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Last Updated on December 6, 2020

Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

It’s very easy to go through life without ever having worthwhile future goals. It is very easy to avoid the challenge of setting goals and being accountable for achieving them.But if you don’t set realistic goals, your life will drift and lack any meaningful purpose. The worst thing that could happen to you is to reach your final days, look back at your life, and wonder how you screwed up the amazing opportunity you had to build an incredibly rewarding life.In this article, we’ll look into the reasons why you should start setting future goals, and how to set ones that will help you lead a fulfilling life.

Why You Need to Set Future Goals

The Source of Happiness

Having meaningful goals gives your life a purpose. It gives you a reason to wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and live life with a direction.Goals give you energy, vitality, and something to aim for each day. Ultimately, your happiness will be enhanced when you begin to see you are making progress on your goals, and as each day passes and you move that little bit closer to achieving what you set out to achieve, you gain more focus and energy to push that little bit more.

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A Roadmap to Travel With

But having specific goals is more than that. Goals give you a roadmap to travel with during the goal setting process.Your professional goals could be related to your career[1]. Imagine you want to one day start your own business. An idea such as starting your own business begins as an image in your mind.As you think more about your idea, you start to visualize what it would be like to be running your own business. No boss breathing down your neck watching what you are doing, no annoying colleagues interrupting you with their problems and complaining about how much work they have to do. Having the freedom to make your own decisions about what you will do and when.As you visualize your idea, you begin to ask yourself: how? How will I start my own business? What do I have to do to start? These questions are the beginnings of a plan, and a goal is simply a plan for the future.It does not have to be as professional as starting your own business. It could be wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro before your fiftieth birthday. Once again, it begins with an idea; you may have seen a documentary about Mount Kilimanjaro, or a friend did it a few years ago and tells you it was one of the best experiences she had ever had in her life.Wherever the inspiration comes from, you begin to visualize yourself climbing to the top, exhausted but exhilarated after having achieved something only a very few people manage to do in their lifetimes because you were able to stay on track.Once again the question “how” jumps into your mind, and once again the beginnings of a plan forms, which creates another future goal.

A Clear Intention to Live

When you think about it, our whole lives are centered around short and long term goals. Getting up for work on a cold, wet Monday morning requires the goal of getting out of bed at a specific time. Not a pleasant goal for many, but it’s a goal nonetheless. Getting home in time for dinner with your family is a goal.Pretty much everything we want to do and achieve in our lives requires an intent to achieve something. That is what goals are: an intention to do something by a specific time.

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How to Begin Developing Future Goals

1. Start With Your Vision

Begin with a vision of what you want to achieve. Whether it is a professional or personal goal, you need to have a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve.You can get a little help from this article: The Best Way to Create a Vision For the Life You WantTake some time to really see what the end result will be like. Close your eyes and see yourself achieving your goal.If you want to build a secure financial future for yourself and your family, what will that look like? Will that be cash in the bank or a portfolio of investments?If you want to take a holiday of a lifetime with your closest friends this summer, where will you go? What will you do? Imagine yourself already achieving your goal and how it will feel.Feel those emotions in your imagination. Feel the smile on your face, the laughter, the joy, and the excitement as you board the plane.

2. Ask the Right Questions

The best question to ask is: What do I have to do to…? This is an incredibly powerful question because it opens up your mind to the possibility of achieving your future goal. The way this question is phrased means you are only considering ways to achieve, not ways you cannot achieve.The wrong question to ask is “How can I achieve this goal?” That question often elicits the tempting answer “You can’t.” What you want to be doing is opening your mind up to possibilities and the actions you will have to take to make it happen.Now the “What do I have to do?” question often brings up actions you may at first feel are impossible, so you ask the question again.For example, let’s say you want to build a secure future for you and your family, and your initial answer comes up with a figure of USD$1 million. Now, if you are earning USD$50,000 a year, that means you will have to work at least forty years, saving half your salary each month.Honestly, that is not going to be easy, and for forty years, probably impossible. So you will need to ask the question again. “What do I have to do to have USD1 Million in savings by the time I retire?”The answers you come up with from asking this question again will take you closer towards building your goal into achievable steps.

