We all have goals - milestones we want to reach. So why is it that some people reach their goals and some don't? Why do 80% of us fail to reach our New Year's Resolutions with the majority of us giving up by mid-February? Why do 25% of us give up after 7 days? What can you do differently for a better chance at success?
Setting Goals: Why Bother?
As humans, we like to see progress. We like to feel as though we're moving forward, and we're better than we were the day before. We're more fulfilled when we feel our actions and lives have purpose and meaning.
Taking time to reflect and outline your goals gives you both long-term vision and short-term motivation. Goals give you focus and help you know where to concentrate your efforts. You're weeding out the unnecessary, deciding what's important, and taking control of your life's direction.
Goal setting and planning gives you a way to organize your time and resources and leads to forward progress in ways you can see and measure. You have a benchmark to determine your success, and your confidence and motivation increases as you cross off and achieve individual steps toward your goals.
You're weeding out the unnecessary, deciding what's important, and taking control of your life's direction.
7 Star Rules of Goal Setting
When setting goals, take time for meaningful reflection. You're deciding what you want to achieve during your lifetime. If it's worth spending time on, it's worth taking time to set it up properly.
Your goals should cover different important areas of your life: career, financial, education, family, artistic, attitude, health/physical, pleasure, public service, etc. Don't stress trying to create and achieve goals in all these areas at once. At different stages of your life, you will focus more on some areas and others will fade into the background. This is ok. Too many goals in too many areas at once will disrupt your focus and lead to overwhelm, making the entire process much more difficult.
1. Set Goals That Motivate You
Setting goals is more than just saying you want something to happen. Unless you clarify and understand your motivation, your odds of success are reduced. You must set goals that are important to you - ones that give value. High-priority goals lead to a sense of urgency which helps push you forward. After you've brainstormed possible goals, leave behind those that don't excite you or that don't clearly benefit you or something/someone important to you. You may come back to these goals later, but for now, it's important to set priorities.
State each goal as a positive statement. Instead of, "I'm going to stop eating junk food", try "I'm going to eat one salad or vegetable-centered meal a day." A positive statement is more motivating and doesn't put the focus on past habits.
PITFALL WARNING: Make sure the goals you set are ones you personally want to achieve, not ones your family, parents, friends, or employers might want.
2. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. (More on this later.)
3. Set Goals in Writing
Committing your goals to paper makes them more real - more tangible - and the act in itself makes you feel like you've taken a giant step in the right direction. Depending on the study, research shows that people who vividly describe and picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish them or maybe it's 42% more likely. Either way, I want that advantage. Don't you?
4. Make an Action Plan
Figure out the steps you need to achieve your goal and write them out. Cross them off as you complete each step so you can easily see and track your progress.
5. Keep Goals Visible
Out of sight. Out of mind, Depending on the goal, it may be beneficial to post it on the fridge or on your bathroom mirror where you see it daily. Make sure you're reviewing all your goals weekly. Apply lessons learned to present and future goals, and know that goals aren't static. They are flexible. They grow and change just as much as you do. Regular review is key. Evaluate your progress, adjust as needed, and drop as needed. Your life changes and your goals may change too. Something that was important before may need to be put on hold or dropped to make way for more pressing matters. This is not a failure. It's better to adjust than to continue throwing away your time and energy on a goal that's no longer serving you.
6. Anticipate Roadblocks
You will hit roadblocks. Your motivation will wane. Other areas of your life will demand more time. Financial strain may pause progress longer than you would like. Life will happen. It may be helpful to anticipate potential roadblocks. Write them out and list possible solutions and workarounds. Chance favors the prepared mind. Don't focus too much on what could "go wrong", but a healthy respect for life's little surprises and a plan to face them can go a long way to helping you stick with it.
If you follow the recommendations on the list, staying the path will be easier. If you do happen to stray for a time, you needn't scrap the entire process. Review your goal again and pick up where you left off or alter your path to meet the new circumstances.
7. Celebrate Achievements
Once you achieve a goal or complete one of the more difficult steps toward achieving a goal, take time and celebrate. Enjoy and appreciate what you've accomplished. You have taken action on something that's important. The majority of people don't even set goals, and of those who do, only 20% of them are successful. You took action. You did the work, and you're taking meaningful steps toward your goals. That is worth pause, celebration, and reward.
