How to Effectively Plan Out Your Goals The Goal Hierarchy
A Goal Hierarchy is a series of goals, in order from top level to low level, that serve as a pathway to your ultimate dream. At the top is your “pie in the sky” goal, something you may think is out of the realm of possibility now, but something you are passionate about achieving. Below that are listed subordinate goals, each of which bring you closer to your dream.
Think of it like a staircase, with your dream at the top of the staircase, and your present self looking at it from the bottom. From this vantage point, looking up at the top of the staircase, the dream appears impossible! There is no way to simply leap up to the top of the staircase and immediately achieve your goal. However, if we take one step at a time, as we complete each step, the dream becomes more and more achievable.
Creating your own goal hierarchy is an important undertaking, because it provides you a path to achievement. It lays out, step by step, the course you can take to get to the top of the staircase. Each step in the staircase is an action item which will demand your obsessive focus until it’s completion.
Here are the steps to create your own goal hierarchy.
- First, put your dream at the top of the staircase.
- Next, work backward, down the staircase, listing a lower level goal to precede the goal above it. For example, if your goal is to do an Ironman triathlon, perhaps the goal below it would be to complete a half Ironman triathlon.
- Make your way down the staircase in this fashion until you get to a goal that can be considered a “first step”. This first step may be walking for 30 minutes, or it may be doing a 1 kilometer open water swim. It will vary from person to person, but the important thing is that you choose something that will a) start you down your path to achieving your dream, b) is challenging enough to force you into some level of discomfort, AND c) is achievable and can keep you motivated.
- When you complete the goal hierarchy, write down the VERY FIRST STEP on a whiteboard, or a note card, or something you will see every single day to know where your focus should be.
- Put the goal hierarchy in a safe place, but don’t look at it. Your focus should be on the very next step, not the size of the staircase.
- As you complete each step, erase the goal from the whiteboard or throw away the note card and put down the new goal. For posterity sake, write the date of completion next to the step on the goal hierarchy, and perhaps even journal about your achievement so that you can look back on it when you’re feeling discouraged.
- Note: the length of the staircase can grow over time as you achieve each successive goal. For example, as you get closer to achieving your dream, you may decide that you have a loftier goal to chase. Keep expanding the staircase as you wish! Have fun with it!
- This practice does not just have to be associated with fitness, it can work in all areas of life; career, love, spiritual or personal growth, anything!
Below is an example of my goal hierarchy, which I set up when I first got off the couch and decided to transform my life. At the top was my dream, to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. Having never completed a triathlon in the past, my first step was completing a Sprint Triathlon.
It is exciting to watch yourself transform in such a positive way, to overcome the challenges, and watch the staircase grow!