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3. Look at Your Daily Habits

Our daily habits and behaviors are the driving force behind the results and future goals we achieve in our lives.If you smoke twenty cigarettes every day, drink several glasses of wine each evening, and go to bed slightly drunk, over time, this will have a profoundly negative effect on your health. If it does not send you to an early grave, you are almost certainly going to experience difficulties with your health at some point.Couple that with eating unhealthily and being excessively overweight, and you are going to become a burden on your family and friends later in life.Because our daily habits and behaviors have such a large impact on the results we achieve in our lives, you should take some time to analyze yours.Identify the ones that give you negative results. Unhealthy eating, excessive drinking, smoking, complaining, and gossiping are common ones, but others such as waking up at the last possible moment, going to bed late, and spending all night playing computer games are a few others that, over time, will result in negative outcomes in your life.If you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro before you turn fifty, then get yourself out in the evening and exercise. Turn it into a habit. Spend thirty minutes every morning reading about and researching Mount Kilimanjaro instead of checking your email, Facebook, or Instagram feed. Use your time in more positive ways.This guide can give you some nice advice on how to quit bad habits: How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

4. Set a Date

If your future goals do not have a timeline and an end date, you will find excuses to put off what you need to do to make it happen.You can, of course, adjust your deadline if you find you were a little too ambitious with your initial enthusiasm, but you do need a deadline.If your goal is to have USD$1 Million by the time you retire, your goal needs to be based on what you need to have saved by the end of the year. For most of us, retirement may be quite a few years away, but by beginning now, you will give yourself enough time to build up your savings and investments.Likewise, if your goal is to run a full course marathon before you turn forty, then depending on how old you are today, you may want to set attainable goals for running a 5KM, 10KM and half-marathon each year before you run the big one.Setting dates and deadlines gives you the sense of urgency you need to make progress. You do not have to achieve the “big goal” in the first year, but you do need to have an annual goal that is taking you a little closer each day, month, and year toward the big, future goal.

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5. Visualize and Review Regularly

Whatever your future goals are, you should have some form of vision board to keep you reminded of your final destination.Whether that is having a secure financial future, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or running a full course marathon, having some form of vision board—either digital in the form of a photo album in your digital photo storage, a board on Pinterest, or a physical board with photographs and clippings of what you want to do—will help keep you motivated when you feel “not in the mood.”It will give you something visual to help you review your progress and adjust deadlines if necessary.

Final Thoughts

We are all different, and we all want different things in our lives. Many of us want to build a successful business, while others want to develop a successful career in medicine or law.Whatever it is you want out of life, it is up to you to create it. You have the good fortune to be able to decide, act, and achieve, and it all starts with an idea and a vision, and a few questions to offer a plan and a destination to travel towards.You do not want to end your days full of regret and disappointment. You want to end your days knowing you lived an extraordinary life on your terms and accomplished your goals.

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More Tips on Setting Future Goals

Featured photo credit: Kalen Emsley via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on June 16, 2021

What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

If you are making slow progress on a goal you’ve set, maybe it is the wrong goal in the first place. Perhaps factors, including your attitude or environment, do not allow you to make your desired progress. However, it is easy to blame timing and luck; if you set a goal, you and only you are accountable for achieving it (read the achieve my goals guide). The question is, how?

Start With Why

On my career path, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and learn things practically. After a successful corporate career, I spent two years trying to establish an entrepreneurial consultancy, only to realize marginal success.

The consultancy formed based on my core values, candor, curiosity, and collaboration, but unfortunately, my customer base and projects were seemingly random and disjointed. While I understood I needed to establish a consistent and repeatable approach to content marketing to drive my clients’ results, that approach was not apparent in the brand I had built. Things got so rough that I had to resort to collecting unemployment at the onset of the pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I delivered a webinar called earning trust in uncertain times: coronavirus edition. Afterward, I received an email from a participant. He shared some thoughts on a campaign for his jewelry company and asked for feedback. When I read his email, I realized I could quickly help him to gain clarity, so I sent him a note with an offer to get his message on track. He offered to pay me for my time, and I said to myself,

“I am adding value, and I can charge for this!”

This first client needed to shift my offerings from general marketing consulting to a more diversified career that focuses on personal brand building.

It took a global pandemic to realize I needed to shift my goals to align with the change I was trying to make in the world, to a new business, coaching that applies my skills in an authentic way to me and valuable to prospects and customers.

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Start With Your Identity

James Clear discusses identity-based habits as deeply rooted in a person’s outlook toward life.[1] As a businessperson, identity-based practices are what impact business goals and your approaches towards achieving them. Identity is what you believe in, and outcomes determine what you seek to achieve. A permanent change comes from transforming the who part of behavior—the character.

Whether it is a coaching program I develop, a class I teach, or a marketing campaign I create, I always start identity. According to The Brookings Institute:[2]

Identity is a unique, inherited collection of assets, history, traits, and culture that distinguishes it internally and externally and can unite people and places.

