September 24, 2021

Career AdviceProfessional Development

Setting Goals to Achieve Your Moonshots

By: Krista Mitchell

Take a moment to think of the “most successful” person in your life. This picture will look different for every person, and it will morph as new milestones are achieved in life. However, so many people believe their aspirations to be unattainable or out of reach. 

In my opinion, this is a myth if you are willing to put in the work. You can achieve your dream life, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you imagined 5 or 10 years ago. The best way to reach this is through goal setting, but many people don’t know how to do so effectively

Here are some tips for thinking through your “moonshots.” This is a term I use in lieu of “goals,” which means to aim for something that generally is believed to be either difficult to reach, or even is seen as impossible. It encourages me to think of milestones that may be outside my frame of mind, to adapt to new situations or possibilities that may arise, and to build a mindset that anything I want to achieve is possible. 

1: Create a Vision Board

I know, I know. Vision boards can be cheesy and generic, but they are pretty helpful at giving a visualization of a broad idea. Vision boards can look different than just a collection of stock images. They can be as simple as a traditional brainstorm where different ideas fill a piece of paper or whiteboard. 

Whatever your creative style, imagine where you want to be in a certain time frame, and record everything you think or find that it takes to get there. If you wish to buy a home, a vision board would include imagining your dream house, thinking about preferred features, paying off debt, saving money, etc. To be a lawyer, this requires taking the LSAT, going to law school, finding your passion topic, and getting hired at a firm. 

The exercise forces you to imagine each moonshot and the steps needed to get there. Once this is complete, it will be easier to outline strategies and tactics. 

2: Pick a Single Moonshot, and Outline Strategies and Tactics Necessary to Reach It

Once you have a few ideas in mind, it’s time to get into the details. Pick a single moonshot, and start strategizing and detailing the tactics it will take to reach the goal. Unless you know quite a bit about the goal, this will take research and outreach to experts. 

The outline doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be action-oriented and time sensitive. This means the items must require you to complete certain milestones in a timely fashion. Your action items and time frames should also be realistic for your lifestyle. But, the timing doesn’t have to be short; it can be 3, 5, or even 10 years down the line.

A good example of this framing are “SMART goals“. They were developed in the 1980s to increase a person’s chances of succeeding at their goals. I highly recommend structuring your moonshots with SMART in mind. 

Want to be an attorney at your dream law firm? That will likely take some time. Want to master a difficult recipe? If you’re a decent cook, that will likely be shorter. The same principle applies for both: pick one, outline, and take action!

I’ll use my goal of running a half marathon for the first time as an example. While this may seem minor, it’s a good way to think about your outline. 

Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed running, but it was never a real passion of mine. I’d run a few miles here and there but never really could get into it. But I do have a passion for fitness and exercise: gotta get my endorphins in, as Elle Woods would say.  

Then, March 2020 hit: gym doors shuttered, and my routine walks outside weren’t cutting it for my fitness level. I didn’t have any weights in my home either, so I couldn’t do strength training. However, I was inspired by one of my close friends to try running more. After a few months, I was hooked, and I found myself going farther than I originally imagined. 

While I was thinking through my moonshots in mid-2020, I wanted to test the limits of this new fitness journey. My first tactic: if I was still consistently running by October, I was going to register for a half marathon and officially begin training. And as this was reached, I developed my subsequent tactics: get a trainer to help, detail distance and time goals, and make it to race day happy and healthy. 

After setting these milestones, I created reasonable time parameters based on my schedule. For example, I am a morning person, so making sure that running in the morning is consistent would keep me on track for success. Additionally, I had a couple commitments with my full time job, so I knew I had to plan runs and meals around this schedule to avoid burnout. Examples of this in another schedule could be childcare duties, wedding planning, home buying, or volunteering.

On March 14, 2021, I ran my first half marathon in Georgetown, and I ran my second last weekend. I reached something I thought very unlikely, that I’d ever run more than 6 miles in my life. 

3: Get Feedback!

Feedback should be a core part of all aspects of your life for many reasons. But, it is especially important when trying to reach milestones in life. Once you put together a plan for your moonshot, ask at least one person who has reached it before for advice. They will give you valuable insights on your action items and timelines that you may not have considered previously. Additionally, they may even be able to give you tips and tricks on steps that may be outside your line of sight. 

You don’t have someone who’s achieved the dream before? Ask your friends, family, and mentors for help! While they may not be experts, they will likely provide valuable insight for you to consider and may even know someone who has achieved it. 

Taking the feedback received, edit your strategies and tactics to align with the new information. While you may not always have things to change, looking again at your outline will continue to help you visualize the moonshot. 

3: Repeat Step 2 and 3 for Multiple Moonshots

If you have multiple moonshots you’d like to reach, repeat steps 2 and 3 for each individual one. Focus on action items for each idea, and set reasonable time constraints for them. Repeat until finished. 

4: Adapt Your Plan Over Time

Once you’re officially making progress in your action items, be open to adapting the plan over time. Life priorities may change, injuries may occur, and jobs may shift, but you can still work towards your moonshot. Being adaptable is essential to success. Otherwise, as life hands you distractions, it may derail your plan and discourage you. 

Adapting doesn’t just mean shifting your plan—it could mean scraping it altogether for an unforeseen opportunity or crisis. And that’s ok! Just think of this last pandemic year, it altered most peoples’ plans. This exercise is about opening oneself to professional and personal development, and that includes unanticipated life shifts and finding grace and self-love. The most important thing to remember is not giving up on yourself and your ability to grow. 

There are many tools you can use for goal setting or moonshots, like SMART goals, which are very valuable. Using the formula above, you can put together a plan to achieve ambitious moonshots and encourage yourself to drive your own progress. 

What’s your favorite goal-setting method? Drop ideas in the comments below.