Top 10 Tips on Setting Goals
It’s a great feeling to picture yourself at the top of your game, all your dreams realized, but actually defining your goals is another matter entirely. Goal setting is more complex than simply stating what you want to achieve. You need to think about how feasible your goals are, and how likely you are you achieve them.
Keep these tips on setting goals in mind as you work through the process.
1. Own your goal
If you want to achieve your goals, you have to own them. Choose goals that matter to you. It doesn’t matter if your boss wants you to increase your sales; if you don’t care about increasing your sales your odds of success are slim. Choose goals that matter to you, that you feel a personal stake in, and increase your chance for success.
2. Find a way to maintain your motivation
As with anything in life, you will experience ups and downs, and periods where you simply do not want to continue on with what you’ve been working at. You need a way to keep yourself going even when you are tired and worn down. It could be keeping a journal that records your progress, or creating a corkboard that reminds you of why you’re working toward your goals. It could simply be a daily mantra you recite.
3. Get into a daily routine
Your goals should influence the choices you make on a regular basis, which means they need to become part of your daily routine. Is your goal to spend more time with family? Make sure you leave work at the same time every day. Are you trying to start a new business? Set aside time each weekday (and/or weekend) to get something done, whether it’s building your website or reading up on the industry.
4. Ask for feedback
Getting perspective and insights from others can be very useful in evaluating your progress. Are you trying to improve your productivity at work? Is your goal to show more respect for the opinions of others? Ask someone you trust, who is in a qualified position to give you feedback, how they think you are doing. Don’t just ask someone who will tell you what they think you want to hear.
5. Do not be afraid
Making big changes is understandably frightening. There is inherent risk in setting goals, and uncertainty of what might happen next is definitely daunting. Another important tip on setting goals is to avoid letting yourself feel the sort of fear that keeps you from moving forward. You can do this by taking small steps at first, and securing early wins. “I can do it” should be your new motto.
6. Give yourself some cheat time (and reward yourself for successes)
You are going to have periods of no motivation, just like you will have periods where you want to do everything all at once. Having a regular routine is important, but build some cheat time into your schedule too. That way if you want to take a Sunday off and do nothing, you’re not automatically failing. Everyone needs a vacation. If you do not plan for downtime you will burn yourself out very quickly. Likewise, if you accomplish something, give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself. Maybe it’s that new gadget you’ve had your eye on, or maybe it’s taking your significant other out to your favorite restaurant. We humans are pleasure-seeking creatures, and rewards are powerful incentives.
7. Break tasks into manageable bits
Rome was not built in a day. Nor will your business empire appear overnight, or those 50 pounds disappear from your belly. Your goals will not fall into place all at once like tumblers in a lock. Instead, it is more like a puzzle: you will start with the frame, then build different sections until you find the piece that connects each of the disparate parts. Plan ahead and figure out what you need to do to make your goals possible. Then outline steps that you can take every day to stay on track.
8. Do not self-sabatoge
When you set your goals, try not to lose perspective. Maybe you didn’t get your website built when you wanted. Maybe you forget to tackle something on your daily to-do list. That’s OK. It was one day. You have tomorrow, and all the days after that, to get back to work. Maybe someone flaked out on you. Setbacks happen. They don’t become immovable obstacles until you cease trying to work around them. Just keep plugging along.
9. Visualize your goals, and the map to get there
You know where you want to go. Maybe you have walked yourself through everything in your head so many times it’s burned into your brain. Memory is a curious thing, though, and you shouldn’t trust it completely. Write your goals down. Write down the steps to get there. Brainstorm everything you think you might need. You can write it all out in a journal, draw it on paper, or use concept-mapping software. By putting the information in a format you can look at — one that does not require you to memorize it — you can find any gaps and/or missing steps.
10. Accept that failure is always an option (and don’t beat yourself up over it)
Risk is unavoidable with goal setting. If you want to see change, you need to dare yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and push your limits. However, you also need to be reasonable about what you can actually accomplish. Is your new novel going to be the hottest best-seller? Maybe not, but making above-average sales is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s an excellent goal. Failure is always an option too, even if it’s an undesirable one. This ties back to trying to avoid fear. If you want to succeed, believe in yourself and your goals, but don’t beat yourself up if you fall behind or something does not pan out at first. Keep moving forward and do what you must to keep your motivation in place and your spirits up. If you start to get stuck, make the next steps smaller and easier. Rack up a few victories in a smaller arena before you move on to big steps, you’ll find you get your momentum back in no time.