planet and let’s hope it’s for a very long time.

Your vision list is not something you have to achieve in a few months. But you are going to die someday and that should be motivation enough to realize as many items on your vision list as possible.

The purpose of the vision list is not to put pressure on you about how your life should look like in ten or twenty years. The vision list is just a list of what you want to experience in life, encouraging you to fight for a diverse life experience, without any time pressure for the most of the items (for some there are biological or other limits).

The most important thing is that you stay lean and agile about your vision list. You have to know how to correctly prioritize items on your vision list. And that’s the next step.

  • Here is more about how to prepare vision list.
  • Here is an example of my vision list.
  • Now prepare your own life vision list!

Prioritize your vision list

Prioritize your vision list

If you did the previous exercise, you should have a vision list with 50 – 150 items and when you look at these items, you should feel excited. If you manage to realize half of what’s written on the list in your lifetime, you will feel happy, fulfilled and have zero regrets on your deathbed.

But since you can’t achieve everything at once, you have to prioritize items on your vision list. And you have to do it in a very smart way.

When you decide for priority items to go after, you have to take several factors into consideration. You prioritize items on your vision list based on the following factors:

  1. Your current life situation – Your current life situation greatly influences what you should consider to be your priorities. Life areas in which you suck or are dragging you down should definitely become your priorities. Different life situations (like expecting a baby, losing your job or getting ill) all severely influence your priorities. We must also not forget any biological or other limitations. Write down your current specific life situation and how it influences your vision list items.
  2. What’s currently the most important thing to you – At every point in life, you have a slightly different set of values. You always feel that achieving something particular is the most important thing to you at a certain time. When you are young it may be partying, then acquiring your own home, then wisdom in later years, and so on. Ask yourself what is currently most important to you when you’re prioritizing your vision list.
  3. What kind of opportunities are showing up in your environment – Setting goals is not only about you, but also about the opportunities that show up in your life and about the people that currently surround you. You want environment paradigms and your key relationships to greatly support you in achieving your goals. Nobody can succeed alone; you need a lot of outside help. So analyze market trends, how people that surround you can help you, what are currently the greatest opportunities in your life, and so on. Make sure you always consider these things when prioritizing your goals.
  4. What kind of key relationships you currently have –Your key relationships have an especially important influence on your goal setting and goal achieving. You become the average of the five people you spend most time with. Thus you want to spend your time with ambitious people who support you. And you want to make sure that positive traits of other people have a positive influence on your goal achieving. For example, if you just started dating a very sporty girl, of course improving your fitness is a smart goal. You will have big support in achieving that goal. Analyze how your current relationship can empower you in meeting your goals, what new relationships you must forge and maybe even which relationships to abandon.
  5. Your internal resources and external resources – When you begin with anything new, you suck at it. You have no knowledge, skills and experiences, so goal setting is very hard. Slowly, by acquiring knowledge and experience, you can more specifically define your goals and daily activities that lead to your goals. That’s important, because you can’t focus on several new areas at once. Every big goal or improvement takes an enormous amount of time, effort and other resources. One big goal, several small goals is the rule. You want to be making ten steps in one direction, not one step in ten directions. Internal and external resources also define how much you can expose yourself to new investments and how fast you can progress towards your goals. The more resources you have, the bigger risks you can afford and the more you can invest into your progress. Count that in when you prioritize.
  6. Your greatest weaknesses and strengths – You always have some weaknesses that are preventing you from progressing in life and achieving your goals. For example, starting your own business could take you a big step further in terms of finances and career, but you’re really scared to start your own business, because you’re afraid of uncertainty. These kinds of weaknesses should always be a priority to be dealt with. Your fears show you where you have to grow in life. Sooner or later, you have to face what you fear. The sooner you do it, the better. And of course, you need to build your success on your greatest strengths.
  7. Your yearly focus – Last but not least, you have to focus your efforts. Every year you should focus on one or maximum two areas of life you want to really improve. Greater focus means greater progress. So you should always choose one life area every as your focus every year, influencing how you re-prioritize your vision list.