Setting Goals & S.M.A.R.T. Goals
To increase likelihood of success, make sure you're setting S.M.A.R.T. goals:
PITFALL WARNING: Stop choosing goals you don't have control over! Set controllable goals. You can't guarantee a win, but you can guarantee a good fight.
PITFALL WARNING: Align your goals with your purpose - not with what you think you "should" want.
Let's Set Some Goals
Now that we've reviewed goal setting in depth, let's do the work.
Create an Action Plan in Two Ways
There are two different ways to create an action plan for your goals. Both options start with a beautiful brain dump. Take out a sheet of paper - or a notebook - and start writing any and all goals you can think of that you want to achieve during your lifetime. Don't worry whether they conform to the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework. This is just about getting ideas down on paper. Give yourself 5 minutes and go crazy.
Now, pick 20 goals that represent different focus areas of your life that are important to you. The example focus areas from above are career, financial, education, family, artistic, attitude, health/physical, pleasure, and public service. Now, are there any goals that can be combined into one to work together or eliminate repetition? Are there any that you really don't have control over? Or that are someone else's goals? Narrow your list down to 10 goals. Rank the remaining goals from 1-10, and keep the top 5. These are your new Star Goals! Update them to conform to the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines above. If you can't get a goal to conform, consider placing it to the side for now and choosing another goal to work toward.
For each goal, write down 3 or so motivations behind the goal. Why do you want to achieve this? Why is it important to you? When your motivation wanes or when you're reviewing and re-evaluating your goals, it's important to reference your motivation.
Download our Star Goal Sheet to help you on this process.
1. Time-Based Option
Having a time-based action plan takes care of the "T" in S.M.A.R.T. Take the five lifetime goals you've chosen and work backwards. For each goal, determine what needs to be achieved five years from now, one year from now, six months from now, one month from now, and this week. The idea is that after the end of the week, you update what needs to be completed for the following week to meet your month's goal, etc.
This is not my favorite option and not the one I recommend to people new or relatively new to this process. Trying to determine how much time each step should take and how much time you should leave for yourself is difficult. And many of our goals won't take five years or even one. Plus, humans aren't great at planning too far into the future.
Future planning is still important, and all of that should be taken into consideration. But if you're just starting or are relatively new to the process, the thought of planning something five years in the future can be overwhelming or just really difficult.
2. Task-Based Option
Action Plans born of the Time-Based and Task-Based options are very similar, but the focus during creation is different. Here we break each goal into smaller milestones. If you're stuck, think backwards from the end result or do some research. Start with larger steps ("Landings") and then take those and break them down further into bite-sized, meaningful steps.
For example, if your goal was to be a self-published book author by the end of 2020, you may break your goal into Landings such as Make an Outline, Write Book, Have Book Edited, Get Cover Art, and Upload to Self-Publishing Site. Then you'll break each landing into Steps. Your Landing "Get Cover Art" may be broken down further into (1) brainstorm cover ideas, (2) research designers, and (3) finalize design. As you work though the steps you may find you need to alter the steps, or add and delete steps. It's not vital that you have the entire process mapped out perfectly before beginning. You can work on a lower Landing and flesh out higher Landings as you learn and grow. The more you know beforehand, the fewer surprises along the way.
The more you know beforehand, the fewer surprises along the way.
You are creating goals and achieving them. This is amazing and, as you read above, more uncommon than you'd think. That's reason to celebrate. For every big Landing and definitely for every successful completion, plan what you'll do to reward yourself. Bigger Landings and larger goals mean bigger and larger rewards. Make them balanced but still rewards you value. And make sure you ACTUALLY TAKE OR DO the reward! Don't just skip it and move straight on to the next item on the list.
What's a Small-Step Goal, and How Can It Help?
Small-Step Goals are smaller, repeating goals or habits that can bring you closer to a larger goal. If you're wanting to be healthier, a Small-Step Goal may be to eat a salad every day or go to the gym three times a week. These goals can be independent or tied to a larger goal or Landing. If you're writing a book like in the example above, a Small-Step Goal may be to write 1000 words once a day. This is a fun type of goal to track because you can use a streak tracker and record how many days you did the goal without stopping. Make sure to write it down, record your motivations, and pick a reward.
Download our Small Step Goal Sheet to help you outline and track these goals.
So, let us know how it goes! What goals are you working toward?
Would you like to live a more organized life? Contact us today to get started!
I'm Jen, a professional organizer ready to help you take charge of your space, free up your time, and lead a more organized life! (Read more about me here)