I have a journalism degree.
That alone is not a particularly fascinating piece of information, but I would submit that much of what I learned has borne fruit in surprising ways. For example, there’s this... the most fundamental News Writing 101 lesson that exists. Quite simple, to the point and the bedrock of modern journalism and every story you read in your daily newspaper.
Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
I think the Five Ws (and an H) are quite useful in another context... planning your life and setting some goals. Here’s what I mean...
WHO- Yes, I suppose you fundamentally know who you are. You’re Joe Smith, thirty-two years old, five-feet ten inches tall, etc. etc. Fine. But who are you really? What do you stand for? What are your priorities and values? Your identity, your priorities and values will inform your goals and by extension, your life. The question of WHO deserves some serious thought.
WHAT- Now we get into the good stuff. What, exactly, is your goal? Yeah, you want more money, but how much? You want to be more fit? Great... but how much weight do you want to lose? It’s important to be as specific as you can. Take weight loss for example... once you define how much weight you want to cut, you can then set a specific and detailed plan. Before you do that, though, it’s helpful to know...
WHEN- By when do you want to lose those twenty pounds? Mid next week might be pushing it, but let’s shoot for three months down the road. Given the generally accepted standard of safe weight loss (1 ½ pounds a week) that is eminently doable. Now you can keep track of your progress and see where you are relative to where you should be. Should you fall behind at some point, you’ll have plenty of time to step it up or rethink your strategy.
WHERE- So you have this goal... now it’s time to examine where you are now. I don’t just mean “I weigh 200 pounds now and want to weigh 180”. Just as important as the start and end points is knowing if you can truly launch towards this goal and ultimately get there. Are you willing to do the work? Do you believe you can get this done?
WHY- My personal favorite W. Just as your goals are the vehicle to get you where you want to go, your whys are the fuel. Why do you want to lose this weight? Do you want to look better for your mate (or just as good, make an ex-mate seethe with regret)? Is your goal to be healthier so you can be around to dance at your granddaughter’s wedding? Perhaps you want to test yourself just to see what you're made of? Whatever the case, a good strong why will help you to keep moving forward when others might fold.
HOW- How are you going to get there? Sure, you intend to eat better, but it’s important to know what you're doing... read a good nutrition book, try some new recipes, get rid of all that junk food in the pantry. Then there’s exercise... will you go for a three-mile run every morning? Are you going to go to the gym or pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD after work. Set a road map, one that is as specific as possible; or you’ll likely flounder.
So there you have it... The Five Ws (and an H) of achieving goals. Now go forth and write your own story (preferably one that has a happy ending).