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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Set Realistic Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

How to Set Realistic Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life, as hope leads to a sense of expectancy. Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being happier and more successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are “short,” meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes or a day, or as long as a week, or even 12 months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind and can be further connected to long-term goals.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire” is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals—that is, goals that do not inspire them.[1]

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

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Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

Here are some short term goal examples related to your career goals to give you an idea of where to start[2]:

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Personal Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across every area of your life. Here are just some of the benefits of great goal setting:

  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity.
  • Improve your energy in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement.

4 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but how do you set short-term goals that are genuinely achievable?

Complete the following steps, and you will start achieving your dreams:

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example, what are your best hopes for your finances/relationship/career/health?

This process involves “chunking up” your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you, but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

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Noticing helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more real your preferred future becomes.

To complete this step, you may want to utilize some visualization techniques as you seek to create your short-term goals.

Step 3: Answer the Question “What Else?”

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive and protective of it, but if we dig and resurface the truth, then a weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Define your “why” in order to discover what else you may be searching for in life.

Step 4: Think About Who Will Notice the Difference

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. By imagining the change they’ll notice, you can add another perspective to your vision.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving these short-term goals.

Once you’ve completed these four steps, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: Activate Your Motivation. It was designed to help you find the boost you need to act on your short and long-term goals.

How to Track Your Short-Term Goals

When you set short-term goals, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[3]

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 pounds by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

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Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another, such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart, either in your diary or somewhere visible, and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set well-formed short-term goals.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself moving towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

For example, sharing that you hope to get out of credit card debt in the next six months or move toward a specific career path by taking some courses next month will increase your motivation and help you feel more dedicated to those short-term objectives since you don’t want to let anyone down.

You’ll also be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing the confidence, motivation, and positive changes you need to succeed.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change and the movement toward your short-term goals.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization, and then step into your day.

5. Establish Triggers for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941), legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit[4]:

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning makes it repeatable and easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

To do this list, create a trigger point—the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your “cab” as you work toward your short-term goals?

6. Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins, CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for “frequently talking about the future.”

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continues fueling not only your desire, but also the expectation of achieving your short-term goals.

7. Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with hope, you activate a sense of expectancy—a belief that what you want is not only possible but within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re moving forward with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When moving away from something you perceive as painful, you’re activating fear, which can also be a strong motivator to help you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Summing It up

Change is possible, and short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by passionate desire so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goal Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Barbara Grace

Barbara Grace is the Director of the School of Modern Psychology. She believes in living a purposeful life.

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Last Updated on May 12, 2021

How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals

How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals

Creating a personal strategic plan is necessary to achieve your goals. Most companies do that, but for some reason, some talented, motivated individuals don’t. It makes no sense and yet, people broadly think about their goals but don’t create a personal strategy to achieve them.

In this article, I’m going to address that as it is one of the most critical single tasks you can do to change the course of your life.

Defining Your Personal Strategic Plan

Let’s start with the perfect example of John (pseudonym). As a child, he played football, baseball, and basketball, but he wasn’t great at any of them.At the age of 15, he tried to join the basketball team and failed. He was too short and managed to get in to carry the uniform of the star player. The story continues as he continued to practice hard, waking up at 6 am each day, and after a year finally making it to the basketball team that lost the first three tournaments.

He continued practicing even harder and eventually became perhaps the most influential basketball player of all time—Michael Jordan.

You might argue that it is definitely a combination of raw talent and hard work for athletes. Still, no one can say that without practice and working hard for years on the same goal, this hard-working individual would have never achieved his achievements.

This is why it is crucial to define your strategy and then pursue it. It cannot guarantee that you’ll become a world-class athlete, but it can guarantee that you’ll have the best chances of getting to your goals with your unique set of capabilities.

We’re going to provide you with research-based proven methods of preparing your personal strategic plan.

What Is a Personal Strategic Plan?

According to an article in the Journal of Management Research, “effective personal strategy means being able to think in multiple time frames, clarifying what one is trying to achieve over time as well as what needs to be done in the short term to get there.”[1] In other words, it means setting a vision and a plan to execute it.

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A growth mindset is essential when preparing a personal strategic plan. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be ambitious enough—and if you’re here thinking about your long term goals, it means that you likely already have a growth mindset.

According to an essay in Harvard Business Review, “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”[2]

The main trait that is associated with success is planning. It is sometimes more important than talent.[3]

There are many methods for building your personal strategy, and I’m going to cover some of them. They all share an understanding of a high-level vision, a sense of your values, and practical steps on how to get there.

