How to Achieve Your Goals Using Goal Hierarchy

What Are Goals?

Goals are one of the most powerful yet abstract tools that can be used to help you live your best life.

How Can A Goal Value-Add to Your Life?

Goals help you to envision what you want to achieve in the near or far future by determining what you desire the most. They add purpose and value to your life. To make it easier for you to achieve the end in mind, it is advantageous to create a map that visualises what your progress should be like, starting from where you are right now to where your end goal is.

The Importance of Goal Setting

This is why goal setting is equally, if not, more important than the end goal. Without defining the activities that you need to perform on a regular basis, and without ensuring these activities are aligned with the end goal, it is difficult for you to actually accomplish the goal that you have initially set.

To help you chart out your goal-setting journey with actionable details, we can leverage on the concept of the Goal Hierarchy mentioned by Angela Duckworth in her book on Grit. 

Why You Should Use Goal Hierarchy to Achieve Your Goals?

So what exactly is a Goal Hierarchy and how can it help you achieve your end goal in the long run?

A goal hierarchy works by breaking down an overall, broad goal into specific sub-goals that can be carried out on a daily,weekly or monthly basis.

This ensures that your short-term activities are geared towards achieving your major end goal. It also enables you to be fully committed to your end goal by making changes or improvements to your daily habits and activities.

Let’s look at a visual representation of how a typical goal hierarchy looks like:

Goal Hierarchy Chart

Looking at the image above, we see that a goal hierarchy consists of multiple goal levels with differing importance. Starting from the top, the life goal is the goal that you aspire towards in the long run. This top-level goal is also the overarching goal that encompasses all the sub-goals below it.

This means that the goals at the mid- and lower-levels should align with and support your life goal.

My Personal Goal Hierarchy: Healthy Living

To better illustrate this in real life, let me share with you an example of my personal goal hierarchy for achieving healthy living as one of my end goals:

Goal hierarchy - healthy lifestyle

The Top-Level & Mid-Level Goals

In this goal hierarchy, I identified a healthy lifestyle as the top-level goal that I desire in life.

However, a healthy lifestyle is not something that can be easily accomplished in a day or even 6 months down the road. It requires changing relevant aspects of your life such as your diet and your sleeping habits, and actually being consistent about these changes.

Moreover, people often focus on the physical aspect of health while neglecting the fact that a healthy mind is equally important. As such, I defined building my physical and mental health as the mid-level goals which will support my overarching goal of healthy living.

Yet, the work is still incomplete at this level.

This is because you need to identify what are the specific actions needed to reach your mid-level goals

This often boils down to listing out smaller sub-goals that can be fulfilled on a daily or weekly basis.

The Lower-Level Goals

Going back to the example, in order to keep myself physically healthy, I listed down incorporating a low-carb, real food diet as one of the lower-level goals which I can carry out in my daily routine. This means veering away from high-carb foods like processed grains, white bread and so forth while focusing my grocery shopping on real, unprocessed foods that are more beneficial for my health.

Also, take note that there are other sub-goals at the bottom level that complement my low-carb, real food diet such as exercising regularly and getting sufficient sleep every night. This ensures that all the bases are covered in my daily lifestyle to help me fulfil my mid-level goal of keeping myself physically healthy, which then contributes to the overall goal of leading a healthy lifestyle.

How to Use the Goal Hierarchy in Goal-Setting

So how can you jumpstart your journey into goal-setting to help you achieve realistic and actionable goals?

1. Decide On Your Top-Level Goal

Firstly, sit down and decide the top-level goals that you want to achieve.

Try to keep it to a minimum of two or three as any more than that can result in conflicting goals.

It can be as broad as saving up $500,000 by the age of 40 or on a smaller scale of taking part in a local long-distance marathon in the following year. Other examples could be:

  • Become a good baker
  • Migrate to Australia for retirement
  • Set up a cafe selling hippie food
  • Be promoted to a managerial position within two years
  • Climb Mount Everest

2. Expand the Details on Your Mid- & Lower-Level Goals

Once you have identified your top-level goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the next thing you need to do in order to achieve the overall goal? (i.e. mid-level goals)
  • How can you be fully committed to achieving this overall goal? (i.e. lower-level goals)
    • What habits or life aspects or daily activities do you need to change?
    • Are you able and willing to adapt to the necessary changes in your lifestyle in order to achieve the goal?
    • What will you do to ensure you can adapt and perform the required activities on a regular basis?
    • Do you foresee any challenges in your goal pursuit? What can you do to overcome them?

The abovementioned questions are not just to help you align your next level goals with the overall goal.

This exercise also seeks to spur you to think about potential changes that might be needed in your current lifestyle, and what you can do to transition these changes more smoothly.

Hopefully, through this thought process, you will become mentally prepared for the full implications of revamping your life in order to accommodate the pursuit of your overall goal.

With that said, goal setting is something that you can easily do whenever you have a new goal you are looking to fulfil. It is also good to look back from time to time to make sure that your sub-goals are on track to help you achieve your longer-term goal.

Best of luck with your goal-setting!

Featured Image by Richárd Ecsedi on Unsplash

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