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Best Practices for Goal-Setting: 6 Steps to Ensure You Keep Reaching For Your Goals

Best Practices for Goal-Setting: 6 Steps to Ensure You Keep Reaching For Your Goals

The word “goals” is being thrown around a lot lately. You’ll find thousands of pictures on Instagram with the caption “#goals,” meaning the person who posted the picture can only hope to one day be as fit, pretty, or on fleek as the person in the picture (Did I use that right? God, I’m old…)

For some reason, “goals” have recently come to mean something similar to “pipe dreams”: Aspirations which we would never actually be able to reach – and would never even try to reach in the first place.

That is absolutely not what goals should be seen as being. There’s no point in living if you’re not actively trying to better yourself. You should always be setting goals, and always working hard to reach them. It’s not easy, and it’s not meant to be. But if you put the following best practices into action, you’ll find working toward your goals is much more realistic and possible than you’d previously thought.

Set One Goal at a Time

You most likely know someone – or are someone – who always has a million things to do and feels like there’s never enough time in the day to get things done. This feeling can, understandably, be completely overwhelming. When you get overwhelmed, you become less likely to attain any of the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Stick to one goal at a time. Tell yourself you won’t switch gears until you’ve gotten to a certain point of completion (which we’ll discuss later). When you operate this way, you’ll be able to focus 100% of your energy on completing the task at hand to the best of your ability. You won’t get sidetracked by other projects and end up losing the time it takes to switch gears in order to work on something else.

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And, once you’ve attained one goal, you’ll have one less thing to think about when moving forward.

Make Your Goal Visible

Once you’ve set a goal to work toward, write it down. Write it in a journal. Write it on the whiteboard on your refrigerator. Heck, there are even companies that produce clothes for you to write your goal on.

If nothing else, writing your goal down will serve as a reminder throughout your busy day that you have an obligation to attend to before you take on anything else. A written statement will hold you accountable; you’ll feel as if you let yourself down if you don’t complete the task you said you would.

And, upon completion of the task, you can physically – and symbolically – cross the goal off your list, leaving you feeling accomplished and satisfied.

Identify Possible Hangups

If goals were easy to reach, the reward for reaching them wouldn’t be so valuable.

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There will always be roadblocks in your way when setting a new goal. You might want to lose weight, but it means you’ll have to give up ice cream. You might want to be more productive, but you need to keep your cell phone nearby in case your kids need you. You might want to go back to school, but you don’t have the time, money, or energy to do so.

These “but”s are the reason those “#goals” mentioned above are so lofty and unattainable: We often want better lives for ourselves, but aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary in order to get there.

When setting goals, you first have to determine the areas in which you’ll have to work hardest to get where you want to be. Once you have a realistic idea of the effort it will take to reach your goals, you’ll be much more likely to follow through with them.

Make a Plan

You’ve likely heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you set out to reach your goal in a haphazard manner, you’ll almost assuredly fall flat right away.

Understand that the path to reaching your goal won’t be one giant leap that will land you right where you need to be. It will be a journey full of small victories, bumps in the road, and setbacks. Your plan of action will be your map along this symbolic journey.

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Not only will you plan the small steps you’ll take along your journey, but you’ll also need to plan for when things go wrong. Because things will go wrong. You may not even be at fault when it happens, but it will be your responsibility to right the ship when you hit rough waters.

If you’ve made a plan for how to deal with every step along the way, you’ll have a much easier time navigating toward your goal.

Define Milestones

The path to your goal may be long and difficult, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be moments to celebrate along the way.

When setting up your plan, make note of any milestones you’ll aim to reach throughout your journey. These moments will tell you you’re on the right track and are making progress toward your goal.

Make these milestones definitive and measurable, just as your ultimate goal should be. For example, if you aspire to lose twenty pounds by the end of the year, you’ll want to know exactly how much weight you should be losing each week in order to reach this goal. At the end of every month, you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made – which will be cause for celebration in itself.

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The goals we most aspire to accomplish are the ones that are so far ahead of us that we have a hard time envisioning them. By keeping an eye on short-term accomplishments, you can continue to feel motivated as you get closer and closer to your main goal.

Get Moving

After setting everything up to maximize your chances of success, you still have to actually put in the work to get where you want to be.

Since you’ve streamlined the process, anticipated pitfalls, and defined the small victories you’ll celebrate along the way, you’ll face much less resistance from within as you start working toward your goals. Instead of having to worry about all sorts of extraneous and superfluous factors, you’ll be able to keep your mind on accomplishing the goal you’ve set out to reach.

Featured photo credit: Flickr/ Mountain Climbing / Logan Rowe via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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