Horizons of Focus

David Allen is one of the leading time management specialists globally with his famous book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. One aspect of time management is the understanding of what you need to get done in a personal strategic plan.

His method includes the following horizons:

Horizon 5: Purpose and Principles

This is where you set your vision for life. Of course, this is a big thing that requires you to think about what you would be happy with accomplishing decades from now. Sub-questions are which jobs, lines of industry, impact, and legacy are you interested in.

An excellent method to examine that is by using the “five whys” process. In this simple method, you should ask yourself “why” to help you understand the real reasons for choosing your vision.

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For example, if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you can ask yourself why that is. If the “why” is to make an impact, you can ask yourself additional questions, such as whether this is the best way to do that.

If you decide that it is, you might wonder why you want to create an impact. Perhaps it is because there is something you deeply care about.

Your vision shouldn’t be only on professional goals; it should be on every life goal you care about. A bad example would be: “To be the most successful entrepreneur ever.” It is not unique and does not address your inner wants and needs. A good one would be specific, non-generic for you and your personal goals.

By choosing a long-term goal specific for you, you can continue to the next step of figuring out how what the next few years will look like.

The second part of this horizon is principles. By choosing your principles, you can re-examine your choices and see if they amount to your expectation from yourself.

Horizon 4: Three- to Five-Year Vision

Now that you have clearly defined your goal in life as part of your personal strategic plan, you can plan the next few years. Every ambitious goal takes time to accomplish. You should plan how to get there and understand that flexibility is vital during these times, as there are a lot of changes going on.

This is when you decide on specific goals, such as a career path. If you aim to be a writer, and your goal is to become a columnist in the New York Times, what would get you there? If your dream is to start a successful startup, what can you do to learn the right things to qualify you as a leading entrepreneur?

When considering the next specific moves you should take, it is always recommended to find a mentor to consult with. This is someone you look up to and picture their life as one that you would like to have. They are usually at least 10-15 years older and successful in achieving their goals.

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What would be the next step to get you to your vision? This is not an easy question to answer, but broadly speaking, you should envision a road that can’t be 100% clear sometimes and still takes you in the right direction.

Horizon 3: One- to Two-Year Goals and Objectives

What objectives will the next year hold?

Let’s say that you chose a specific career path. Now, you should focus on the main criteria and key performance indicators that would help you get there. That may seem far from your vision, but visions are, by nature, a bit far out.

If you decided that you want to be a successful entrepreneur in five years to impact climate change positively, but you still don’t feel that you have the knowledge to do that, a first step might be working for a startup that’s doing that.

When you take a look at the first year of working for that startup, it might be a good idea to understand your job requirements and prepare to be excellent doing them. By doing that, you’re on the right path to your dream.

Horizon 2: Areas of Focus and Accountability

After learning what you need in order to plan the next few years, we’re now getting to the important daily stuff. What are the primary few things that are important for your success in achieving your goal?

This is the part when you understand your day to day responsibilities and excel at making them. Making a daily to-do list may be helpful at this stage. This is one way to hold yourself accountable when you decide on the daily steps you’ll need to take to carry out your personal strategic plan.

This is also the horizon that will help you avoid procrastination, as you’ll have a clear idea of what to do and when. If you fall into a rut of procrastination, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

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Horizon 1: Projects

These are the open loops of your goals that need to be achieved. One example can be editing that company movie. Another might be finishing that report. It can also be personal things, such as organizing the birthday party for your brother.

You have tons of these, and every once in a while, it is suggested to ensure that they align with the higher-level goals you have.

After you add everything to your calendar, the last step is to actually get it done. You can use tons of project management systems, such as Monday, Asana, Notion, and others. In Notion, they actually have a prepared template for this suggested method.

Additional Methods

The above method is just one out of many for developing your personal strategic plan.

Another one is called V2MOM, invented by Salesforce’s founder[4]. The idea is to ask yourself five questions—some of them were also asked above—which would help you clarify your vision and get it.

The five questions are:

  • Vision: What do you want to achieve?
  • Values: What’s important to you?
  • Methods: How do you get it?
  • Obstacles: What is preventing you from being successful?
  • Measures: How do you know you have it?

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, knowing where you want to go and preparing for it has a huge impact on your success in life. That may seem obvious, but some ambitious people don’t manage their lives in a way that helps them position themselves in the best way possible to succeed. Spend a few hours thinking and coming up with a personal strategic plan to put yourself on the right path today.

More About Goal Planning Strategies

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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