Goal Setting Guidebook for 2018

The SoapBox Goal Setting Guide came to life in the summer of 2016, as part of our annual company retreat to Algonquin Park. One of the things we wanted to do at the retreat was put some focus on the personal development and growth of our employees. Luckily, we have a few people within the SoapBox family who have some expertise on this topic. We combined this experience with some great resources and the Goal Setting Guide came to life.

Now, we want to share this guide as a way to help managers and employees have better conversations about their 2018 goals.

Goal setting workbook to help managers and employees have better conversations about their 2018 goals. Click To Tweet


Why do we Set Goals in the First Place?

Done well, goal setting is a powerful tool to help you achieve what you want. Having goals is like having a map. The more challenging the destination is to get to, the more likely you’ll need a good map. Secondly, good goals can help motivate you and your team to show up and do their best every day.

Purpose Before Goals

Research shows that achieving goals isn’t guaranteed to make us happy. How often do we chase goal after goal without ever stopping to ask ourselves why we’re pursuing these goals? Pursuing a goal will not bring you happiness unless that goal is important to you. It’s the pursuit of meaningful goals that gives us purpose and ultimately happiness.

“We must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.”

 ~ Hunter S. Thomson in an extraordinary letter on finding purpose


1Meaningful Experiences

 Significant periods of your life shape your values and beliefs. Values and beliefs are an important part of your goal setting process. 

In this section go back through your life and list out all the moments, experiences and periods that stand out as especially meaningful. In a positive way, a happy way, an upsetting way, in any way that feels like in it’s contributed to who you are today.

Once you’ve done this, force yourself to narrow this list down to the five that you feel are the most meaningful to you. As much as you can, bring yourself back to that moment in time and focus on how you felt, why you think you felt that way and what your lesson or takeaway was from that experience.

The final step is to look for themes across these meaningful experiences. This is loosely based on Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”.


2 Bucket List

 These are the things that inspire and motivate you. Inspiration is the platform from which you can achieve goals. 

This is the flip side of the meaningful experiences exercise. Here, the objective is to look forward to what lights up your imagination and gets you excited about the future. It’s a bucket list of things you want to experience, accomplish, create, etc.

An important second step here is to force yourself to narrow this down to the 3–5 bucket list items that are MOST meaningful to you.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

 ~ Warren Buffet once advised his pilot to focus on his MOST important goals

3 Purpose and Vision

 A clear purpose and vision will become important guides as you shape more concrete goals. 

The goal of this section is to translate that into a purpose statement and a vision.

WARNING: this part is hard. Don’t be surprised if you feel stumped here — this can be heavy, existential stuff to sort through. But that’s also why it’s so valuable. A lot of the value is in the struggle to refine your thoughts from the exercises above into something simple and meaningful to you.

Your vision builds on your purpose by painting a vivid picture of your life in the future. This can be a series of scenes, or it can be a sense of you looking back on your life. It can take whatever form feels right.

4 Turn your Vision into SMART goals

 Ok! We’re finally ready to set some goals! 

Setting SMART GoalsYou’ve probably heard of SMART goals before. One thing to note is that there are actually several variants of what SMART stands for. The definition we like best is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Aligned
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound.

Next, break goals into a series of nested goals (where one goal helps you build towards and achieve the next). This helps you focus on the right things at the right time and create milestones to hold yourself and your team accountable. Accountability in the workplace is associated with better performance and commitment, so make sure you think about how goal-setting will be tied to a process that allows you to follow-up on these nested goals.

Better one-on-ones and team meetings


5 Add structure to your SMART goals

 By thinking through additional elements of your SMART goals, you increase the likelihood of success. 

This exercise takes you beyond defining great goals and going through the details of how you can accomplish your goals. This extra step helps you poke holes in your plan and take steps to be pro-active in dealing with them.

Here’s an example to help illustrate how this all ties together:
As an example, if a goal is to get healthy, or lose weight — think through the details of this. Your SMART goal may be to lose 10lbs in 6 months. To get there, one of your sub goals may be to exercise 3 times a week. If you know that you typically come home from work too tired to exercise, make working out in the morning the focus. Getting to bed too late will get in the way of being able to exercise in the morning, so three days a week, you’re going to make it a priority to cut out caffeine after lunch, have a relaxing routine when you get home and go to bed on time. If this all sounds hard, and like it’s too much work, you may need to remind yourself of why it’s important to you and how it connects back to your purpose. Losing 10lbs isn’t a particularly motivating goal — on it’s own. But if you tie that to, “I want to be healthy enough to hike through the Himalayas in 2 years and this is helping me get ready for that.” You’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it.


Bonus: Turn your goals into a story

There’s quite a bit of detail in all these exercises and if there’s one thing we don’t do naturally as humans, it’s remember a lot of details. But we do remember stories. And so that’s why the final exercise is turning your purpose goals, the detail and habits behind these things into a story.

This exercise is optional — and it may be a bit overkill for every goal. But if you have one goal that you find particularly daunting (but also motivating), give it a try. It may just be the thing that gets you there.