Ever feel like you’re living in autopilot?
If you have vague notions of “success” and “accomplishment”, you might find you never actually achieve the things that mean the most to you, or that bring you the most happiness.
While these words will mean something different to everyone, knowing what you really want to achieve is so important. Goal setting provides focus. It gives us the ability to define the actions we need to take to achieve what we desire, and it also causes us to stretch and grow in entirely new ways.
Before the start of the new year, I asked some of my friends and family to list 3 things they hope to achieve in 2017. The first response was usually “Gosh, I don’t know Bonnie” (only because I always ask annoying questions), but was always followed by a deep sigh of inward reflection. It was clear that we just aren’t giving enough time to conscious thought of exactly what we want in life. This is not okay.
Just look around. We’re being encouraged to set goals all the time for no other reason than it’s really good to be motivated. It’s healthy to have things to strive towards. This is what gives us a sense of purpose and afterwards, achievement. Exhibit A – I will do laps around my house at 11:30pm just to get to 10,000 steps on my Fitbit. Similarly, an increasing number of workplaces are becoming really proactive about having their employees set professional development goals so people engage better overall. They see that when people identify their personal priorities, they become far more alert to self-improvement.
But I’m not talking about work here, I am talking about YOU. Your life. Your hopes. Your dreams. Your happiness. At the very least we owe it to ourselves to set aside a few minutes throughout the year to think about our goals and how best to achieve them. And guess what, there is no better time to start than now!
Here are my top 10 tips on how to set goals & achieve them.
- What exactly do you want? – This is the number one question you must learn to answer. It takes a little while to get used to the act of considering exactly what you want in life, and to neatly package these things into individual goals. You must learn to reflect upon your values and to know your expectations. Your values (how you define things like happiness, success, achievement) and expectations (how these values will apply to your circumstances) complement each other to create your goals.
- Write it down – the physical existence of your goals will help to make you feel more focussed. It’s a good idea to categorise your goals by short-term and long-term. This will help you prioritise which to focus on first.
- Be specific – avoid using general or sweeping statements when setting your goals. Saying “I want to get fit” or “I want to learn a language” is a very broad notion which doesn’t give you any real starting-point. Instead, set goals like “walking to work 3 days a week” or “enrolling in French lessons by March” so that you have your task clearly defined. Being able to evaluate your progress will be much easier this way.
- Break it down – sometimes a goal can seem insurmountable. When this is the case, take the overall goal and break it down into smaller stepping stones which can be dealt with in isolation. The sense of achievement you will feel each time you tick off a stepping stone will help you to stay motivated toward reaching your main goal.
- Set deadlines – setting the goal is only the first step in the process. The real challenge begins when you set a timeline to work towards. This is what makes you specifically accountable to each of your goals, and helps you to plan ahead to have the best possible shot at achieving what you set out to do. Make sure your deadlines are realistic, and set reminders to help yourself stay in check.
- Make a mood board – get creative with a visual representation of your goals. that will help to inspire you. Whether it’s a photo, motivational words, a business card or some other object, use items that will help to inspire you and remind you of the end goal. Come back whenever you start to feel your enthusiasm waning.
- Check in – in order to stay on top of your goals, take time along the way to evaluate your progress. Are you happy with your achievement to date? Could you be doing anything better? Is your deadline still realistic?
- Be okay with change – Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned, and sometimes our own ambitions change over time. It’s really important that you don’t look upon change as failure, but rather that you are able to respond quickly with a revised plan of attack.
- Take responsibility – reaching your goals will take hard work, but nobody is going to make them happen for you. It can be tricky to stay focussed and to tolerate any slight hiccups, particularly with long-term goals. But stick to your overall plan and make strategies that help you get back on track if things don’t go exactly as you expected.
- Don’t limit yourself – the sky is your limit – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! When you are setting your goals, never ever disregard something because you think it is unachievable. If you are willing to work hard anything is possible.