Note: This is in a series of posts, and as the others are written, I’ll update a table of contents with links to the whole series here.
In the first part of this series, we covered the meaning of life organization – as far as I use the term – and looked at what constitutes a goal. This time, we’ll focus on the sorts of lifelong goals everyone should be thinking about.
The Seven Types of Goals
You’ve probably heard of Dave Ramsey and recognize him for the popular financial advice he gives. While his work in finance is great on its own, I mention him here because I think he’s created an eminently useful breakdown of the sorts of lifelong goals everyone should have.
Dave list seven categories which broadly cover anything you can think of, and which he labels the “Wheel of Life”:
There are two things to keep in mind with these categories. First, it is important to have goals in every category. These may change over time, but you should still have a long-term plan to grow in every one of the seven respects.
Second, there must be a healthy balance between each of these focuses. This balance is not merely spending the appropriate amounts of time on each category, although it is not less than that either. Balance also includes how we prioritize them, and which we are willing to postpone and which we are not.
You need goals in each of the categories. Even better, you need a short but unambiguous description of where you want to be in a few decades (depending on your age). Do you want to be married with at least three children, all of whom you spend time with and for whom you’ve built a home? That’s both short and unambiguous. You can’t fudge the number of kids you have or the presence or absence of a home.
In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the need in everyone’s life for a “personal constitution”. A good format for that is to create the aforementioned summaries in the seven categories and write them down.
The purpose of doing all of this is to figure out the destination you are trying to arrive at. It isn’t a prerequisite to living a great life or doing important things, but I think for most people, it increases the chances of doing either of those things.
How to Find Life Goals
None of the life management gurus I’ve read has ever said this – probably in some cases to preserve an audience – but I don’t think everyone is naturally prepared to figure out what their own life goals should be. Until you figure out what matters most in life and what the purpose of life is in the first place, it’s all a waste of time.
If you want to figure out what your life goals ought to be, you need to ask some more fundamental questions first: Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? How do I know the difference between right and wrong? What does it mean to live well?
Providing thorough answers to these questions is not the topic of this post (but it may be for future posts). The short answers are:
- We are here to worship God in fellowship with Him, and this can be done only through Jesus.
- Where we go depends on whether we trust Jesus for our salvation. Whether we trust Jesus for our salvation depends in part on whether we think we need salvation (we do).
- We can know right from wrong through both special and general revelation; from both Scripture and through nature and natural law.
- To live well is to live in accordance with our nature as being created in the image of God. To live well is to pursue God in all things, from eating, exercise, and reading to worship and charity.
Only by having correct answers to these questions can we begin to know what sort of life goals we should create. That doesn’t mean it becomes easy to figure out what you should pursue in the seven categories. It means it is possible to make the right choices.
It will take time.
Examples of Life Goals
I’ve spent about a decade trying to refine my life goals, and I can offer up a few of them as examples, as well as describe the way I keep track of them.
I use Microsoft’s OneNote for a lot, but one of the original things I did with it was keep track of goals. It’s still the primary reason I use it. I’ve created a notebook called “Goals” where I keep track of my lifelong goals. I keep track of yearly goals, notes and articles related to the process of setting good goals, and checklists that help me plan my days, weeks, months, and years, but those are all for a later article in this series.
Part of my section for “intellectual goals” looks a bit like this:
- Learn New Things
- Learn how to write classical genres of music
- Learn how to write fugues
- Learn how to write chorales
- Learn Latin
- Finish reading through and doing the homework in my Latin textbook
- Learn Piano
- Practice multiple times a week
- Learn individual pieces
- Learn Kansas’ “Point of Know Return”
The section is larger than this, but it’s all the same format. I have the category (“Intellectual success”) broken down into specific goals. Each of those is broken down further as necessary.
For me, it was easier to list more things I might want to do than I’d ever have time for and then prune the things that weren’t as important to me. You’ll have to find a way that works for you.
Once you’ve got your goals listed at this high level, you’re ready for the next step: figuring out how to contribute to each one this year. But that’s for next time!