I spent the last week creating some five year goals with one of my mentor/coach's. I was extremely proud of myself until we spent some time talking through them, only to realize that they needed some serious help in order to be truly effective. Here are a few things I learned about goal setting during that exercise:
1) It takes hours of soul searching in order to set a goal that represents what is most important to you. The daily whirlwind makes it hard to stop and find time to really think about what is important to you, but you must make time for it.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, takes over a month off each year to be alone and reflect on his goals for the upcoming year.
2) Every goal must be specific enough to measure against. For example, saying, "I want to be in great shape" is not an effective goal because there is no way to measure against it. You can say "I want to walk 100 miles in 30 days" which can easily be measured against at any point during the course of that time frame.
3) Once you have a specific goal set that can be measured against, select a few "Lead Indicators" that you can track daily to help you keep tabs on where you stand. A lead indicator for the example above could be as simple as "miles walked per day". The act of updating your daily Lead Indicator relative to your larger goal will help burn your goal and your progress into your subconscious mind.
In 1983, Sam Walton told the board of Wal-Mart that an 8% pretax profit was unattainable. Their CFO disagreed and bet Sam that if the company achieved it, he would have to dance in a Hula Skirt on Wall Street. The goal was simple, specific and they measured against with effective lead indicators throughout the year. In March of 1984, Sam wore his first Hula Skirt and danced in front of the world.