October 10, 2016

How to Set Goals You Can Achieve

It may be a little late to set goals for back-to-school season, and too early to start planning New Years Resolutions, but goals are still on my mind. If you’ve read my about page, you know that I’ve set out to design a life I love, which means pruning the waste and adding the imperative. Well, I’ve been slacking on that lately. Instead of chasing my passions and hobbies, I’ve been on autopilot.

Now, it’s time to step up to the plate and start tackling these dreams! That’s why I’m going to talk about how to set goals you can achieve, and plan out my goals for the rest of October.

Setting Achievable Goals

Statistics show that 45% of Americans make New Years Resolutions. Can you guess how many succeed? 8%.

EIGHT! That’s it! I’m sorry to say that I am in no way a part of this elite group of goal slayers, but I’m certainly a part of the 45% who wish they were. So what’s the deal? Why do we keep falling short.

The answer is painfully simple – we don’t do the work. I’ve read heaps of articles about how to set and achieve goals, but I’m still stuck where I am today for one simple reason – I haven’t put in the effort. Oh, rest assured, I’m good at making excuses as to why I couldn’t do the hard work. But the point remains the same. Goals. Take. Work.

To be fair, sometimes we put way too much work ahead of us. Not that it isn’t achievable, but that amount is too much for our brains to get passed. But the bottom line is, the problem is with us. Not the goals.

Therefore, I don’t think there is a secret formula to creating the perfect goal you can achieve. The real mystery is in getting ourselves to do it in the first place. So, what I want to share is the best advice for setting smart goals that set us up for the courage we need to do the hard work and make it happen.

Motivation and Muscles

Willpower. It’s the resource we like to blame the most for our lack of success. “I have no willpower,” we say. “I don’t have enough motivation!”

I’m the supreme leader of this way of thinking. I’ve convinced myself that if I had more “willpower,” I could make myself do more things.

Science has shown that willpower is a limited resource, like the strength in a muscle. It can be built and it can be fatigued. In that case, a goal that is too “heavy” for you to lift will wear out your willpower and will get in the way of the success. There’s nothing wrong with “heavy” goals though. You just have to be strong enough to lift them.

But there is so much more to it than just willpower.

Sometimes our goals aren’t specific for us to lift them at all. It’d be like walking into a gym and saying, get healthier. With what? Where do I start? How do I use the equipment? How do I know I can even handle the equipment? So we need to make sure our goals are specific enough for us to execute.

Sometimes we lose track of where we started and how far we’ve come, and that discourages us. If you went to the gym every day and nothing seemed to be getting better, would you still want to go? No, probably not. But what if I showed you the dramatic improvement you’ve made since starting. Interested in pressing on now?

And ultimately, we need a good enough reason to begin lifting in the first place. You’re going to have to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Why am I even bothering?

So how do we pick specific goals that are attainable, specific,and  trackable? You follow the SMART formula.

SMART Goals

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Specific 

Define your who, what, when, where, and mostly importantly, WHY. Who will hold you accountable, what are you going to do, when are you going to do it, where are you going to do it, and WHY are you doing it? By laying out these details specifically, you create a plan of action you can easily execute. The more specific you are the more likely you are to accomplish (cause there’s little room for the road block uncertainty).

Knowing why you’re doing something is the most critical of these, because it propels you through the tough times when what you are doing loses its flavor. Dreaming of what comes after accomplishing your goal is probably what started you down this path to begin with. (Check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on this, and read his book to really dig into this question).

Measurable

This is the part where you make it measurable, so you can keep an eye on your progress. Answer how much, how many, or how will I know this accomplished? Remember, this step will help give you an extra boost when you start getting closer to the finish line, and remind you how far you’ve already come!

Attainable

While I’m all about reaching for the stars, reaching too far too soon can turn into a crash landing. Make sure your goal is attainable for your current situation, including physical, emotional, and financial. Of course you want to push your limits in some of these areas, but it’s more important to start with what you have and move an inch as opposed to backtracking a mile.

Also, make sure that your goal is not reliant on other people. If your goal is to get a promotion, for example, you have to rely on someone else for making that happen for you. For a goal like that, try to choose something that only you can control, but that could also result in your desired outcome. If your goal is to triple your results at work, that may very well result in the promotion your looking for.

Relevant

This one evaluates whether your goal is worthwhile to you and your needs. Does it make sense for your current situation? Does it propel your other goals forward? Do you have the time necessary to make this attainable? While some of our goals may be related to a dream of ours, sometimes the time required gets in the way of our other responsibilities and life situation.

For instance, learning a new instrument or language requires a lot of practice, time, and energy, possibly even classes. If the rest of your life, or things you value, don’t allow for that kind of time, it may be wise to set that goal aside until another time.

Timely

Deadlines drive results. Giving your goal an end-date creates urgency and sparks time management. Have a deadline in mind for your goal and mark your calendar. Count how many days you are giving yourself to accomplish it. Don’t forget to make sure this time frame is attainable though!

So whatever your goals are for the rest of 2016, try to make them SMART. Don’t wait until New Year’s to have resolutions. Choose today.

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