Knowing how to set goals is an important skill. It forces you to contemplate what you truly want out of life — but achieving your goals? Well, that's a whole different ball game.
The truth is, most fail. And fail quickly. That's no reflection on the people making (and breaking) their new routines. It happens because most of us have been going about goal setting all wrong.
We promise to do things like 'eat better' or 'change jobs' — vague statements with no action plan for what to do or how to deal with any roadblocks you might come across.
To make the next goal you set the one that sticks, follow this simple guide to goal setting.
How To Set Goals (And Achieve Them)
A goal is defined as "an objective or target that a person or a group of people envision, plan and commit to achieving."
Put another way, goals are a blueprint for your future. They help you get clear on what you want to accomplish, why it's important to you and, crucially, how you're going to make it happen.
The goals you pick are unique to you – big or small, long-term or short-term, personal or professional. This is your chance to design the next chapter of your life. Pretty exciting, right?
What Is Goal Setting?
Thinking up a goal is the easy part. The real work comes after, when it's time to create a plan to turn your vision of the future into reality.
Science says that around 90% of people don't achieve their goals. So what's the secret sauce the other 10% are hiding? It's simple: they understand the importance of effective goal setting.
If you’re not sure where to start, try using a goal-setting template. These easy-to-follow systems remove the guesswork and arm you with the focus, direction and sense of purpose to succeed.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish."
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Why Is Goal Setting Important?
How many goals or New Year's resolutions have you made stick over the years? Be honest. If the answer is 'not many' or 'zilch', then welcome to a not very exclusive club.
The good news is that even the simple act of breaking down a goal into manageable steps reduces your chances of getting derailed and increases the opportunities to reset if things go off-track.
No matter what stage you're at in your journey, try not to obsess over the outcome. Instead, laser in on the steps you need to take. It's about going from A to B, not A to Z.
Short Term VS Long Term Goals
What Is A Short-Term Goal?
Think of short-term goals as stepping stones. These are the smaller tasks that you can do over the next few months to get closer to your overall aim.
For example, if your long-term goal is to save enough money to buy a house, one of your short-term goals might be to pay off any debts you have before the end of the year.
You can also hone your focus even further by setting simple milestones, broken down into daily or weekly goals. Chipping away at that credit card? Start by taking lunch to work instead of buying it.
What Is A Long-Term Goal?
Your long-term goals say a lot about you, where you're headed, and what you value. This is where you decide what your life would look like in an ideal world.
Whether you want to turn your passion into a thriving career or complete an Ironman triathlon, it will likely take plenty of planning, persistence, and accountability over a lengthy period of time.
Don't let that deter you, though. After all, anything is possible if you set yourself goals that are ‘smart’ – in more ways than one.
What Are SMARTER Goals?
The first step in setting SMARTER goals is to identify an area of life you want to level up — personal (relationships, hobbies), professional (money, career), emotional (mental health, self-care) etc. — decide on exactly what it is you want to change.
Now, get as precise as possible. The SMARTER Goals acronym can help. Aim to make any goal Specific (what is it?), Measurable (how much, many, far), Achievable (is it feasible?), Relevant (is it important enough?), Time (when will you achieve it?), Evaluate (are you on track?) and Re-adjust (course correct if necessary).
What Does SMARTER Goals Stand For?
S - Specific
Get a crystal clear vision on what success will look like.
M - Measurable
Measurable goals can be tracked. What are the key milestones?
A - Achievable
Avoid burnout by working towards a goal that is challenging, but possible.
R - Relevant
Find your why. How does this goal support your overall life plan?
T - Time-bound
Set a deadline for achieving your goal to help you plan and stay motivated.
E - Evaluate
Don't wing it. Regularly check in on your progress to remain on track.
R - Re-adjust
Hit a hurdle? Be prepared to find new ways around problems.
"Successful planning is setting goals and deciding how to achieve them."
How To Achieve Goals: 4 Key Steps
Most people have a pretty good idea of what they want. But few people take the time to create a plan for success. These four simple steps won't just get you started, they'll also help keep you moving forward and feeling good throughout.
1. Pick Your Goals
Your end goal won't just magically appear. Take time to think about your life: where you are now, where you want to be, and what you might need to do. This will help you pick a long-term goal that you’re committed to.
Whatever you do, don't rush these thoughts, don't dwell on them while feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, and stay within the realms of possibility ('I will become six inches taller' is pretty hard to achieve).
2. Write Your Goals Down
Now that you know your goal(s), it's time to write them down. This isn't just so you can remember what they are – goals have a habit of changing or fading if you leave them in your head. Research by Dr Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California shows that you're 42% more likely to achieve your aim when it's on paper.
Outline the smaller steps you'll need to take to reach your full goal. This will make the process more manageable and give you something to reflect on when you feel stuck.
3. Track Your Progress
There are some people who make achieving things look easy, but it's nearly always the result of hard work and dedication. Once you've made a plan, block off time to work on it. This can be as little as 30 minutes, but make it non-negotiable.
Of course, everyone hits bumps in the road, so accept it and don't assume all is lost if you slip up. Look at your plan, adjust your goals if you have to, take stock of what you've accomplished so far (simply making a plan is something to be proud of), and go again.
4. Celebrate Your Wins
Fact: it's okay to high-five yourself. So, while you shouldn't beat yourself up if you miss a target or a step in your plan, you should make time to celebrate every success. No matter how small.
You might not see results immediately, but don't let that deter you. Remember to focus on the journey, not the destination.