Mark Zuckerberg Sets Himself a Personal Goal Every Year (and You Should Too)

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. CREDIT: Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg has a plan for 2017: By the end of the year, he wants to have visited all 50 states and met people in each one. Since he’s already traveled and visited many states, he says he has about 30 to go to this year to reach his goal.

Zuckerberg sets himself a different personal goal every year; in the past, his goals have included learning Mandarin and building a simple A.I. for his house. In 2016, his goal was to run a total of 365 miles, which he did. Why does he want to have visited all 50 states? “After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working, and thinking about the future,” he explains in his Facebook post about his plan .

For decades, technology and globalization have done a lot to make people all over the world more connected, he goes on to explain. “This has created many benefits,” he writes, “but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.” In response to a comment, Zuckerberg says that he hopes to talk to real Americans and not just the elite. Though he doesn’t mention the presidential election, the deep discontent it revealed, especially in Middle America, is clearly on his mind. “My work is about connecting the world and giving everyone a voice. I want to personally hear more of those voices this year,” he writes.

It’s your turn

Have you ever set yourself a personal challenge for the year? I’ll admit I haven’t, but it seems like a great idea. Our lives get so caught up in day-to-day deadlines and obstacles, it’s hard to keep track of our bigger objectives. Setting yourself a task to complete by the end of the year is a great way to keep returning to those activities and goals that you know will help you in the long run but can get forgotten in the short run.

How to pick a goal for your personal challenge? Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t pick a work goal.

Yes, you will have work goals throughout the year and possibly for the entire year. But work goals should stay at work. Personal goals should be different, in part because–if you’re like most professionals and especially like most entrepreneurs– you spend way too much time at work . Knowing you have a personal goal to meet can pull you away from work, and that’s a good thing . There are undisputable benefits to taking some time away from work.

It’s OK if your goal will assist with professional development somehow–I’m sure Zuckerberg’s knowing Mandarin is good for Facebook’s relations with China. But make it a personal goal, not a work goal.

2. Plan to measure your progress month by month.

Let’s say your goal for the year is to start a blog. OK, but if you write a blog post in the first week of January, then you’ve already met your goal for the year. Conversely, you could forget about your goal till mid-December, write one quick holiday blog post then, and you’ll also have met your goal. You could also procrastinate until mid-December and then not find a blogging platform you like or feel uninspired, and so you could miss your goal altogether.

Instead, pick a goal that you can and must work on a little bit every month. Instead of starting a blog, perhaps your goal is to write a blog post every day or every week for the year. Whatever your goal is, you should be able to break it down so that each month you can tell how you’re doing against your goal and make adjustments accordingly. For example, if Zuckerberg finds in May that he hasn’t visited any new states, he’ll know he had better get out there.

3. Pick something that’s a stretch but not impossible.

Some people believe in setting impossible goals on the theory that if you reach for the stars you might actually get to the moon. I’ve always found the best goals are those that push me to do a bit more than I otherwise would but that are not completely unreachable, because if they are I may give up in frustration .

So pick something you hope you can do but aren’t absolutely sure you can. Knowing a goal is–just–reachable will inspire you to do your best.

4. Pick something that will make you happy.

In an ideal world, your goal will be something that you will enjoy reaching, but you’ll also enjoy the process of working toward your goal. If you like hiking and hate going to the gym, don’t set yourself the goal of 100 gym visits for the year just because you think you should. Instead, set yourself an annual goal to hike a certain number of miles or climb a certain number of peaks.

Don’t set yourself up for a bad year by giving yourself a goal that will make you miserable to meet. Pick something that you know is good for you but that you also enjoy. For me, for 2017, I’ve just decided, that goal is to read 100 books. I read all the time, but much of that reading is articles or news stories for work, and I’ll confess that some of the time I could be reading I wind up playing games instead. Reading is great, of course–but reading books has added brain benefits because of the need to remember complex information from one reading session to the next and also enter the context of the book. Both of these activities improve cognition and can even increase your longevity.

Minda Zetlin, “Mark Zuckerberg Sets Himself a Personal Goal Every Year (and You Should Too)”, January 4, 2017. Accessed via: