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How To Set The Right Direction For You Life And Do What You Want Most

How To Set The Right Direction For You Life And Do What You Want Most

You’ve heard this so many times. In inspirational quotes and In self-help books that “goal setting is the first step to success”. Even your favorite vlogger on YouTube talks about it. It’s everywhere. You don’t doubt it’s true, and you want to finally set a goal and get your life sorted out. But there’s a tiny problem here: you have no idea how to do it.

Let’s take a look at what goal setting means:

Goal setting is the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing measurable [expectations] and timeframes.[1]

What’s most important about setting a goal is achieving it. It should be a plan of action to get to somewhere you want to be. Which is to say, not only do you have to know what you want, but also consider the time and effort you will have to invest in your goal.

Having the right goal is important to being successful in life. But perhaps “successful” sounds a little vague. Here are several benefits of goal setting explained.

By setting goals, you get a clear life direction and get closer to what you want.

A goal is like a destination you want to reach. It tells you which direction to go, so you don’t get lost or run around in circles. Goals are a necessary tool of life planning.

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Your true potentials will be unlocked.

Not only does progress motivate you to keep going, but also makes you start believing in yourself more. You’ll know more about your abilities, and discover your unknown potentials. You’ll see yourself achieve what you didn’t think you could.

You’ll learn that your life is the totality of the choices you make along the way. With each step you take towards you goal, you’re writing a new page in your big book of life.[2]

You will be able to focus on what matters, and not be distracted by what doesn’t.

Knowing which direction to go makes all the difference. A clear goal tells you to avoid wasting time on the sidetracks. It helps you better manage the limited time and energy you have.

Goals guide you in the long run and motivate you in the short run.

A goal sets you on track in the long run., helping you to lead a meaningful life. Setting a goal requires you to think about yourself, and helps you realize what you truly want in life. Goal setting is personal, it is your choice. You have the power to control your own life, and you are free to give whatever meaning to it, whatever you want. Knowing you are in control makes you happier.[3]

In the short run, it helps you decide what steps to take towards it. Taking the right steps brings you improvement, as well as the sense of achievement you need to stay motivated.

Now that you know how how awesome it is to set goals, it’s time to learn the basics.

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There’re some basic rules to follow if you want to set the right goal.

Here’re the 3 rules of goal setting:[4]

    1. Know your priorities

    Your goals should be about what the most important things to you. Ask yourself: among all the things I could do in life, what do I care about most? What are the high priorities? Then, decide on just a small number of things to work on (one at a time, if you prefer). Having goals that matter to you is the key to staying motivated day in and day out. You’re pushed to actually achieve it, because you’re doing it not for anyone else, but for yourself.

    Again, focusing your time and energy on just a few things—the important ones—makes you more likely to achieve your goals. Distractions are never helpful and will only drain you.

    2. Set SMART goals

    A helpful tool to evaluate your goal is to see if it fulfils the SMART criteria:[5]

    • Specific — A clear and specific idea of what you want to achieve. A simple trick to set a goal is to start with a verb.
    • Measurable — Be specific with how much or how many about your goal.
    • Achievable — Look at the skills you have or you lack. Make a plan of the exact things you’ll have to do to reach your goal.
    • Realistic — Think about the resources available to you and be realistic about the effort you’re willing to put it.
    • Time-bound — Set a time limit to keep you motivated. It can be a daily, weekly, or monthly target.

    These 5 letters help you set the right goal for your situation, and help you achieve it effectively.

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    3. Make an action plan of baby steps

    You can never underestimate the importance of motivation, especially if you have a big goal or a long term goal. Things can look intimidating in the beginning, and you may be too scared to start working towards your goal. This is why you need an action plan to motivate you.

    First, you want to work out all the steps you have to take in order to reach your goal. Next, you have to break down each step into smaller actions that are manageable to you. This makes it easier for you to accomplish your goal, and lets you know how much progress you’re making — progress is motivation.

    For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks, you can list out the concrete steps you have to take in the coming semester:

    • eat only vegetables and white meat
    • hit the gym every other day for an hour
    • go running every morning for an hour

    Then, break down each item into smaller tasks:

    • eat only vegetables and white meat: have my meal plan and meals ready over the weekend, choose salads over burgers when dinning out etc.
    • …and so on

    Learn from these examples and put the rules to practice.

    Over the years, you may have to set goals for different aspects of your life. Here are some examples showing you how to make them good.

