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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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