When you’re prioritizing your life vision items, you should have 3 – 7 items that you plan to realize and meet in the next 3 – 12 months. You should print out a list with these chosen items and put it in some visible place.

In the next step, you need to add a strong why to every one of the prioritized items. You need to add a powerful emotional charge to every one of the selected items. You do that by developing every vision item into a short life story.

Develop life stories

Develop life stories for 5 – 7 items on the top of your list – specify what exactly and why

After you have a very well-prioritized vision list with 3 – 7 items that you want to achieve in the following 3 – 12 months, it’s time for a more detailed definition of every selected item. Applying user stories from agile development to the task is the perfect way to do it.

The goal of this step is to describe more clearly what exactly you want to achieve, discuss it with all the important parties involved and even more, to clarify why exactly you want to achieve it. A powerful why will give you a sense of mission, excitement and value. Together with your life vision, it’s something that drives you through all the obstacles you encounter in life.

By writing life stories based on your vision item list, you achieve the following:

From all the benefits listed above, a strong why deserves a special emphasis. Only a life vision is never enough, you also need a powerful why. A powerful why motivates you when you wake up in the morning and encourages you to think about your goals before you go to sleep. A powerful why is what gives you stamina, resilience, persistence and a feeling of fulfillment.

Here are just some of the benefits of having a powerful why in your personal life:

  • You feel more alive and valuable
  • You can connect more easily and communicate with people much more passionately
  • You can innovate and be creative much more easily
  • You can feel the impact you’re making
  • You can inspire other people to work with you
  • You are a more charismatic and energetic person when following your goals and you’re probably happier as well

A simple exercise you have to do ad this point is to take each prioritized bullet point from your life vision and develop it into a short life story describing why. A short life story can be one sentence or a few sentences. You can simply write a life story on a card, a piece of paper or a post-it note, and then put it on your personal Kanban board and make sure it’s always in a visible place. It’s great to corroborate the story with visual elements.

To write a life story, you need the following pieces of information and then you write a statement as if you’ve already achieved it:

  • Who – obviously you, but is there anybody else with whom you want to experience part of your life vision.
  • What exactly – a very well-defined outcome you want to achieve. You have to imagine a final scenario very well.
  • Why –you need a strong why for every one of your goals. In addition to that, you can list all the pains and gains that will add additional motivation and emotional charge to the goal.

Here are two examples:

As a curious person, I know how to speak Japanese fluently to understand their culture really well and make new friends from there. I will feel much better about myself speaking one more foreign language and will be a step closer to my ideal-self.

As a creative worker I have graduated to having more employment options and won’t spend my whole life feeling like I didn’t give closure to my studying years.

When you have your short life stories prepared, you break them down into a Goal Journey Map.

Goal journey map

Goal journey mapping (GJM) and a superior strategy

When you have your short life stories and a clear picture of what you want to achieve (a clear outcome), you have to outline a superior strategy for how you will achieve your goal. A superior strategy is a fighting plan that you constantly adjust, update and improve. It’s a document where you gather all the data, analyze it and make adjustments.

In the AgileLeanLife Goal Setting Framework, it’s called the Goal Journey Map. For every one of your goals or stories, you make their own Goal Journey Map – it can be a spreadsheet, a document, a physical map or anything that suits you best. The concept is based on User Journey Mapping.

The Goal Journey Map consists of the following elements:

  1. Life story – The final goal you want to achieve and why (as we’ve discussed)
  2. Process phases – Different phases you have to go through, like educating yourself, searching, finding your fit, executing etc.
  3. Process with milestones – Repeating actions that lead to micro-goals and then to the final goal
  4. Supporting environment – Key relationships, trends, motivational installations and other changes
  5. People – All the people that are involved in achieving your goals (influencers, blockers, mentors)
  6. Insights and Minimum Viable Experience – Experiments you will perform for validated learning
  7. Metrics – How you will measure your progress in different process phases
  8. Feedback mechanism – System for gathering feedback from yourself and your environment
  9. Risk-reward factor – Potential barriers, risks, fears and unanswered questions
  10. Branches and forks – Potential small and big adjustments to the strategy

Life story – On top of your Goal Journey Map, you write your short life story. We already know that a short life story is the final goal you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it; you add a strong motivational charge and list all the rewards and benefits.