    Example i) Career: I want to improve my time management at work.

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    • Specific: I want to keep up with the daily schedule and meet deadlines. I should make a to-do list every day, and tick everything off by the end of the work day.
    • Measurable: I want to be able to leave work on time every day.
    • Achievable: I can learn to prioritize my tasks and estimate the time needed for each task.
    • Realistic: Taking 10 minutes in the morning to plan my workday is reasonable. It will remind me to keep up with progress during the day.
    • Time-bound: I want to achieve this within 1 month.
    • Action Plan: Take 10 minutes every day to make a to-do list, learn productivity tips from online articles, review progress and planning strategy every week.

    Example ii) Finances: I want to spend less on unnecessary items and start saving more money.

    • Specific: I’ve been spending nearly all of my salary each month. I want to save up US$3000 to travel to Europe.
    • Measurable: I will save 20% of my salary each month.
    • Achievable: I can write a grocery list before I go shopping. I can also draw up a budget plan for my weekly expenses, so I have a good idea of how much money I can spend on different things.
    • Realistic: Planning ahead helps me resist the temptations when I go to the shops. Saving 20% per month is not that hard, since I’ve been buying so many things I don’t need.
    • Time-bound: I will reach my goal of US$3000 in 10 months.
    • Action Plan: Compare grocery prices online, write shopping lists, eat out less often and cook for myself more.

    Example iii) Family: I want to spend more time with my family.

    • Specific: I will chat with my family more often, and spend weekends with them instead of at the office.
    • Measurable: I will have dinner at home and chat with my family on weekdays, and go out with them at least once a week.
    • Achievable: I can leave work on time instead of working overtime, so I can arrive home by dinnertime. Also, my office hours actually don’t include weekends, so I can stay with my family at weekends.
    • Realistic: I am able to finish work on time. I just have to work more efficiently.
    • Time-bound: I will keep doing this for at least a year, starting next week.
    • Action Plan: Plan family weekend activities before hand.

    Example iv) Hobbies: I want to take up playing the piano again.

    • Specific: I want to learn to play the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
    • Measurable: I will practice for 90 minutes each day, 5 days a week.
    • Achievable: I took piano lessons when I was young and was pretty good at playing classical music. This piece should be manageable to me.
    • Realistic: I work on weekdays from 9 to 5. I have enough free time to fit in the practice sessions.
    • Time-bound: I want to be able to play the sonata smoothly within 1 month.
    • Action Plan: Break down the music and practice in small chunks, focus on sections where I struggle, watch YouTube videos to learn different interpretations.

    Example v) Self-improvement: I want to be a better listener.

    • Specific: I want to listen to my family and friends when they talk to me instead of just focusing on my own thoughts.
    • Measurable: I can see if I’m able to recall what they have said to me after chatting with them.
    • Achievable: I can pay attention to what people have to say before I give my own opinions when I chat with them. I can learn to be patient.
    • Realistic: My family and friends matter to me, so I should pay more attention to them. Also, listening to them when they talk shows that I care.
    • Time-bound: I will practice listening in the coming 3 weeks.
    • Action Plan: Read online about communication and listening skills, have the word “listen” written on my palm to remind me to listen when chatting with family and friends.

    Example vi) Health and Fitness: I want to eat more fruits.

    • Specific (and Measurable): My goal is to eat 2 servings of fruit every day.
    • Achievable: I can buy my favorite fruits in bulk and take 2 pieces to work with me every day. At weekends, I can go to the market and see what’s in season.
    • Realistic: Incorporating more fruit into my diet isn’t difficult. Also, getting enough micronutrients is essential to my health.
    • Time-bound: I want to stick to my goal for at least 3 months, so that it becomes a habit.
    • Action Plan: Write down fruits at the top of my grocery list, try new varieties of fruit.

    Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Wen Shan

    Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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    Last Updated on October 17, 2018

    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

    How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

    If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

    Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

    So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

    1. Meditate

    We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

    Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

    Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

    Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

    Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

    If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

    And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

    2. Get plenty of sleep

    If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

    If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

    How much sleep should you be getting?

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    Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

    Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

    Yes, there are.

    Try these three things:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

    3. Challenge your brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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    4. Take more breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

    However, I was wrong.

    Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Let me explain.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

    What’s the answer?

    Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

    5. Learn a new skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

    6. Start working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

    Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

    Not a problem.

    A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat healthier foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – improves memory
    • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
    • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Final thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

    You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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