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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

7 Ground Rules of Setting Goals (And Reaching Them)

7 Ground Rules of Setting Goals (And Reaching Them)

How do you go from idea to implementation? By setting goals.

In your personal life and at work, goals give you direction. They allow you to split projects into manageable pieces, and they help you hold yourself accountable along the way.

But setting goals is only the first step. More than nine in 10 people who set goals for the new year never achieve them.[1]

If you want to actually accomplish your goals, you can’t just think of the finish line. You need to set yourself up to reach it, which means strategizing how you’ll run the race.

What’s the best way to do that? By setting some ground rules for yourself:

1. Setting Goals the SMART Way

Setting any sort of goal is better than nothing, but you can set yourself up to succeed by keeping the acronym “SMART” in mind. A SMART goal is:

Specific

Whatever your goal is, you need to know when you’ve achieved it. The more specifics you give yourself, the better.

Say that you’re saving money with the goal of buying a new car. How much money, exactly, do you need? Are you willing to defer some of the cost through financing, or would you prefer to make a cash purchase. When do you hope to make the purchase?

Your specific goal might be, “I want to save $5,000 for a down payment by December 2020.” You’ve given yourself a yardstick by which to measure your progress.

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Measurable

A goal can be specific but not measurable. You might want to become a better father in the new year — but by what standards will you judge yourself?

Those standards are obvious for goals like saving money. But for something like becoming a better father, you’ll need to come up with proxies.

If you’re worried that you don’t spend enough time with your son or daughter, maybe you want to measure the time you spend per week with him or her. If you haven’t been giving your child the help he or she needs with schoolwork, perhaps improvements in his or her grades is how you’ll know you’ve been a better parent.

Attainable

Specific and measurable goals aren’t necessarily attainable. If you’re trying to get fit, good on you. Realize, though, that you probably won’t be able to run a marathon by the end of next week.

Shoot high, but beware: A recent study by the University of Basel found that people who set attainable goals for themselves enjoy greater wellbeing than those who set unreasonably high ones. The reason, according to researchers, is that a sense of control over outcomes results in greater life satisfaction.[2]

Relevant

Your goals should always map to a greater plan. Why bother to lose weight, for example, if your body mass is already at a healthy mark? If revenue is your company’s greatest need, then don’t set a goal to deck out your company’s office.

Relevance is also important for two less obvious reasons: If a goal doesn’t actually matter to you, you’ll struggle to stick with it. And at least in the context of workplace goals, you’ll struggle to get team buy-in or resources if it’s not clearly relevant to your mission.

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Time-dependent

Although attaching a timeline to your goal does make it more specific, timeliness deserves a special shoutout: If you have no deadline for achieving your goal, you will struggle to make time for it.

Think through what the actual work of the goal will look like. Say you’d like to lose 25 pounds: Medical experts suggest aiming to lose 1-2 pounds per week, which means you should expect to reach your goal in 12-25 weeks.

Be patient with yourself. We’d all like to achieve our goals faster, but setting unrealistic expectations is not the solution. You may burn out or, in the context of the weight-loss example, even endanger your health.

You know that setting goals is important, and you know what a good one looks like. But your time is limited; the next step is to choose: What do you most want to achieve, and how do you actually do it?

Every goal has an opportunity cost. Working toward one means that you can’t use that time to do something else. And so, the next few points will focus on how to achieve the right goals.

2. Think about Others

Few real achievements involve just one person. Be a team player: Before deciding to spend weeks or months working toward something, think about others.

It’s important to keep your ears open. Say you learn that you’re not the only member of your family who’d like to get fit in the new year. Prioritizing that goal is a good idea because it benefits you both: Having an accountability partner makes you both more likely to hit the gym after a hard day.

3. Know Your ‘Why’

As great as it is to take others into account when setting goals, your first priority should be just that: yours.

To maximize both your time and your chances of achieving a goal, it’s important to stay inspired.

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Think deeper than “earning more money” or “being healthier.” Do you want to build a better life for your family? Is seeing your kids graduate college what gets you out of bed every day?

