Do you set goals for yourself? How far into the future do you aim? How can the act of goal setting help you improve and move forward in your life?
There are three main benefits to setting goals. First of all, setting goals for your life encourages you to develop new skills. Secondly, it pushes you to get out of your comfort zone. And thirdly, it helps you to generally grow as a person.
Read more about the benefits of goal setting, how to outline and write your goals, and how to increase the likelihood of achieving them.
The Benefits of Goal-Setting
Setting goals is a powerful way to evaluate your dreams and make a plan to achieve them. There are several benefits of goal setting:
- You develop new skills. To reach your goal, you’ll likely have to develop new habits and skills you can continue to use. For example, if your goal is to become a better ukulele player, cultivate the discipline to practice regularly. Even once you’re an accomplished player, you’ll still be able to use that discipline elsewhere.
- You do things that scare you but are good for you. Goal-setting helps you work through your worries to try new things that improve your life.
- You develop as a person. Ultimately, it’s our goal as humans to live well, and goal-setting helps—in addition to developing new skills, it opens your mind to what is possible, allowing you to be a well-rounded, resilient, capable person.
Write Your Goals
When writing goals, incorporate these characteristics:
- Quantity and timing. Setting a measurable goal helps you determine whether you’ve achieved it. To be measurable, a goal needs to include a quantity, such as money or pounds, and a deadline. Example: I will weigh 130 pounds on my wedding day, June 4, 2022, and fit comfortably in my dress.
- Detail. Detail provides a concrete picture of what you want and stimulates your imagination. For example, if you have ideas about the dream town you’d like to settle in, write them down so your mind can ruminate on them. When you’ve detailed what you’re looking for, you’re more likely to recognize opportunities to help you reach your goals.
Turn Good Ideas Into Goals
Sometimes, a goal might start as just an idea: something you want, or a wish. It may be a good idea, but if it’s too vague or you can’t measure when you’ll achieve it, workshop it into a goal. Here are some examples:
|I want to own a house in Costa Rica.||I will own a house in the beach town of Sámara, Costa Rica by 5 p.m. on September 23, 2023.|
|I should eat better.||I will have transitioned to eating only vegan meals and snacks by 8 p.m. on February 9, 2021.|
|I should talk to my grandmother more.||I will have talked to my grandmother four times (two times per month) by January 31, 2021.|
In the previous table, the goals include more detail than the ideas, which gives the brain a more specific outcome to work toward.
Break Your Goals Into Steps
Besides writing down your goal and interacting with it, break it into smaller steps you’ll take to reach it.
To identify the steps necessary for achieving your goal, ask yourself:
- What are some things I need to do?
- Which skills do I need to develop?
- How much money do I need? How will I save it or raise it?
- What resources do I need?
- Whose support or assistance do I need?
There are six main ways to answer these questions:
1. Talk to others. Ask people what steps they took to get where they are now. For example, if you want to become a freelance writer, make appointments with freelance writers you admire and ask them what steps they took to succeed. They can also clue you in on pitfalls to avoid.
2. Talk to a coach, mentor, or teacher. These people can advise you on how to approach your goal, even if they don’t have specialized experience in the area you’re considering.
3. Volunteer or do an internship. These experiences can help you learn the skills it takes to operate a business or thrive in a chosen career. From there, apply what you learn to achieve your goals.
4. Consult books, manuals, or online courses. Chances are you’re not the first person pursuing this particular goal. Exploring written materials or courses can provide you with a specific sequence of steps to follow. For example, maybe you want to become a graphic designer. Reading a variety of materials on the subject can help you learn the steps.
5. Imagine that you’ve already achieved your goal and imagine the steps in reverse. For example, if your goal was to become a marriage and family therapist, and you’d already achieved it, the steps you’d have taken would include leasing office space, logging hundreds of hours observing therapy sessions to get your counseling license, and earning a degree in psychology or a similar field.
6. Create a mind map. In this instance, mind mapping consists of thinking of every task you’d need to do to achieve your goal, sorting them into categories, and deciding what order you’ll do them in. Here’s how to make one:
- Write your goal in the middle of a large circle. For example, let’s say you want to earn some money selling gourmet caramel corn during the holidays.
- Write smaller categories of tasks in circles around the main circle. Connect each one to the main circle with a line. In the caramel corn example, your subcategories of tasks might include Cooking and Marketing.
- Draw lines or spokes from the category circles and write specific subtasks on each. For example, on spokes extending from the Marketing circle, you might write, “Consult friends and family about business name,” and “Hire Amy Smith to design my business logo.”
Work on Your Steps Every Day
Now that you have a plan to achieve your goal, work on it every day. This allows you to keep up your momentum and achieve your goal faster. Here are some tips:
- Make a to-do list each day that pulls from steps you outlined in your mind map or other written plan.
- Consider making your to-do list the night before. This helps you hit the ground running in the morning rather than spending most of the morning planning your day. This method also positions your subconscious to think of the task all night and help attract the people and things you need to succeed the next day.
- Do your hardest task of the day first. People tend to procrastinate on tasks that feel intimidating. But if you wait to do them until later in the day, you may struggle because you’re not as fresh or you haven’t left enough time. Instead, knock out the hardest task first.
- Use the rule of five. Do five tangible things to help you reach your goal every day. When Canfield and his co-author on the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book were working to get it on the New York Times bestsellers list, they decided to do five things each day to support that goal—for example, mailing the book to five editors who might review it, or doing five radio interviews to promote it. The more they promoted the book, the more people would hear about it and buy it. It took over a year, but eventually, the book made it to the top of the list.
Optional: Achievers Focusing System
Use the Achievers Focusing System worksheet to outline the steps to achieving your goal over 13 weeks.
Challenges: Reasons, Worries, and Life Obstacles
Once you’ve settled on your goals and your plan to achieve them, it’s common to encounter challenges that impede or discourage you from working on them. Embracing these challenges as a normal part of life allows you to work through them. They are:
- Reasons. Once you write a goal, you may find yourself thinking of reasons to not pursue it. For example, if you’re trying to increase your monthly sales, you may think it’s impossible because you’ve maxed out your current sales territory.
- Worries. Worries are any negative emotions that surface for you when thinking about a goal. For example, you might worry that you’ll fail, or that launching a business will consume your savings.
- Life obstacles. Life obstacles are things that happen to you once you start pursuing a goal that make it hard to pursue. For example, you may discover that your government doesn’t allow you to run your business as you planned.
Example: Stu Lichtman wanted to salvage a shoe company in Maine that owed $2 million to creditors. To help the business recoup some money, Lichtman arranged for the sale of one of the company’s unused factories. However, the state had a lien on the factory, so the sale wouldn’t result in any proceeds for the company. Lichtman asked the governor if they’d be willing to remove the lien, arguing it would help prepare the company for takeover by another business, saving 1,000 jobs. The governor agreed.
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- The 67 principles to help anyone achieve their goals and dreams
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- How to take responsibility for your own life