No one is born knowing how to set goals or how to achieve the things they desire in life. Like with anything else, goal setting is an art that must be learned and mastered.
If you played sports at any point in your life, you have a great foundation for goal setting. You’ve learned how to be a team player, strategies to win the game and you experienced the celebration after the win. Some of you set goals to get an A on a test, or to get into a particular college, or to land your dream job – this is all great!
On the other hand, there are many people who have not been raised in that environment and as a result, don’t know or understand the power of goal setting. I am here to hopefully open your eyes about this concept – it can truly change your life in a positive way – helping you get closer than you ever dreamed to achieving all the things you want in life.
Goal Setting: the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end. (Dictionary.com)
But it’s sooo much more than that. Goal Setting gives you purpose and motivation. It lays down a specific direction for you to follow to hit the goals you want to achieve. Goals help you remain focused on what’s important to you, thereby making you a happier and more fulfilled person.
Too many people roll out of bed, pound caffeine, go to work, go home, watch TV, go to bed and don’t accomplish anything truly fulfilling. It’s not because they planned to fail, but rather, they failed to plan.
Now, I’ve found it’s hard to take advantage of every waking moment on this planet. I can’t constantly keep trying to achieve more and more and more. That’s when you get burnt out. But, I do have a daily focus on the things I want to achieve for my health, financially, emotionally, in my career or relationship, etc. I have long-term goals and some short-term goals. I hold a strong priority on decision making that can benefit me in a positive way long-term. You can do this too and now I’m going to teach you how…
Taking the Plunge
First you have to sit down and take a few minutes (don’t let that be too much to ask) and really think about what you want. Grab a blank sheet of paper and just start jotting anything down that comes to your mind. Maybe you want an iPod, you want to get the dryer fixed, you want to pay off your second mortgage, you want to get off your medications, you want to get healthy, drop a few pounds, get a job, save for your kid’s college tuition, pay off your debt…
You need to get specific here. We can write down we want happiness, but that won’t get you far and you’ll give up too soon. What brings you happiness? Maybe you have a goal to clean your house twice a week or go running three times a week – think about what can bring you that happiness and write that down.
Within this list of things you want (ie, your new goals) you’ll have hard to reach goals and easy to reach goals. I usually fight for the hard to reach goals and somehow the easy ones come with the journey of hitting the harder goals anyway.
I Have Goals, Now What?
Next, we want to prioritize these goals. You should not go after all 10 or 20 goals because chances are you won’t hit them all. I’d pick 1 hard goal and a few easier goals to start with. Do NOT think your goals are lame or “not enough” – get rid of those stories in your head – they don’t serve you anymore. Also, don’t feel you have to set a hard date to these goals either. It is good to set timelines, but make sure they are realistic. If you write down you want to lose 20lbs. this week, that’s only going to set you up for failure. Start with 3-5lbs this week and work your way up to 20lbs in a realistic time frame that still pushes you.
Then, I’d take out another new sheet of paper and write those few focused goals down. This is your goals sheet – I always do this! It may seem small, but this will help you commit to them. Place this paper where you spend the most personal time – maybe by a computer or bed stand.
Next, walk away and carry on with your day. While you’re cleaning, or grocery shopping, or working, just allow these few goals to pop into your thoughts and I encourage you to dream about them for a few minutes, a few times a day. Think about the smile you’ll get on your face when you pay down your credit card bill by $500, or imagine how great it will be to tell your wife you got a job. Let it soak in deep down. Keep doing this until you reach your goals.
Meanwhile, you need to have a laser focus on these goals and take steps to achieve them. For example, if you’re goal is to save $2,500 by the end of the year and a new accessory or toy came out that you’d do anything to have, you have $750 saved and that’s enough to buy this product plus have a little left over in savings… don’t do it. I’ll save you the emotional grief and tell you what will happen. You’ll convince yourself that this toy is exactly what you need to lift your spirits – you’ve been a little blue lately and buying this will make you feel better. So, you go to Best Buy and spend the money. The joy lasts a day or two or three… then it hits you. You made a decision that caused temporary happiness *instead of* making the decision to hit your goal and provide more security for your family. You’ll feel like a loser and the $2,500 goal is now way too hard to reach, so you might as well spend the rest of it. Then you have nothing saved and feel even worse. You give up on goal setting and are right back to where you started. Yes, this happens ALL the time.
Stay focused. Make the right decisions. Remember the feeling you predict on what it would feel like to hit your goal. Talk to a friend or mentor. Do whatever you have to do to keep control and stay on course.
I Hit My Goal! Now What?
It’s time for a small reward. I always try to reward myself for doing a good job and for taking action to make my life better. It could be as small as buying 1 song on iTunes that I’ve been wanting, or getting ice cream. It could be as big as a small shopping spree (like $100). One of my main goals is to save for the future, so I’m very focused on not over-spending because I can.
Once you’ve given yourself some recognition for a job well done, it’s time to set more goals. Sometimes you’ll experience setbacks. Sometimes you’ll get ahead. It’s all normal and something you should expect.
With goal setting, you WILL go further and you will achieve more – it’s a numbers game. If you set no goals you’ll feel like you can’t achieve much so you’ll settle for mediocrity. We are only on this planet for such a short period of time.
What will you make out of your life with the time you have?