Imagine your life without goals. That’s right: pretend you just wiped away every single goal imaginable–from the mundane sort like getting out of bed and brushing your teeth to the bigger variety, like making partner at the firm. I bet you can’t imagine it. Because without goals (the ones you consciously name and the ones you just carry out), our lives might feel like unstructured, amorphous stretches of time. Setting goals can direct, energize and motivate you. And meeting your goals is a tremendously rewarding experience.
Take a moment to jot down three goals that are important to you–things you want to achieve in your life.
Then think about which aspects of your life are most important to you–what you cherish most in life.
If you’re anything like the people I recently surveyed, then your goals include things like: making more money while working less, exercising more and losing weight (and keeping it off) and getting out of debt. Money and health topped the goal-setting list.
Then I asked these same individuals for a different type of list–a list of what they cherish most in life. Almost all discussed their relationship with their spouse or life partner. People and relationships topped the what’s-most-important-to-you list.
Relationship Goals are MIA:
Here’s what I find remarkable. The people I surveyed didn’t have any goals for what they cherish most in life–their relationship or marriage. When it comes to goal-setting, marriage is left at the curb. There’s a dangerous assumption lurking that a good relationship will take care of itself. The frequency of failed relationships tells us this assumption is dead wrong.
Your Relationship Roadmap: Create a vision
In order to create relationship goals, it’s important to have a vision that details the kind of spouse or partner you aspire to be as well as the type of relationship that is important to you and your partner–this picture should be consistent with your personal values. When your goals are out of sync with your values, you’ll find yourself stalled on the road to your relationship destination.
A set of relationship goals is a roadmap that lends direction to your relationship. If your relationship already meets your vision, then working to keep the relationship at this level can be your goal.
An exercise to help you create relationship goals:
Imagine that your partner has been hired to teach a class about you at UCLA. The syllabus is a written testament to the type of spouse or partner you’ve been throughout the history of your relationship. Not holding anything back, s/he will detail your strengths and weaknesses as a partner. The entire truth (as your partner sees it) will be unfurled for an eager audience motivated to learn all about you.
What do you imagine s/he will say about you?
Respond to this question as honestly as possible. If you find yourself resisting this exercise or focusing more on what you’d like your partner to say, you won’t establish any meaningful goals. Remember, this exercise is designed to help you take a realistic look at yourself as a partner, a necessary step in creating goals that will make a difference in your relationship or marriage. You will need to open yourself up to some truths that may sting. Take my word–it will be well worth it.
There’s relationship gold to be found in the gap:
There will be a gap between what you’d like your partner to convey in his/her lecture and what s/he would actually say. This gap contains valuable information that you’ll use to set up relationship goals. Keep in mind that establishing and reaching relationship goals means committing to changing your behavior. The focus should be on you and not what you believe your partner should do differently.
The guiding question is: How wide is this gap and what can you do to narrow it?
When you begin to take steps to answer this question, you start accumulating the information you need to create your relationship goals. Don’t rush this–it should be a process that you come back to over and over again.