Goal setting can be one of the most effective ways to achieve success. It helps us make decisions, direct our attention and resources and track progress. However, why do some people seem able to achieve their goals whilst others struggle? How do you set yourself up for success? We’ve put together some advice that will help you get started.
Set meaningful goals that are in your control
As you set your goals, consider the following questions:
- Why do I have this goal- be honest with yourself?
- What motivates me?
- Are they general goals? If so, how can I make them more specific?
- What resources do I have available to me that will help me achieve these goals?
Keep in mind that it's crucial not only to set realistic and achievable goals, but also ones that are within your control. Ensure the success of your goals is not dependent on other people or circumstances beyond your influence. The more you can control yourself, the more likely you are to achieve what you have set out to achieve.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when we set goals is thinking about them as something we have to do because of external pressures. Instead of thinking about what other people want us to accomplish, or what social media say’s we should achieve, think about what we actually want ourselves. Life works best when everything feels natural—so if something's not working out quite right in terms of achieving your goals, reconsider how and why they were structured in the first place.
Write down your goals
When you write down your goals, you're making them more real and tangible. By writing them down, you are essentially telling yourself that this goal is a priority in your life—that it's important enough for you to put pen to paper and commit it to memory.
Writing down your goals gives them weight. It makes them stand out from the rest of the clutter in your head and keeps them at the forefront of your mind. Writing down what you want also helps keep negativity out of your headspace. It’s hard to think negatively when all of these positive things are right in front of you. A positive mindset is a sure-fire way to motivate you to success.
Make a plan
After you've set your goals, the next step is to make a plan. The key here is that you're making sure that there's no gap between what you want and what it takes. You can use whatever tools fit best with how you work: a traditional paper planner, a journal app on your phone, or even a whiteboard in your kitchen.
Start by breaking down your big goal into smaller ones and schedule in time to execute each one of them. Focus on setting SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. These types of goals help us set ourselves up for success because they're clearly defined and easy to measure.
Create a deadline
The next step in the process of achieving your goals is to set a deadline. A deadline is essentially a self-imposed time limit for when you will achieve your goal. Setting a deadline is a great way to keep yourself accountable, it will help you stay on track and keep moving forward.
This may seem obvious, but if you don't give yourself enough time to accomplish what you're setting out to do, then it won't happen. Likewise, if you set a deadline that is too far in the future, or don’t set one at all, it may never happen. Without a date in mind, it will be easy to put off doing the work until later, and before you know it, "later" becomes "never."
Track and Measure
It's important to make sure your goals are measurable, because it makes it easier to track your progress, which in turn keeps you motivated. You need to know what success looks like, or else there's no way for you to know if you're getting closer or farther away from it.
When you're trying to accomplish a goal, it's easy to get so caught up in the task of doing it that you forget why you're doing it. If you don't know how far you've come and how much more there is left to do, it can be hard to stay focused. But if you can measure your progress along the way—especially by comparing where you are now with where you started out—it encourages you to keep going.
Start before you're ready
This might sound counter intuitive but start working towards your goals before you're ready. Don't wait until you feel ready or have no other distractions. If you wait until everything is ‘just right’, it will never happen. There is never a "right" time to do anything. Get comfortable with the idea that you’re not going to be perfect. In fact, you’re probably going to make mistakes along the way and that’s okay. Jump straight in and learn as you go!
Tackle one thing at a time
Don’t be afraid of starting small. If you try to do everything at once it can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Instead of thinking about how far away your entire goal is and how much work it takes to get there, focus on what’s right in front of you: Taking one step toward your goal today. When you break down a large goal into smaller ones, you can tackle the project in bite-sized chunks.
Focus on the first step of your goal and nothing else. It can be easy to get lost in thinking about what you have to do next year or next month when you're trying to achieve something today. If you don't know where to start, start with the easiest thing.
It's also important not to worry about whether you'll succeed in reaching your goal—this will only distract from the present moment and cause stress that gets in the way of actually accomplishing things. Instead, focus on enjoying yourself along the way; this will make it more likely that you'll stick with it until completion. Remember, there is no magic formula for success. It's about setting yourself up for success by being realistic and taking things one step at a time.
Share your goals with others
Sharing your goals with other people is a great way to ensure that you reach them. Why? Because it gives you extra accountability. You might be tempted to slack off or stop working toward your goal if nobody knows about it. You’re only letting yourself down, right? The support and encouragement from others will help your motivation, and ensure you have a progress update when they ask, ‘Hey how’s that goal coming along?’.
Don't miss out on hobbies
You want to make sure that you don't let your goals take over your life. While it's good to have goals, they shouldn't come at the expense of your health or happiness. If you get so wrapped up in your goal-oriented activities that you neglect other aspects of life, like hobbies or family and friends, then things won't be balanced. Ensure you are taking some time off to spend with loved ones and enjoy recreational activities as well. Your physical and mental well-being should be a priority.
Celebrate your victories
It's important to celebrate your achievements, whether they're big or small. The impact of positive reinforcement is well documented. When you reward yourself your dopamine levels increase, this hormone makes us feel happy and is addictive. We crave this release and as such, rewards can help reinforce specific behaviours. Celebrating your progress will keep you driven and give you a sense of accomplishment. So, when you reach that goal, or you make a step towards it, give yourself a reward. You’ve earned it!
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