In professional life, this is particularly key. Mike Novotny, CEO of clinical trial software company Medrio, gets through the hard days by thinking back to his mission is to cure disease and save lives.[3] Medrio won’t cure every disease, Novotny realizes, but he does believe it’s possible for the industry to do so.

Your “why” doesn’t have to be changing the world in order to be a worthwhile goal. But it should be something that you believe in, stand a good chance of achieving, and are able to break into specific steps.

4. Look at the Long Term

Short-term goals have value, but they should really be seen as steps toward long-term goals.

Use legacy goals to organize your operations. Challenge yourself: Can you map every item on your calendar to one of those three long-term goals? What about your task list, purchases, and investments?

What might legacy goals look like in your personal life? Think about things that would actually alter your life trajectory. If you want to improve access to education, perhaps starting an online learning company should be one of this year’s legacy goals.

5. Put First Things First

Once you have your big picture and annual priorities in mind, you need to drill down: How are you going to get there?

Start with a simple question, suggests Say Insurance’s Erin Thompson: “What do I want to achieve today?” Without a specific plan of action for the day, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the little things.

The truth is, most of what you do in a day probably doesn’t get you closer to your goals. Things like answering emails, cooking meals, and commuting have to happen, but they’re best seen as chores rather than steps forward.

6. Be Humble

Whether you’re working on a solo goal or one that involves a whole team, recognize that others’ ideas can help you achieve it faster and more effectively.

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Look beyond things like age and job title. Teenager Greta Thunberg has broken through to more people on climate change than many scientists. Mahatma Gandhi was a small-time lawyer before he helped India overcome British rule.

Always assume that the person you’re interacting with has something valuable to tell you. Be open with people about what you want to achieve, and humbly accept their input.

7. Give Yourself Some Credit.

Most goals worth setting are achieved in phases. If you can’t see and feel yourself making progress toward them, warns Teamwork CEO Peter Coppinger, you’ll struggle to achieve what you set out to do.

When setting goals, think about the waypoints you expect to see along the way.

Say you hope to become a CEO someday. You can’t expect to leap straight to the top, so consider what roles you might want to hold first.

As you work your way up, celebrate those wins. When you earn your first management role, go visit a national park you’ve always wanted to see. Once you become a VP, take that European vacation. After you’re promoted to the c-suite, reward yourself with a cruise.

Setting goals is good, but achieving them is even better. Choose wisely, listen carefully to those around you, work hard, and remember to celebrate the wins along the way.

More on Setting Goals

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Published on February 23, 2021

What Are Vision Boards And Why They Work

What Are Vision Boards And Why They Work

We hear people saying that vision boards are a fad, that they are not worth doing, and that they should be forgotten. However, this is simply not true. Vision boards can be very useful, and they are definitely worth taking the time to create. That is why so many celebrities and notable figures in the world are choosing to create and use them.

Beyonce has been known to use vision boards to help her with her future goals, as has Oprah Winfrey and if they work for these two incredibly powerful and talented women, then it makes sense that anyone can benefit from them.

But what are they? Rather than simply being a collection of images, vision boards are so much more than that.

To help you to learn more, I have put together our guide to what they are, how they can be made in four steps, and why you should make an effort to make a vision board for yourself.

What Is a Vision Board?

We all have visions and goals that we want to achieve. They may be in our personal lives, or they may be in our careers and businesses. While we may know what it is that we want to achieve, this doesn’t mean that it is always easy to focus on our goals.

The idea of a vision board is that it is a visual representation of what we want to achieve. We can use it to show our end goal and where we see ourselves being in the future. Not only this, but a vision board will also help you show the process of how you envisage getting to these end goals.

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A vision board can be made from a variety of images. What you choose will really depend on you. However, you need to make sure that it reminds you of what your goal is and what it means to you. They should be something that you want to display and that is as eye-catching as possible.

Colour and texture are key parts of any vision board. However, how you use them is entirely down to you and you alone.

How To Create a Vision Board?

Making a vision board may sound straightforward, however, it can be more complicated than you realize. There are plenty of things that you need to think about along the way.

While the way that you make your vision board will really depend on you, there are 4 steps that you should follow to make sure that it is clear and useful for you in the long run.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you define your goals. To do this, you need to list the areas of your life that you consider to be most important to you. We can’t tell you what these are since they are a personal choice. However, some of the most common examples of these areas include your family, relationship, hobbies, friends, fitness, well-being, and finances.

When you have identified what areas of your life are most important to you right now, then you can start to drill down even further into them and identify what goals you have within them.

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If you focus on sports and fitness, then maybe you want to teach yoga or train in a sport. If travel is important to you, then maybe plan a trip around the world. If you want to expand your mind, you could identify an instrument or language that you want to learn and if you are thinking about your career (and maybe your finances, too), then starting a business could be a key goal for you.

You shouldn’t spend too much time on this, else there is a chance that you may overthink things rather than letting them come to you. Only spend around 10 minutes on this step. Make sure that you write down anything that comes to mind as you can use these things later on.

Step 2: Gather Your Inspiration

Once you know what your goals are, then you need to start thinking about how you can create a visual representation of these goals. Think about words and images that match in with what you want to achieve.

Of course, the most obvious place to look for these images is in magazines, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to only magazines. Other great places that you can use for inspiration for your vision board include:

  • Postcards
  • Stickers
  • Wrapper paper
  • Materials
  • Things from nature
  • Online searches

When you see something that works for you, then cut it out or even rip it out and place it on one side. You may be surprised by just where you can find your inspiration, and you shouldn’t discount something just because it doesn’t fit in with what you think should inspire you.

This step will take a little longer than the last. So, you might want to make sure that you have a nice cup of your favorite hot drink—ready to browse through and find your inspiration.

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Step 3: Map Out How You Want Your Board to Look

Now, we have got to the point where you can start thinking about what your vision board is going to look like. You will need to grab some things for this step. You will need some cardboard (the bigger the better), scissors, glue sticks, markers, fabric, decorate tape, stickers, gems, or sequins.

To start, you just want to lay your images out on your board. You don’t want to glue anything until you know how you want them to be arranged. The last thing that you want is to stick things down, commit to that setup, and then find out that you want to change them.

Once you are happy with how things look, then you can stick it all down. You may want to use some of the added decorative things that you have put together, such as decorative tape, sequins, stickers or simply use different pens or paints to add color.

The main thing to remember is that your vision board is all about you, so what you create should be appealing to you. You can look online for help on how to put things together and make up your board but, ultimately, you need to focus on it being a representation of you.

Step 4: Make It Happen

The last thing on the list is to make sure that you bring your vision board to life. First, you need to make sure that you display it in a place where you will be able to see it. After all, that is the main reason for taking the time to make your vision board in the first place.

Display it in a place that you go to every single day. This could be a home office, your bedroom, or perhaps in a hallway before you leave the house every day. Having it there will remind you that you need to follow those dreams and achieve those goals and will also show you how you can do it.

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Then, it is down to you. Do whatever you need to do to make it happen. Push yourself and focus on what you want to achieve. You may make excuses and you may sometimes think that you just can’t do it, but I promise you that you can—that you will one day get there. Of course, your vision board is just a part of the process, and really, it is down to you to make it happen. So, do it!

Why Do They Work?

We know that vision boards sound like they are a lot of work, but the truth is, they are as hard as you make them. Not only this, but they are well worth putting all that effort into to create them.

With a vision board, you will able to see what it is that you want in the future and identify how you can get there. When you can see it, there, in front of you, then you are going to want to get there, and you are going to feel much more motivated to work towards these goals. Not only this, but the process of making a vision board is more fun than you may realize. This means that you can look forward to doing it rather than ignoring those goals and stopping yourself from achieving what you want in the future.

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Featured photo credit: Andy Art via unsplash.com

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