Process phases – Every single goal you want to achieve in life goes through different process phases. They’re more or less standard phases. Examples of such phases are educating yourself, searching, finding your fit, executing and finally meeting your goals.

Process with milestones Defining the process together with milestones is by far the most important part of the Goal Journey Map. It’s about daily repeating actions that lead to micro-goals and then to the final goal. In the search mode, that might be a list of all the things you will try, and in the execution mode, it’s the daily discipline and hard work you put into achieving your goals.

Supporting environment – You can’t succeed at anything alone. You need a strong supporting environment. That’s why you need to define key relationships that will influence your decision or are involved in reaching your goals, market trends and other PESTLE trends.

You also need to list all potential motivational installations and other changes in the environment that can help you achieve your goals. Examples are motivational posters, mobile apps, different reminders, and so on.

People – Out of all the things that your environment consists of, people are the most important thing. People will encourage you, people will block you and people are the ones who will support you. If you don’t have the right environment, forget about achieving all the goals. Thus you need to list all the people who are involved in achieving your goals (influencers, blockers, mentors).

You need to analyze their behavior and changes in their behavior when you’re following the process of achieving your goals, you need to set a strategy of how you will turn blockers into supporters or get rid of them, and so on. Maybe you also need to make new connections in order to meet you goals faster.

Minimum Viable Experience – Under Minimum Viable Experiences, you define all the small experiments you plan to perform in order to learn more about yourself and your environment. The idea of MVEs is to not only talk or think about things (what you should try, what you think you may like etc.), but to go and try them. You don’t assume, you go out and test. Testing and trying is the best way to gain firsthand knowledge about yourself and the world. Testing and trying is the best way to achieve your goals.

Metrics and resources – You need a set of metrics for every goal you want to achieve. Actually, you need two sets of metrics. One for the search mode and one for the execution mode. Metrics are the ones showing you if you are progressing or not. Metrics help you decide what to do next. You have no idea where you are and where you’re going if you don’t have any metrics. Besides metrics, you can also define resources that you need to achieve the goal, from knowledge to money, connections etc.

Feedback mechanism – The idea of GJM is that you constantly update your strategy based on acquiring new knowledge and even more based on regular feedback that you get from the environment and your emotions. You have to write down new insights and based on that, decide what you will start doing, stop doing and continue doing.

Equally important is that you can’t pay attention to just the hardcore metrics, you also need to consider your feelings, happenings in your environment and you want to always keep the bigger picture in mind. That’s why you need to do regular reflections and then adjustments in your strategy. Besides the process, this part is the most important one in the Goal Journey Map.

Risk-reward factor – On the path to every goal, you will meet many barriers, risk levels will change, you will have many unanswered questions and fears to face. There will always be risks to mitigate and you will always have to pay attention to the risk-reward ratio. That is definitely one thing to include into your Goal Journey Map.

Pivots, branches and forksPivots, branches and forks are potential small and big adjustments  you can make to the strategy in different process phases. They are alternative paths you can take every time you encounter a roadblock on your path towards your goal. You know that your plan won’t work, that’s why you keep it dynamic and you always have alternative paths that enable you to go forward.

There are a few very important things regarding the Goal Journey Map. For small goals, it’s obviously overkill and you have to simplify it. Considering the type of a goal you have, you should use common sense to decide which parts to keep and which ones to delete. For bigger goals, like getting fit, wealthy, starting your own business, learning a new hard skill and similar, including all the elements into the GJM makes sense. Especially because big goals require big commitments.

If you have such a map and follow it, there is nothing that can stop you on the way to achieving your goals. Nothing. The map itself motivates you. And that’s what you want and need. Your Goal Journey Map can be a spreadsheet, a document, a physical notebook or a bunch of sketches together in one place. It has to become something you always carry around and it’s like your bible that you won’t let out of your sight.

