How to set Goals you will Actually Reach
How many times do you set new year resolutions that fall short by February? How many times have you read blog posts about hitting your goals? Ouch. I know. Listen, I was a cereal goal-setter-then-goal-forgetter-or-giver-upper before last year. I had only set a couple goals because they were super short-term and easy to hit. Never had I actually reached all my new year's resolutions UNTIL LAST YEAR. So what changed? That's what we're going to talk about today.
01. Define the Why
When you start thinking of goals for yourself, it can be easy to fall into the "new year resolution trap". This is when you create goals because they sound good. Get fit, eat better, learn a new language, start a business, do well in school. These goals can all be good things unless you're making them because you can't think of anything else. Until your goal has a clear WHY attached to it, the actions that require you to hit that goal will stay on the back burner.
So, what is a "WHY"
We're going to use the fitness example because it's easy and a common goal. The WHY will differ for everyone though. WHY are you wanting to get fit? And what does getting fit look like for you? Defining the goal and fleshing out the real reasons will help you set better goals in the long term.
Are you wanting to be able to run a marathon, or do you want to just lose those last 5 pounds? Are you doing it to be able to get off your diabetes medication, or because you want to be able to do more than 2 pushups? Your why doesn't have to be anything life shattering or huge, it just has to matter to you. Which bring me to the next point;
Pick Goals that Matter
When we get hyped up about our goals and we're in the right mindset, it's easy to set a bunch of new plans in place and get excited about them. The problem is, that motivation doesn't typically last past a month, so you need a way to stay motivated. The key to this is to pick goals that really matter to you. If you look at your WHY and it just doesn't seem that important now that you have it down on paper, skip that goal for now.
Focus on 2-3 goals to start that are truly important to you and have a solid WHY behind them. If you're getting out of debt so you can quit your job and become a full-time parent, that's a pretty solid WHY. That kind of motivation is what you're going to need a few weeks into the journey. If you can read your WHY and get fired up again, you've found the perfect goal to start with.
Keep in mind, your goals don't have to be huge. Your goal might be to floss every day so that you don't have to get all your teeth removed when you're 80. Hey, me too. Your goals are your own, don't feel like you have to make them lofty and big - but also don't be afraid to set a goal that's out of your comfort zone.
What does progress look like?
Now that you have a couple goals in mind with some good WHY's behind them, you need to decide what progress on these goals will look like. If your goal is to "get fit" - well how do you know when you've hit that goal? This could be losing the last 5 pounds, being able to run a 10-minute mile, being able to plank for 3 minutes or finishing a half-marathon. Decide where you feel comfortable setting your finish line.
If you have a long-term goal similar to getting out of debt, losing 100+ pounds, or graduating college, it might be a good idea to set milestones as well. For example, lose 10 pounds, then 20, 30. Pay of your credit card, car loan, student debt. Apply for school, finish one semester, two, three.
Milestones and finish lines help to make your goals into real plans and make it easier to say "yes I hit my goal" or "no, but I'm still working on it".
02. Create an Action Plan
When you have your goals set, the next step is to plan all the tasks required to make that goal a reality. There are a ton of ways to go about this, you can use a calendar, a to-do app or sticky notes. I'll share a few ideas in the video below. Not a video person? The audio version is right below that ;)
Action plans help you make the most of your goal and help you stay motivated in the day-to-day process. Goals with plans the goals that you will hit.
03. Schedule Progress
This step goes hand-in-hand with your action plan because now that you have all of the baby-steps laid out, you need to schedule the time to work on each part. If you want to be able to run a marathon, you'll start a training plan. If you want to read 100 books, you need to schedule the time to read. All goals take time, but the progress is made in the day to day choices. Scheduling time for your goals helps to make them a priority.
You can schedule your goals any way you'd like. Add them to a calendar, set reminders on your phone, designate a certain time every day to work on them.
04. Check In Regularly
Your goals need constant attention, they're very needy. I like to look at my task list or goal list every weekend and set at least an hour aside every Saturday to finish up any tasks that fell to the back-burner during my week. This allows me to stay ahead of my list, keep my goals my priority and start each week feeling accomplished.
If you really struggle with the action plan or maybe you set too many goals, I recommend downloading my free Goal Setting Cheatsheet. It will help you make a crazy detailed action plan using the same method I use for my business goals.