New Year, New Goals for Social Entrepreneurs

01/17/2018 03:36 pm ET

Every year, I do an important exercise with friends. (You can do this alone too if you are more of an introvert.) I review my personal mission, vision and values and ultimately set 3-5 top goals that I want to achieve for the next year.

This exercise is good practice overall for any individual and any organization—but particularly for social entrepreneurs, as we get constantly caught up in the never-ending stream of tactical pieces to be completed, the next immediate milestone. We forget sometimes to take a step back, see the wood from the trees, accept that we are not superheroes, focus just on a few things and re-adjust our lives or our organizations if needed.

Here’s how it works:

1. Write down your personal (or organizational) mission, vision or values. Each should be 1-2 sentences, and exemplify what you are really all about at your core. Your mission is what you do (or want to do). Your vision is the world you want to see – your mission should contribute to this vision, although of course the vision is not going to be realized solely by you or your organization. Your values, on the other hand, are what you stand for: your beliefs, how you are going to go about achieving your mission. In summary, it’s what, why and how—and each are equally important.

2. If you already had your mission, vision or values written down – re-read them – do they still hold true? Have they evolved?

3. How did your actions last year contribute to your mission and vision? Did you live and abide by your values? What did you do well? If not, what were the gaps (and why)? Can you do better this year or do you need to be more realistic and adjust your mission, vision and/or values?

4. What are you going to do this year to achieve your mission and contribute to your vision? How are you going to stay true to your values?

5. Now prioritize: select the top three priorities to contribute to your mission and vision, and/or to abide by your values. Be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (end of year) i.e. SMART about your annual goals.

6. Who do you need to partner or collaborate with so that they, too can contribute to your vision? As any of my colleagues at MIT Solve will tell you, achieving your mission alone is not going to be enough; no man or woman or organization is an island and the challenges that the world faces today are complex and multi-sectoral, so you need to find like-minded people to work with you.

7. Maybe the most important step: cleanse, cleanse, cleanse. As in cleanse any and all activities that were not core to your mission and vision and/or are not in line with your values. All people and relationships, too. They are an energy drain and a distraction, even if for whatever reason they might provide a short-term comfort. It’s ok if that is in fact the hardest step, but it will be harder if you don’t do it.

8. Design a work plan, including milestones, activities, deadlines, responsibilities, interdependencies and potential contingencies. This step is especially helpful for organizations.

9. Refer back to your top three priorities and your mission, vision and values at least quarterly. Hold yourself accountable. Re-adjust your priorities and/or work plan as needed.

Keep me posted on your progress through comments and if your new set of annual goals has inspired you to help Solve design our next set of challenges, you can reach us here: https://solve.mit.edu/.

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