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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
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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

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Wen Shan

    Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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    1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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