But this logic also applies to personal goals. If losing weight is your goal, your focus is on an outcome rather than an identity-based plan, and you may lose motivation. Think, “Why am I trying to lose weight?”

  • Is it to be more healthy?
  • Did you get some lousy test results at the doctor?
  • Are you at risk of severe health problems?

It may help reframe your goal around a positive statement like, I am working to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Motivation has to come from a place of confidence and belief in yourself. You know what they say about the air mask on the airplane – put it on yourself first.

It is ok to set goals for others; for example, “I am losing weight so I can live for my kids;” however, if you don’t set goals around themes that you can own, and you don’t do it for yourself first, then the people in your life will not receive any benefit.

Think about what you achieve from your efforts — the outcomes. The reality that you are looking at right now must also allude to the fact you promise to create for your clientele, and that is not possible unless you believe in it and make it believable for others.

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Be Specific About What, How, and When

Your values need to align with other people and systems to engage in meeting your desired outcome, so make sure to put in place a process that accounts for what motivates you, that you can reliably complete until you achieve your goal.

If you are not specific and clear about how many pounds you are trying to lose and when you will lose then, then how will you know if you met your goal in the first place?

BJ FOGG, the author of Tiny Habits, suggests that you start small. In the Tiny Habits method, you always start with a tiny behavior. Some examples:

  • Floss one tooth
  • Read one sentence in a book.
  • Take one deep breath.

According to Fogg, an excellent tiny behavior has these qualities:

  • takes less than 30 seconds (even better: just 5 seconds)
  • requires no real effort
  • doesn’t create pain or destructive emotions

Make sure it’s a habit you want to have in your life. Don’t pick something that’s a “should,” choose new behaviors you wish to.

The next thing to learn is where to place the further tiny action in your life. Just like planting a seed, you want the right spot for it, a place where it fits naturally and where it can thrive.

Be flexible and adaptable. We are in a complicated and volatile world, and things change on a dime, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to change how you go about achieving your goal or even what goals you are trying to accomplish first place.

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Be aware of bias. As you set out to achieve your goals, it is critical to be aware of the bias that can sneak in and sabotage your thinking. Yes, it is essential to collaborate with others to achieve your goals, but you need to understand yourself and make sure you are not getting in your way before doing that. Here are some common forms of bias.

  • Confirmation bias: People tend to listen more often to information that confirms the beliefs they already have.
  • Selection bias: Selecting individuals, groups that do not provide diverse perspectives for you to consider.
  • Self-serving bias: People tend to give themselves credit for successes but blame failures on external causes.

What about serendipity? Many of us believe that the great turning points and opportunities in our lives happen by chance, that they’re out of our control.

Dr. Christian Busch, author of The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck, spent a decade exploring how, if acted upon, unexpected encounters can expand our random social encounters can enhance our worldview, expand our social circles, and create new professional opportunities.

Serendipity is usually about connecting dots that have previously remained elusive. Busch’s findings suggest that Good luck isn’t just chance—it can be learned and leveraged. When you are perceptive, curious, open-minded, and eager to see opportunities, others might see only negatively. If you notice something unusual but can connect that bit of information with something else, you are in the right mindset for achieving serendipity.

Motivation and a Realistic Plan

Only you can choose the goals you set. Motivation is critical in meeting your goals. But choosing goals is not enough; you need to select the right goals and define a plan that keeps you accountable for meeting your goals.

Author Gabriele Oettingen defined a methodology you can use to get better at achieving your hopes and dreams. It’s called WOOMP![3]

WOOP stands for:

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  • W = Wish
  • O = Outcome
  • O = Obstacle
  • P = Plan

WOOMP, there it is! WOOMP will force you to be hyper-realistic about your goals and be action-minded in your approach to achieving them.

Show up Consistently

In order to turn your vision into reality, you will have to regularly show up by consistently organizing, leading, and building to get to your goals.

“Some people show up when they need something. Some people show up before they need something, knowing that it will pay off later when they need something. And some people merely show up. Not needing anything, not in anticipation of needing something, but merely because they can.” — Seth Godin

Final Thoughts

While I would be happy to be your trusted advisor and coach, the answer has to start with you. My process will help you to define and document an ownable set of values and marketing frameworks that will make you more appealing to clients/ employers, especially on LinkedIn. These values will translate beyond work, as well.

More on Making Progress

Featured photo credit: Aj Alao via unsplash.com

Reference

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