As the New Year approaches each winter, my husband and I set aside a weekend to focus on setting goals for the upcoming year. This is one of the most beneficial activities we complete together.
Let’s consider why it’s beneficial to set goals in general and why it’s especially beneficial to set them together. I’ll also share a copy of the worksheet we use to guide our goal setting.
Why is it beneficial to set goals?
My husband and I have experienced a number of benefits from our annual goal setting.
- It helps us see our progress, which further motivates us. Without goals, we’d be roaming around without definite purpose and direction. However, with goals, we know exactly what we’re trying to achieve. Moreover, we’re able to see our progress towards the outcomes we desire. Seeing this progress motivates us to work even harder to achieve our goals.
- It helps us prioritize how we spend our money. When we have financial goals, we know exactly how we’re going to spend money that becomes available (e.g., income tax return, bonuses at work). These goals also help us be disciplined in our everyday spending.
- It helps us avoid wasting our time. Knowing what actions we need to take to achieve our goals helps us use our time wisely. We find motivation to get busy when we feel tempted to be lazy.
You don’t have to take my word on the benefits of goal setting. Researchers in psychology and other fields have identified several ways that goal setting helps us achieve the outcomes we desire.
- Goals direct our attention and effort towards goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities.
- Goals energize us. In fact, we tend to exert effort in proportion to goal difficulty.
- We often work faster and more intensely when faced with difficult goals that are associated with tight deadlines.
- When faced with complex goals, we often apply to the present situation a repertoire of skills that we’ve used previously in related contexts.
Why plan goals together?
My husband and I could go about our goal planning independently, but we believe it is optimal to set goals together. After all, we’re a single unit (Genesis 2:24). We know that we are most likely to achieve our goals when we both feel ownership of them and are working towards them by encouraging one another, challenging one another, and providing accountability.
Though we also set individual goals as part of our annual goal setting, we don’t keep these to ourselves! We bounce ideas off of one another when we’re planning the goals and we support one another as we work to achieve them.
Goal setting worksheet for couples
Here’s the simple worksheet we use to plan goals. The worksheet is a few pages long because it provides space for us to document shared goals and individual goals.
(Click on the above image to see a larger, printable version of the worksheet.)
Lessons learned from our goal setting
We’ve learned a number of lessons from our experiences with goal setting.
- Avoid focusing on too many goals at a time. I can always identify dozens of things in my life that I’d like to improve. I have a tendency to target too many of these at once. When I have too many goals, there’s no way I can achieve them all. In fact, my efforts can become so divided that I’m not able to achieve any!
- Be willing to adjust goals. Sometimes it becomes apparent throughout the year that a given goal is no longer realistic. If I leave that goal on our worksheet, it becomes a source of discouragement. I find it’s better to eliminate the goal or adjust it so it is realistic.
- Avoid setting someone else’s goals. It’s hard to be successful if I’m only trying to change for someone else. Thus, I find it useful to check my motives and make sure I’ve selected goals that I desire to achieve.
Next week I’ll discuss why we go on an annual retreat to engage in goal setting and I’ll share some tips for having an affordable goal planning retreat.
Do you and your husband set goals together? Do you have a formal system for doing this or is it more casual?
Shared on the following link-ups: