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Last Updated on December 6, 2020

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

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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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Published on September 16, 2021

What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

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What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

Ready. Set. Go. For years, this was my three-step mindset when it came to goals. I would reach for the moon and hope to land among the stars without feeling the pain of the fall. This approach was all or nothing, and as a result, I experienced loads of burnout and almost zero productivity. In short, my task list was filled with high-level intentions, but I hadn’t taken the time to create a map to reach the destinations. I was lost in the planning stages because I didn’t understand process goals or have any examples to follow.

Since then, I’ve learned how to embrace the journey and break my outcome goals into smaller and more manageable process goals. This approach has improved my focus and reduced frustration because I’m now working towards a surefire strategy that will take me where I want to go––I’m creating a plan of action with achievable daily targets (a process goal).

What Is a Process Goal?

A process goal is not a destination, it’s the path you plan on taking to get there. For example, if you want to become better at writing, your process goal would be to post one blog article per week and learn from the feedback you receive. The destination is a monthly goal of 12 articles.

This distinction is important because it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these types of goals are not all or nothing. Think about it. You’ve heard it said: it’s not about working hard but working smart.

Well, a process goal is an actionable target with what we call SMART criteria:

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  • Specific – The more detailed your goal, the better. For example, instead of “I want to be fit,” you would say, “I want to lose five pounds.” Make sure your goal is crystal clear.
  • Measurable – You need a way to measure progress and success, so it needs to be quantifiable. This is where you decide what “fit” actually means for you (more on this later).
  • Achievable – If your goal isn’t challenging, then it’s not going to be motivating. On the other hand, there must be a steeper mountain to climb if you want substantial results.
  • Realistic – “I want to run a marathon” is not practical for most people. Ensure you have the time, energy, and resources (e.g., training program) required to achieve your goal.
  • Time-Bound – Your goal needs an assigned deadline or it’s just a pipe dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but what happens when the fantasy ends?

To summarize, these are the essential components of any process goal: specific, measurable, achievable within a certain time frame, and realistic.

What Is a Destination Goal?

A destination goal is a point in time when you plan to be at a particular destination. For example, if your goal is to get to represent your country at the 2025 Summer Olympics, you right need to focus on smaller increments to attain that success. On your way to that goal, you need to focus on smaller destinations. First, make the national team. Then, compete in a few events and so forth.

If you try to make it to the Olympics from the very start without any milestones along the way, it would be too daunting. On the other hand, if you focus on each milestone as a destination goal, it will all seem possible and achievable.

Process Goal Template

Let’s say you want to become a better cook. Here is one way of writing the process goal: “I will save $100 per week by cooking all my meals at home for 12 weeks.” This would be your destination (monthly), and the steps required to achieve this goal (weekly) would be:

  1. Spend one hour on Sunday planning my meals for the week.
  2. Shop for groceries after work on Monday and Tuesday nights.
  3. Cook all meals at home on Wednesdays through Sundays.
  4. Pack my lunch for work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  5. Save $100 per week in cash by cooking at home.

This process goal will help you become a better cook by teaching you to save money through planning, shopping, cooking, packing your own lunch, and trying new recipes. It also includes a weekly reward (saving $100 in cash) that will help you stay motivated.

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Process goals encourage you to reach your ultimate goals. When you feel like you can accomplish smaller goals along the way, you gain sustainability and confidence to move forward.

In many ways, process goals are a lot like faith. Each accomplishment brings you closer to seeing the fullness of the life that you desire––it breaks through the fog and makes things clearer.

What Questions Helped Me Find My Process Goals?

After several years of setting lofty goals and becoming increasingly frustrated when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, I decided to take a closer look at my approach.

Now, there are many ways you can do this, but here’s how I went about it. Last year, I asked myself the following questions:

  • What am I doing right now?
  • How can I get better at this?
  • Is this process goal leading me closer to my ultimate goals?

The choices I made from the answers to these questions became my process goals. They were the driving force that kept me motivated and moving forward when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. Since then, I’ve been able to accomplish lifelong goals that I had given up on years ago. For example, I’ve been able to obtain a publishing contract, create more digital products for my business, and enjoy the moment.

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Before I broke down my goals into smaller ones, I was struggling to just get out of bed. The thought of my endless list kept me stagnant. Now, I look forward to each morning and taking on smaller projects to reach profitable outcomes.

What Are Some Process Goals You Can Try?

So, now that you understand the importance of process goals, let’s get you started with some examples that you can utilize this week:

  • Sign up for a new class.
  • Complete one portion of your project by Thursday.
  • Start walking around the block instead of running a mile.
  • Improve your writing by spending 30 minutes everyday journaling.
  • Practice your interview skills.
  • Read at least one book from the library this week.
  • Do ten push-ups each day before you leave for work.

You get the idea. These process goals don’t have to be complicated. If anything, you want to break down your plans to the point of them feeling easy or at least doable without needing a week’s vacation. By breaking your goals down into smaller pieces, you can accomplish a lot more in a shorter period. You’ll also feel more confident that you’re able to accomplish something within the moment.

It isn’t easy to continue towards your goal if achievement feels too far away. You need to celebrate the small things and embrace the process.

What Do You Need for Process Goals?

Think about how much time and money you’ve spent on new clothes, books, technology, etc. Many of us want to keep up with the latest trends and purchase the best gadgets from Apple or Microsoft. But all of these extra investments come at a steep price.

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To find your process goals, you may have to face some difficult emotions or situations bravely and confront them head-on. You might need to forgo the new outfit or the latest Mac book to meet your overall objectives.[1] Remember, process goals not only protect you from feeling overwhelmed, but they also keep you from being distracted.

Final Thoughts

You may feel overwhelmed at first when trying to set a process goal. Sometimes, just thinking about change triggers stress hormones, which only leads to more worries and anxious feelings. However, if you keep yourself focused and take small steps in the right direction, you’ll soon realize that goals don’t have to be complicated.

You can achieve your process goals one day at a time, and you can start today by breaking down your larger goal into smaller steps. It doesn’t matter if the process takes a week or six months, what matters most is that you’re moving forward and doing something to make yourself better.

Now, go on out there and achieve one of your process goals!

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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