A very important issue is also to build your Goal Journey Map step by step. You start small with what you know and then you constantly upgrade the document, add new elements, delete outdated things and make new notes. It’s a living document that constantly gets updated.

Now let’s say a word or two more about pivots, branches and forks, because they’re the things in the GJM that help you stay flexible.

Pivots forks branches

Pivots, branching and forking to stay flexible with alternative paths

You’ve built a very detailed plan in the Customer Journey Map, but you know in advance that the plan won’t work, you know that you are wrong about how things will unfold, because the plan is based more or less on your assumptions.

Knowing that, you can do a few things within the Goal Journey Map:

  • You can brainstorm potential obstacles you may encounter in different stages.
  • You can brainstorm alternative paths if the obstacles really appear – you build your own branches and brainstorm potential
  • You can also specify very clearly when to give up, not to be misled by the sunk costs.

You absolutely can’t predict everything that will happen. You absolutely don’t know what will go wrong and what will go right. But you can definitely brainstorm many scenarios that could go wrong and you can mentally prepare yourself for them.

You can always think of the biggest risks in advance and as things go along you adjust to the smaller ones that were not anticipated. You can always brainstorm potential pivots and how to mitigate risks. You do that with branches and forks.

Pivots, branches and forks – what?

A pivot in personal life is a fundamental change in your life strategy or a strategy for how to achieve a goal. You change your direction in life, but you still keep the same life vision and you consider the facts you learned about yourself and your environment. You make pivots as many times as necessary until you find the perfectly right fit for you.

A list of potential branches and forks are in advanced brainstormed potential pivots. You can also add new potential branches and forks when you encounter a problem or an obstacle in order to have as many options on the table as possible.

There are two types of pivots:

  • Branches
  • Forks

Branches are small divergences from the main path, micro adjustments and mini new experiments that you decide to perform in order to find a better way to achieve your goals. They are not too big diversions from the main path that don’t require any colossal changes in strategy.

Forks, on the other hand, are bigger pivots in your life. You take one big project or activity into a completely new direction. You take what you’ve learnt, you keep the good parts, but the general direction changes a lot.

If you don’t have any alternative path when you encounter a problem, you can easily get stuck in overanalyzing how unlucky you are, you can put yourself in the position of being a victim, and you can endlessly whine, bitch and complain. But when you already know your next best alternative, you can simply move on, you already have something new to look forward to.

Operational plan

100-day plan and sprints

In the Goal Journey Map, you should have all the required data to take everything to the operational level and define the actions and tasks you will perform daily to achieve your goals. This step is about putting the process to daily work. Based on the data in your Goal Journey Map, you define:

  • 100-days backlog – Milestones you will achieve in the next 3 months
  • Bi-weekly sprints – Tasks you will complete in 14-days sprints
  • Daily 3T – The three most important tasks for a specific day

100-days backlog: 100-days backlog is the package of all activities (items) you plan to accomplish in the upcoming 100 days or three months. That’s just enough time to see progress and to gather enough data to make any necessary adjustments and pivots.

So every 100 days comes the time for new improved tactics, prioritizing, reflection, and taking the upcoming 100 days dead serious. Like they’re the first 100 days. Every time. Every 100 days. Every 100 days, you make a big update to your GJM.

Bi-weekly sprints: Out of the 100-Days Backlog, you then choose tasks for each of your 14-day sprints. The sprint is a 14-day period in the execution mode where you work hard as hell to complete all selected items from your backlog.

All selected items have to be broken down into tasks and visualized on your Kanban board. There has to be a post-it note for every task and throughout the two weeks, you move your tasks from “to-do” to “in progress” and “done” status.

Daily 3T: Every single day, you should start your working day with a morning meeting with yourself and then also do the same with your team, if you have one.

In the morning meeting, you do a short reflection where you ask yourself what you did yesterday, what 3 tasks you plan to do today and whether there’s anything preventing you from achieving that. You also put a mark on your happiness index. Then you create in the flow.

