There’s a lot of talk about the importance of goal-setting, however, most of us don’t take the time to lay out clear and measurable goals to work toward. Goal setting will help you stay motivated, determine what’s important to you, eliminate distractions, and build your self-confidence.
With more and more research showing just how important goal-setting is, it may be time that you took your goal-setting a bit more seriously. In fact, according to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those did not write down their goals.
Who doesn’t want to accomplish more? Fortunately, we’ve put together these 8 steps that will help your write actionable, measurable goals, so that you can achieve more this year.
1. Choose Goals that Align with your Values
The first step to goal writing is to figure out what you want. During this step, you should take a look at what your values are and what you want out of your life. Try dreaming about what your ideal life looks like and what you want to create for yourself.
This is the part where you can think big. What do you want your typical day to look like? Where do you want to live? What fulfills you? Try to incorporate all of your senses in your vision in order to make it effective.
Figuring out what you are passionate about can help you figure out your values. Do you crave working with other people? Are you driven by recognition, high-power roles, and money? Do you enjoy figuring out puzzles, engaging in research and academia? These type of questions can ultimately help guide you to discovering what you value and writing actionable goals.
2. Set Goals You Can Control
Once you have started brainstorming your goals, you’ll want to take a step back and ask yourself if they are realistic. Far too often, we set goals that depend on other people. This can include your employers, parents, media, or society.
One example of this would be setting a personal goal to marry by the age of 30. This would depend on a number of different factors, including meeting the right person, dating and staying together, and being prepared for marriage within a somewhat short time period. Ultimately, since marrying by the age of 30 relies on so many external factors, it may just set you up for disappointment.
It’s also possible to set goals that are too difficult to attain. For example, a goal of becoming the President of the United States by age 50 is probably unrealistic for most people. You may not appreciate the obstacles in the way or understand how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.
It’s important to recognize these type of unrealistic goals. Instead, take the time to figure out how you can set goals that are attainable.
3. Give Yourself Time
They say “good things come to those that wait,” and there is some truth to that. When goal writing and considering your timelines, it’s important to realistically give yourself enough time to achieve your goals. With this being said, you’ll also want to give yourself a deadline in order to measure your achievements, wins, and losses. Exact dates, times, and amounts can help you measure your goals. If you do this, you’ll know exactly when you have achieved the goal and can take pride in having achieved it.
Setting a realistic, feasible schedule will make your goals appear less daunting. Whether it’s sticking to a workout plan, earning your MBA, or working to grow your business, you’re likely to stay motivated if you have a solid schedule in place. This will also help you make sure you are on-track and focused on your big goal.
One way to do this is to begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself where you want to end up in life. Next, you can write down smaller benchmarks that will guide you to your goals. Then, you can associate timelines with each step to give you a realistic time period for achieving your big outcome goal. You may find that you are moving faster or slower than expected, but, no worries — you can always adjust your expectations and timeline as you gather more information while achieving your benchmarks.
4. Plan for Success with Positive Thinking
Negative thoughts can be destructive. Far too often we ask ourselves negative “what if” questions like, “What if I fail?” Changing your mindset to think positively will motivate you to continue on your journey.
One of the hardest parts of reaching your goals is finding the motivation to continue. If this happens, positive thinking can be very powerful. Constantly criticizing yourself and putting energy into negative thoughts of envy, jealousy, regret, doubt, or frustration will only hinder your progress and set you back from reaching your ultimate goals.
One way to change your mindset is to express your goals positively. Instead of starting your statements with “Don’t,” change your thoughts into affirmative statements. For example, instead of saying “Don’t mess up on your speech to the board of directors,” try setting a goal of “Present my speech to the board of directors well.”
5. Choose Your Goals Wisely
The more thought and strategy you put behind your actions, the better. The same holds true for goal setting and goal writing.
If you genuinely take the time to sit down with your thoughts, and mindfully choose your goals while considering the steps that it will take to get there, this will lead you to a better outcome. When reviewing your goals, you’ll want to eliminate any that seem too easy to finish or too far out of reach. This will only give you a false sense of accomplishment or leave you frustrated with your results.
It’s also important to understand the risks associated with each of your goals. Undoubtedly, each of your goals carry some measure of risk, which is absolutely okay. For example, working hard for a promotion may mean a few less hours at night with your family. When reviewing your goals, you’ll just want to consider that risk and weigh it against the reward. This will help you set realistic expectations before you begin your journey.
6. Taking a Look at the Big Picture
While it’s important to set realistic goals, we don’t want to deter you from thinking big. Set goals that may be a bit out of reach and then work hard to achieve them.
When brainstorming your list of goals, we recommend looking at the big picture. What inspires you? What makes you excited to start working? Who do you want to be known as? Although setting benchmarks and small steps are important, it’s also important to not lose sight of why you are beginning in the first place. Consider creating a mission or vision statement for yourself that will help guide you to your goals.
7. Planning Phase
When considering the small steps and benchmarks that will take you to the next level, you should take the appropriate amount of time to figure out how you’ll get there. Here are some of our best tips for setting and planning your goals:
- Be Precise: Set precise goals, with dates, times and amounts so you can measure achievement. This will help keep you on track.
- Set Priorities: If you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed and directs your attention to the most important ones.
- Set Performance Goals: By basing your goals on personal performance, you can maintain control over the achievement of your goals. Identify the steps that you’ll take to complete your goal.
- Consider your Resources: Identify the resources (time, money, support, information) that you’ll need to achieve your goal. Include any risks associated with your goals.
8. Stick to the Plan
Reaching your goals requires hard work, consistency, and commitment. Motivation is incredibly unique to each person. Depending on the type of person you are, you may be motivated from within (intrinsic motivation) or from external factors (extrinsic motivation). It’s important to find what drives you in order to continue that motivation. This will ultimately help you achieve your goals.
If you are looking for some ways to stay motivated and stick to the plan, consider these tips:
- Find an Accountability Partner: If you need some help getting motivated, it might be best to enlist the help of a friend. Are you procrastinating on a difficult project? Simply talking to a friend may be all the motivation you need.
- Create a Reward System: Some people work better and harder when they tie a reward to their efforts. Visualize your reward and the positive feelings associated with your achievement. This may give you the extra “oomph” to get and stay motivated.
- Measure your Progress: It’s easy to become frustrated if you haven’t crossed the finish line. Looking back at where you have come from can help you realize just how hard you have worked.
BONUS: Enjoy the Journey!
Sometimes we are so deeply entrenched in setting and achieving our goals that it can be easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated. We encourage you to take a step back, take a deep breath, and relax. Studies show that enjoying what you do makes you more likely to succeed. When you focus on the process and not the outcome all of the time, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.
Get the Secrets for Goal-Setting Clarity
To ultimately be successful, you’ve got to “get real” and develop SMART goals that are:
Specific – Rather than saying you want to “make more money” this year, quantify it by percentage.
Measurable – You have to know that you are making measurable progress towards your goal. How will you measure it?
Achievable – Can you control the outcome, or are you hoping to change hearts and minds?
Realistic – Is your goal something you can achieve?
Time-bound – Are you setting up goals by day, week, month, quarter, and year? 10-year plan?
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