3 Questions to Ask If You Want to Know What Goals to Set

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If you’re struggling to figure out what goals to set, here are three questions that will help:

  1. What makes you forget to take care of your body?
  2. When you die, what will you wish you’d done more of?
  3. What goals would lead you to your best possible life one year from now?

Figuring out what goals to set doesn’t have to be so difficult with these questions and with a little framework that I like to call the four pillars of life. They include:

  • Faith & Spirituality
  • Family & Relationships
  • Finances
  • Fitness

These are the four major areas to set goals in if you want to thrive. By focusing on only four goals, one in each area, you force yourself to do only what’s most important. And these three questions are going to help you figure that out.

Let’s jump right in and explore them further!

1. What Makes You Put Off Eating, Sleeping, and Pooping?

“Look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.” — Mark Manson

Think back to the times in your life where you were working so hard or doing something so enjoyable that you forgot to take care of your body. They might be few and far between, but they’re a great place to look if you want to know what goals to set.

For me, one of these times was when I met my wife. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her and everything took a backseat to that. I was sleeping less, doing the bare minimum with my homework, and didn’t spend time with other people as much. 

All of these things were (and still are) a huge signal of how much she means to me, so one of my most important goals in life centers around our relationship. Although I’ve since figured out how to balance that with my spirituality, work, and health, too!

Ask this question in all areas of life to discover what your goals should be in each area. For instance:

  • What spiritual or personal growth practices make you forget that you’re hungry?
  • Who in your life is so much fun to be around that you’d rather spend time with them than do almost anything else?
  • What kind of work makes you lose sleep because you can’t quit it every day?
  • Which exercises are so enjoyable that you find yourself not stopping even past the point of exhaustion?

Keep asking different versions of this question for everything you do and the goals you should set will become clear.

Don’t worry if you struggle to come up with answers at first. Instead of giving up, simply step back and make a list of everything you think you might like but haven’t tried yet and divide it up into the areas of life.

Once you have your list, circle just one top activity in each area of life and go try it for 30 days. If you find that you’re enjoying it so much that it makes you forget to eat and poop, then that’s a good sign you should set a goal related to that thing. And if not, try something else on your list!

2. What Are You Going to Wish You Had Done More Of When You’re About to Die?

“All external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” — Steve Jobs

You might be afraid to think about death, but it can actually be really helpful. Most of all, it helps you prioritize your life by showing you the few things that matter to you above everything else.

So, even though it might scare you at first, close your eyes and imagine you’re lying in a hospital bed about to die. What’s running through your head about your life? What do you wish you’d done more of?

The biggest thing that comes to my mind when I ask this question is spending time with the people I love. I know that I’m going to wish that I worked less and played with my kids more. And that I had spent more time with my wife. 

That might make you think that your only goal should be to have good relationships, but there’s more to it than that. There are things you can do outside of your relationships that will have such a positive impact that it makes it easier for you to not have regrets on your deathbed.

This is where those other areas of life come in. Think about it:

  • When you’re spiritually at peace, mentally healthy, and in the right mindsets that come from spiritual goals, you’re better to others. You’re more fun to be around and you’ll naturally attract positive people to you.
  • By doing work that you enjoy, you’re a lot happier. Plus, when you have enough money, it’s much easier to take better care of your relationships. This means that setting goals for work is still going to help you in the end.
  • Taking care of your body by getting enough sleep, cutting sugar, and moving more will keep you healthy so you can live longer and have more time with your loved ones. 
  • Having a hobby will help you relax, be more mentally healthy, and stay balanced in your relationships and all other aspects of your life.

These reveal one more question to ask yourself when using the idea of death to try to figure out what goals to set:

What goals will help you do more of what you love so that you won’t have any regrets when you die?

Money, health, and spirituality are all perfect areas to look to when considering this. Explore all angles of this question. You’ll start to find that a lot of ideas for goals to set will come to your mind.

3. Pretend It’s One Year From Now and You’re Living Your Best Possible Life. How Do You Want Your Life to Have Changed in the Last Year?

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” — C.S. Lewis

This question seems simple, but don’t let that make you overlook it. There’s power in sitting with it for a while. Take time to really think it through and journal about it if you want to really know what goals to set.

Don’t just do this for five minutes and call it good. Take a whole week, maybe at the end of each year to spend an hour each day imagining the best version of the year ahead and what it feels like at the end. 

Picture the things you have when the year is over and the way they make you feel. 

If it’s hard to come up with ideas, make a list of your top 10 goals in each area of life. Then, pick the best one and visualize how it would change your life if you accomplished it. Pay attention to the strongest emotions when you do this. Those will indicate the best goals for you to set.

I’ve been visualizing my goals like this for many years and it’s always amazing to see how well it works. In the last few years alone I’ve visualized and received:

  • 2 cars
  • A home
  • More kids
  • Becoming a business owner
  • Increased income
  • Improved health
  • A boost in my mental health
  • Better self-confidence
  • A Professional Engineer license
  • … and a lot more

Visualization works to help you reach your goals and to show you what the best goals to set are. Practice it and you’ll start setting better goals and reaching better dreams.

Conclusion

Here are these three questions to help you know what goals to set one more time:

  • What makes you put off eating and pooping?
  • When you’re about to die, what are you going to wish you had done more of?
  • What goals would lead you to your best possible life one year from now?

Ask these every quarter and at the end of each year and your confidence in the right goals to set will grow stronger than ever.