I’m a big believer in setting goals. However, I think there’s a little finessing that you need to do to set goals that are attainable and enriching. A lot of times we envision ourselves setting and accomplishing goals that in reality just aren’t possible. Let’s be real – we don’t change overnight.
For one thing, habits breed long-term outcomes. Take healthy living for example. You can vision board your way to fitness success all you want, but if you don’t start changing your habits, your progress is at a standstill.
Learning the best way that you stick to working toward your goals is important for setting yourself up for success. Some people work best on instant gratification or rewards – which is something you can set up for yourself. Others may find that progress tracking or journaling could help keep them on the path to success.
Overall, goals are good to have for a variety of reasons, but it can be difficult to set and keep goals in general, let alone at the beginning of a stressful new school year.
Here are some of my tips for setting and sticking to your goals.
1. List out your goals – then do an analysis of them
Obviously you need to know what your goals are, but actually physically write them down. When you’re thinking of goals, be realistic. You aren’t going to learn a new instrument in a week or become fluent in french overnight, so don’t even think about writing that down. One way to approach writing out your goals is through actually mapping them. Create an elementary school-esque bubble map. Write down a couple goals for different time periods (I know this part contradicts number 3, but I’ll explain later). Write down what you’d like to complete in your lifetime, what you’d like to complete in three years, what you’d like to complete in one year, and then what you’d like to complete in three months. One thing that you will find is that there will be a lot of similarities in the direction of your goals.
The most important part of this comes next though. Look at every goal you have and analyze each one of them. Think about why you want to complete that – is it career oriented? Personally satisfying? For somebody else? Think about the reasons that these goals are prominent for you. This will help you to prioritize your goals – ideally you want to work on personally enriching goals before those that will benefit anyone else.
2. Set up an actual system for tracking and sticking to them
After you’ve mapped out your goals, it’s time to think about the action. What steps are you going to take to accomplish your goal? For each goal, begin thinking about small, habit-oriented steps you can take, accumulating over time. Think about actual milestones that you can track and record.
If you’re a person who works better with instant gratification or tangible rewards, set a system in place. If you want to start working out more often, reward yourself at the end of every month if you stick to your laid out routine and stepping stone goals for that month.
This is the part where you set yourself up for success. Don’t try to charge full-speed at something or try to quit something cold turkey. The best way to approach goals is with level-headed patience, creating good habits, and taking small steps to get there.
3. Forget the timeline and stop worrying
This is where I contradict myself a little bit. When you laid out your goals for pretty much your entire lifetime, you limited yourself to a timeline. However, while timelines can be helpful, they aren’t the be all, end all.
Remember that you can get sidetracked, things can come up that halt your progress, or your goals can shift entirely. That’s the thing about life. It’s sometimes unpredictable, so you can’t plan everything.
If you can’t complete your goals within the timeframe you laid out, just reevaluate how you can better work toward it and readjust.
Stop worrying. You can do it.
This was a very wordy post, so I apologize, but I think this is something really important. Obviously I’m not the total authority on setting healthy goals, but this is the model I’ve used in the past few years that has worked the best for me. It’s not foolproof, but nothing is.
The best of luck to you in your goal-setting endeavors.
What goals are you setting for yourself this school year?