The “One Question” That Makes Goal Setting Easy

Written by on May 31, 2021

My business partner, Wally Schmader, introduced the “One Question” to me about 10 years ago. We were trying to figure out how to get people to be more strategic about their business plans for the coming year. Every year we would do an elaborate goal-setting meeting, only to have people leave with the same big goals from the previous year…that they didn’t accomplish then either! Don’t get me wrong…I love goal setting meetings where everyone is swinging for the fence. I even think that is vitally important for us all to do but it’s pretty difficult to goal set for 5 or 10 years out… if you don’t also focus on some short-term goals to get you there.

Short-term goals serve 2 purposes in my book:

1. Immediate gratification. You can get some quick wins…get the serotonin going…feel good…and hopefully stay committed. It’s why we love the “to-do” list. You do something on the list and you get the satisfaction of marking it off. Some of you get so excited about marking things off the “to-do” list, that you will put something on it you have already done….just so you can mark it off! (no idea how I know that)

2. They lead to bigger changes. Usually, big goals are accomplished by the disciplines set up in the short term goals. Is the big goal is to lose weight? Well…we all know you can’t just say you want to lose weight and have it happen by magic! (but we can all still hope, right?) You can only lose weight by focusing on the next thing you eat…over and over and over. Want to save an extra 10k this year? You will probably need to set aside some each paycheck to accomplish that over time. Insert anything you are trying to change and you see the pattern of the importance of the short-term goals.

Which brings me to the “one question”…It’s the “December 31st question.” Let’s fast-forward to the end of the year and ask yourself this:  It is Tuesday, December 31st, 2018… What has happened during 2018 that made this a great year? Stated differently…what results would you need in your life or work to think of 2018 as a true breakthrough year? What are the things on your list that will make you proud of what you have accomplished? What is the thing you will regret if you DON’T make the change?

I’m not advocating that the “December 31st question” is all there is to goal setting…but I am advocating it is a great start to beginning any goal setting you intend to do. The answer to this question will help set meaningful important goals for yourself in this important new year.