The Art of Setting and Keeping Goals
When you hear the word “goals,” how does it make you feel? Are you excited and motivated? Perhaps you are daunted and a little intimidated? Or are you stressed? The word “goals” can carry a lot of weight for people, but setting and keeping goals doesn’t have to be hard or stressful! When you understand the importance of setting and keeping goals and how to get started, goal setting can lead to a more productive, fulfilling, enjoyable life.
Why Set Goals?
Goals act like road signs for your life. Imagine setting out on a cross-country road trip. You most likely wouldn’t start down an unmarked road with no indication of your destination or how long it takes to get there. Without established goals, our lives can often feel like unmarked roads. We are just driving on autopilot with no clear understanding of where we are headed or why. And, we have no way to tell when we’ve arrived anywhere. Goals give us direction and help us stay focused. We can use goals to take our big dreams for our lives and break them down into practical, actionable steps to help us get there.
It’s important to set goals in every aspect of our lives, from our careers to our relationships, health and fitness, and finances. This might sound like a full-time job, but don’t worry. Your goals don’t have to be gigantic undertakings. Something as simple as making time to take a daily walk around the block during your lunch break or scheduling specific times to respond to emails are goals. These small goals move you closer to your desired end result.
How to Successfully Set Goals
So how do you go about setting goals and, more importantly, making sure you follow through with them?
First, take a look at the big picture of your life. What are your big dreams? How does your ideal life look at work, at home, and financially? What do you want to achieve most? These are your big-picture long term goals that will drive your individual goals. Once you’ve established long term goals, you can set smaller, short-term goals that will act as building blocks for your long-term vision.
Perhaps one of your long term goals is to stay fit and active enough to play with your grandchildren someday. When you think about the smaller steps that will help you achieve that goal, you might come up with things like:
- Eat a balanced diet so you can maintain a healthy weight
- Go to the doctor for regular check-ups
- Make sure to exercise at least 30 minutes every day
By identifying the overall target and breaking it down into smaller goals to get there, you can work your big goals into your everyday life more effectively.
Achieving Your Goals
The following tips will help you achieve your goals once you’ve determined your long-term goals and the short-term goals that will help you get there.
Write It Down
People who write down their goals are as much as ten times more likely to achieve them. So once you’ve identified your goal, write it down somewhere you’ll see it regularly. Make it your screensaver at work or your phone’s lock screen image; write it on a Post-it note and stick it to your refrigerator or coffee maker. Give yourself a regular visual reminder of what you’re working toward.
Measure Your Success
Next, make sure you have a way to measure your goals. We’re all human, and it’s easy for us to get distracted or overwhelmed and fall off track. Having a way to measure our goals helps keep them front and center in our minds. Perhaps as part of your health goals, you buy a fitness tracker to measure your daily movement. Or, maybe you keep a food journal to track your weekly diet. By establishing such simple, practical ways to check in on our progress right off the bat, we can help ensure we keep moving in the right direction.
You can also keep yourself focused and on track with your goals by enlisting the help of an accountability buddy. This could be a close friend or family member or even an online or in-person group. It’s natural to lose motivation sometimes, and having someone you can rely on to cheer you on and to remind you of your “why” can be the push you need to get back on track.
Of course, life changes and we change. Don’t be afraid to revisit your goal and make sure it still aligns with your vision for your life. Similarly, perhaps your short-term goals were a little too large, and you need to break them down further to make them practical. Either way, if you’re having trouble sticking with your goals, don’t get discouraged—just take some time to reassess and make a plan to move forward from there.
By taking the time to set solid goals for ourselves, we can be more proactive in building the happy, fulfilled lives we all desire.