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How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

Perhaps you’ve been working extra hard towards a goal. You think you have the perfect plan, but you just don’t seem to be making progress. You don’t understand. Now you’re feeling a little tired, and you want to give up. Tomorrow won’t be any better, anyway.

Perhaps it’s true: you won’t succeed—just yet.

But the reason you get stuck isn’t that you don’t have the abilities to do it, or that you’re not putting in enough effort. Rather, you’re missing the point of goal-setting—you’ve made yourself the wrong goal in the first place.

To achieve what you want most, what you need is a SMART goal instead.

S-M-A-R-T is a set of 5 criteria to help you judge whether a goal is good or not. It helps you make better use of your time and energy, and achieve your goals effectively. Setting a SMART goal is the first step to success.

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When setting a new goal, or making changes to a current goal, you should ask yourself whether your goal fulfils these 5 criteria:[1][2]

S for Specific

It is important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. That way you can focus your time and energy on achieving your goal. Also, having a specific goal helps you stay away from distractions.

A simple trick to set a specific goal is to start with a verb.[3] This helps you remember exactly what you’re going to do.

M for Measurable

You want to know it when you’ve achieved your goal. You should also be able to tell how far you’ve come during the process, and how much further to go. Be specific with how much or how many about your goal.

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A for Achievable

Your goal should be possible within your abilities. Look at what skills you already have, and compare them to the skills needed to achieve your goal. If there’s a skill you don’t have yet, find out whether you’ll be able to learn it.

Make a plan of the exact things you’ll have to do for your goal, and make adjustments where you have to.

R for Realistic

Research into the facts and figures relevant to your goal. Then think about the resources available to you, such as your budget, time frame, the help you can get, etc. Ask yourself if your goal makes sense in your situation.

Also, be realistic about the effort you’re willing to put in. You may want to see if it’s a worthwhile goal to pursue in itself, or how it will fit in with your other goals.

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T for Time-bound

Think about when you want to achieve your goal. Setting a time limit adds to your motivation. Also, work out a timeline to keep track of your progress.

Keep in mind the total time you have while deciding the daily or weekly target. It will be a constant reminder to keep you going when you’re tempted to slack off.

Adapting SMART goal is a bit tricky, try to start by learning from different examples.

Here’re some examples of how you can can use the SMART formula to set goals and make them achievable.

Goal Example 1: I want to be more productive at work.

My problem: By the end of my work day, I always have lots of pending works still and have to work over time a lot. I figured that I spent too much time on the first few tasks, leaving no more time for the rest of the works.

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  • Specific: Finishing all the tasks planned for the day requires tasks prioritization as well as effort and time estimation. Prioritization, and time and effort estimation for tasks are my weaknesses. In 30 days, I will prioritize tasks efficiently and accurately estimate each task’s time and effort and do as planned.
  • Measurable: By the 30th day, I should be able to have my task list well-prioritized, with the time correctly estimated for at least 90% of the tasks. And I will be able to follow the estimated time and complete all the planned tasks on the list.
  • Achievable: I will set aside 10 minutes every day to organize and prioritize the tasks I should do the next day. I will also set aside another 5 to 10 minutes to review whether my estimation of time and effort is correct, and whether I can follow my plan in completing tasks.
  • Realistic: Setting aside around 20 minutes in total each day to plan for the 7 to 8 hours of tasks is realistic and beneficial to my work efficiency.
  • Time-Bound: In 30 days, I should be good at prioritizing and completing tasks according to my plan, ensuring my tasks will be done on time without extra working time.

Goal Example 2: I want to start to read more books.

My problem: I often struggle to find the right words to express my ideas in my assignments. I also have trouble with my grammar, and make lots of mistakes when I write.

  • Specific: I want to read more books so I can learn more vocabulary and sentence structures to use in my writing. In this semester, I will read books, take notes of new vocabulary and sentence structures, and revise them.
  • Measurable: By the end of this semester, I should be able to score at least 8 out of 10 in the ‘grammar and style’ component of my essays.
  • Achievable: I will finish reading 2 books of at least 300 pages each. I will read 15 pages each day, 5 days a week; and revise my reading notes for 45 minutes on each of the remaining 2 days of the week.
  • Realistic: Reading 15 pages each day is manageable. Also, reading consistently is an effective way for me to learn writing skills.
  • Time-Bound: I want to see improvement in grades from 6 to 8 (out of 10) by the end of this semester, which is 92 days in total.

Goal Example 3: I want to wake up earlier.

My problem: I am always 5 minutes late to work because I snooze my alarm too many times in the morning and don’t have enough time to get ready.

  • Specific: I currently set my alarm at 7am, but I wake up at 7:30am. I have to leave for work at 7:45am the latest, and I need 45 minutes to get ready. So my goal is to wake up at 7am.
  • Measurable: In 1 month, I should be able to get out of bed without pressing snooze. My first target is to press snooze only once within the first week.
  • Achievable: I can train myself to wake up earlier by putting my alarm further away from my bed, so I’m forced to get up. Also, I can set my favorite song as my alarm ringtone so I don’t feel annoyed by the default sound early in the morning.
  • Realistic: I usually go to bed by midnight. Waking up at 7am means I can get 7 hours’ sleep, which is enough for me. So waking up at 7am is a realistic goal.
  • Time-Bound: I will get up at 7am sharp and stop pressing snooze in 1 month.

Goal Example 4: I want to eat healthier.

My problem: I am overweight. I know what I should and shouldn’t eat, but I lack the motivation to make the right choices.

  • Specific: In order to practice making healthy decisions, in the next 3 months, I will make plans before meal times come around.
  • Measurable: I want to lose 5 kg in order to get back into the healthy weight range within 3 months. I will eat healthy meals for 6 days a week, an indulge in a nice dinner on Sunday.
  • Achievable: I can spend an hour on Sundays to plan my meals for the week. I can look online to see what restaurants near my office serve healthy options. I can also cook my own meals at weekends.
  • Realistic: I have the knowledge to make healthy choices, and the ability to cook myself healthy meals. Also, allowing myself 1 ‘cheat meal’ per week makes my goal manageable.
  • Time-Bound: I will make healthy food choices over the next 3 months, and build momentum for the future.

Goal Example 5: I want to spend more time with my family.

My problem: I don’t see my wife and son enough since I always let work take up my leisure time even when I’m at home.

  • Specific: I will spend more time to chat with my family every day and do fun activities with them at weekends.
  • Measurable: In the coming month, I will spend time with my family without thinking about work when I get home. I will spend an hour after dinner to chat with my wife and son every day, and go out with them on either Saturday or Sunday.
  • Achievable: I can switch off the email notifications on my phone when I’m with my family. I can also take some time to discuss with my family what activities to do at weekends when we have dinner.
  • Realistic: My job doesn’t require me to stand by outside of office hours. So having work-free time with my family shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Time-Bound: I will spend weekends with my family and pay my full attention on them when we’re together for the upcoming month, and make it a habit.

Break down big goals and take small steps, and you’ll achieve them eventually.

If you’re looking for some motivation on achieving big goals, watch this cool doodle video about breaking big goals down and taking small steps to reach the goals:

Reference

[1] Project Smart: SMART Goals
[2] Mind Tools: SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable
[3] OnStrategy: How to Set SMART Goals

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Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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