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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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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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