  • Here you can read more about how to organize yourself with to-do lists

General principles

Considering the main principles from the AgileLeanLife Manifesto

On top of the Goal Setting Framework, we have to add the main principles and good practices of achieving goals in contemporary times. These are the principles from the AgileLeanLife manifesto:

  • Limit your work in progress: The most important rule is to limit your work in progress. You can’t go after too many goals at once. One big goal and several small ones in a year is the maximum. Be smart about it, don’t overwhelm yourself and don’t try to achieve too much too soon.
  • Find your fit: The prerequisite for being successful and to really meet your goals, no matter what kind of goals you’ve set for yourself, is finding your own fit. Values are what determines whether you fit with something or not. When you find the right fit, passion awakens in you. You find yourself in something. You know that you can be successful in this. You see potential. Finding your fit means that you start climbing the right wall. You find your fit using the search mode.
  • Search before you execute: In the search mode, you shouldn’t have any expectations, you shouldn’t make any commitments and you shouldn’t do any hard work. Expectations lead to assumptions, and before you understand something, your expectations are definitely completely wrong. In the search phase, you just try, experiment, observe, reflect, and learn about yourself and the world. The most important thing in this phase is to have no fixed ideas and no expectations at all. In the search mode, you just learn, reflect and regularly upgrade your Goal Journey Map strategy.
  • Visualize everything: Brain neurons for our visual perception account for approximately 30 % of the brain’s grey matter. When we look at pictures, our brain can process several pieces of information simultaneously, which means that it’s processing around 60,000 times faster than when reading a text. That’s why you have to visualize as many things as possible when it comes to your goals. The principle is called Kanban. Have photos of what you want to achieve, have Kanban boards to visualize your working flow, and so on.
  • Constantly improve: You must never forget that there is always room for improvement, there is always a way to do it better. You should always look to improve yourself and grow. The growth mindset is how you really become successful and meet your goals. You constantly improve yourself based on Kaizen rules. And you must constantly upgrade and improve your Goal Journey Map.
  • Trust the process: The final goal you want to achieve is the final “event” that you experience and then cross from the vision list. That is the finish line. But to come to the finish line, you have to focus on the process. Process is the daily hard work, the daily sweat. Process is one step after another, slowly leading you towards your final event. When things get really hard, remember to trust the process.
  • Optimize your entire life, not just parts of it: If one of the life areas collapses, everything else can collapse as well. For example, your health greatly affects your earning potential and the quality of your relationships. There are some periods in life when you have to put more focus on a single area (e.g. when getting a baby), but you should never let the bigger picture out of your sight. You don’t want any collapses in your life. You mustn’t become so obsessed with one goal that you forget about the other areas of life.
  • Don’t look for outside safety: If you want to live an extraordinary life, you have to do extraordinary things. If you want to do extraordinary things, you have to extraordinarily believe in yourself. You must find your inner security and be aware of your personal power. There is no more outer safety, the world has become too uncertain, complex and volatile. The only real safety are your competences and your self-confidence.
  • Live life with love and respect: Respect yourself by believing in yourself. Respect other people you’ve chosen to be with or work with by empowering them and learning from them. Respect Mother Nature. Respect markets. Respect the global flow. Don’t expect them to change. You’ll have to change yourself first.

Happy goal setting

Now you know the goal setting strategy that really works.

It’s a strategy that considers smart work and daily hard work. It’s a goal setting strategy that considers the bigger picture and all the details. It’s a strategy that makes a goal the center of your life and even more importantly, it’s the only strategy that enables you to constantly adjust. It’s the only goal setting strategy that encourages you to stay flexible.

It’s absolutely not the simplest framework ever. It takes some time to understand all the steps and elements but once you do, it’s extremely easy to apply it. I use this framework constantly. For my health and fitness goals, for my blogging goals, now I’m building it for my financial goals, and so on. I use a simplified version of it for my traveling plans, relationship goals, and so on.

I hope the framework helps you too to achieve your goals faster. Try it, experiment with it. Open a spreadsheet and begin prototyping.

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