Learning how to set goals and achieve them does not need to be a scary thing. It does not need to be an end-of-the-year thing. And most definitely should not make you feel guilty about where you’re currently at.
Before I knew how to properly set goals, I was overwhelmed with trying to meet all the goal “criteria”. Is it measurable, achievable, blah, blah, blah. My version still uses these pillars, but in a less structured way. These buzz terms just make it way more complicated than it needs to be. Goal setting does involve time — after all, it’s your process of how you’re going to get from A to B, but it can be a fun and insightful process.
So here are my tips…
This part requires the most up front thinking. It’s probably the part you least want to do, but is also the most important. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP. Start by writing down (yes, write down) all of your ideas. Some good prompts are:
This process should take a good hour. Really dive deep on what you picture for the following year.
Once you have all of these ideas written out, start to look through for patterns. Do you see certain words popping out a lot? Or maybe certain names? Do you get a general vibe or feeling from what you wrote down, perhaps growth focused, perhaps health focused, etc? Once you go through and pick out some patterns or ideas you really love, start to reconfigure those into initial goal ideas. This may involve re-wording some of your ideas, or combining words you see throughout into one consolidated goal idea, or simply picking out patterns. My goal ideas at this point usually are just categories, for example “Less Waste”, “Exploration”, “Balance”, “Personal Fulfillment”, “Financially Responsible”.
From your goal ideas, pick 1-8 that you are most passionate about. Are you willing to sacrifice things to meet these ideas? Will you get closer to where you want to be with everything you wrote down in your first step? Consider adding in a verb here (this is where that “actionable” comes in). But honestly, if your goal is “take care of myself” that’s fine too because we’re going to build out the action part in the next steps to make it more specific.
Once you have your goals written out, you are going to take a deeper dive into each one to create actions around it, and a timeline. To come up with the actions within the goal, I find it’s best to think about what needs to happen from now, to the end of the year (or quarter, however long you want to have this goal for) – what are all the things you’re going to DO from now until then? Then, break the goal down into 2-3 mini goals, each mini goal having 1-3 actual steps to achieve. For example, a goal of “Enhance Relationships” could have mini goals of “Enhance family relationships” with actionable items of – make a list of fun activities to do with my nieces – plan a recurring bi-weekly facetime call with my parents – plan a quarterly family activity; “Enhance friendships” could have – text a check in every week to 3 friends – Host a quarterly dinner or game night – write down birthdays and purchase cards to have on hand. And the third mini goal of “Prioritize my marriage” could have- date night on the 19th every month – put away our phones after 8pm – read the marriage book together. These are just examples, yours may look totally different!
The next thing you’re going to do is make a deadline when you are going to complete those smaller tasks under each mini goal! Some of these tasks might be monthly, like a monthly date night, or some of them are quarterly, like planning a family activity. Schedule EVERYTHING out in your calendar and make sure you’re spacing these steps out throughout the year so you aren’t overloading yourself in January, February and March. If you try to do too much at once, it’s not going to stick! Maybe some goals you’re in okay shape on, so you can wait to work on your finance goals until July, etc.
I honestly hate this term, but it is important to make sure you’re actually sticking with your goals and that they’re working for you. I set up a calendar, basically a “To Do” list, so I can make sure I’m tracking if I’m taking my vitamins, how many times a week I’m working out, if I checked in with my friends, etc. If there is a task or part of a goal that just doesn’t excite you, then maybe remove it next quarter, or reword it so it motivates you and change the mini goals! Look back at your big picture of where you want to be as well, sometimes that lights a fire.
Have you heard the phrase, “nothing changes if nothing changes”? Learning how to set goals is important to help you live a life that YOU want to have. There are bound to be curveballs, and that’s okay. Some things might not get done, but just because one or two things didn’t happen or you fell off the wagon for two months straight, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the bag. Any progress is good, and we’re all about progress not perfection! Goal setting has become a big part of my life to hold myself accountable to ME. Only add goals on your list that YOU want to achieve, because if you are doing something for the wrong reasons, believe me, it won’t stick and you won’t achieve it! Take care of yourself and give yourself grace – life is sticky and messy and sometimes but flowers grow through dirt, and so can you!