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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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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

23 Goals in Life to Set and Achieve for Personal Success

23 Goals in Life to Set and Achieve for Personal Success

Many people want to achieve personal success in life, whether it’s in their business, family life, or hobbies. However, it is only a select few that realize that it is having the right goals in life that will carry you towards the dream of having your best days in front of you.

Personal goals come in every area of life, whether it be deeply personal ones, health-related, financial-related, or how to become a better person in society. Prioritizing sleep, practicing mindfulness, and keeping up with old friends are just some of the goals you need to adopt to lead a happy and successful life.

Imagine if you had a set of amazing goals that you could begin today and continuing pursuing until your final days. How would that make you feel?

Once you realize that there is no set destination in this game of life, only a dance to be danced, you are free to achieve your own version of personal success.

This article is set out to help you achieve just that. It highlights a variety of goals in life in different areas, such as health, finance, and creativity that will help guide you toward fulfilling your own potential.

If you’re unsure which part of your life should you focus on improving first, take the Life Assessment for free. After taking the assessment, you’ll get a customized report for free and understand how you’re doing in different aspects of life. Take the assessment now.

Then you can decide what goals to set for yourself. Below you’ll find 23 different life goal ideas that you can use to get started or to build on for a good life and personal growth.

1. Pursue Equanimity in Yourself

While many people pursue happiness, wealth, and health in themselves, it is usually only through equanimity where most important life goals become accessible.

Equanimity is defined as peak calmness and composure, no matter what life is throwing at you. If you can find equanimity in the most difficult of situations, then you will breeze through situations that others (and your previous self) found extremely stressful.

The best way to achieve equanimity is to practice putting yourself in tough situations again and again. Just like learning to drive a car, gradually what used to terrify you becomes routine, and that is how you start to level up.

2. Travel as Often as You Can

People often talk about travel as being a gateway to the soul, but it is hard to recognize just how true it is until you have done it for yourself as part of your life goals list.

Traveling doesn’t even have to involve flying to the other side of the world to become a Buddhist monk for a year. The benefits of travel can come from something as simple as a weekend away in an unfamiliar city in your own country.

Travel not only opens you up to new people, new cultures, and new experiences, but it also helps you grow as a person by reminding you that there is more life going on outside of your own personal bubble, making this one of the best goals in life to set.

3. Take a Class That Interests You But Is Irrelevant to Your Career

As a person who is passionate about self-improvement and creating a better quality of life, you probably love to learn new things and feel productive.

Sometimes, though, you can overdo the whole career thing and forget about what truly sets your heart on fire. You forget about all of the hobbies you used to pursue before “life got in the way.”

Go out and take a class that you are fascinated by or used to love that has nothing to do with your work. Not only will life get back some sparkle, but it will keep you much more refreshed for when it is time to work again.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Things that get a load of hype very rarely live up to their expectations. Mindfulness is definitely an exception.

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People have been preaching about mindfulness for a long time now, and its roots go all the way back to early Buddhism. Until very recently, the benefits were purely anecdotal, but scientific evidence is now emerging about the power of mindfulness.[1]

Mindfulness is most effective when it is practiced daily, even for just ten minutes. Sit comfortably and simply pay attention to your surroundings and your thoughts. It sounds simple but is incredibly effective.

Take a look at these 7 Simple Tricks To Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Life

5. Love Life for What It Is, Not What You Think It Should Be

There are countless times when life doesn’t go your way. It is useless to fight it, so you just need to accept and embrace whatever life has in store as part of your goals in life.

When you are consumed by what life should be like, you are drowning in your own expectations and shortcomings. This is a sure-fire way to lead a life of frustration and disappointment.

The only way around this is to enjoy every up and every down. Life is a symphony with a variety of notes and melodies; stopping and replaying one note that you like or don’t like spoils the whole thing.

6. Live Presently

Living in the past or in the future is where most of human suffering lies. It is often regrets about what you should have done or worries about what you need to do that lead to unnecessary negative emotion.

It is easy to forget that you only ever live in the present moment. Every thought and experience that you have ever had has taken place in the ever-flowing “now.”

Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to make one of your life goals to live presently, as this is the only place where life happens.

7. Run for 5 Miles

Even if you do happen to fall short of the marker, running is a good health habit to pick up, as it requires no gym membership and is accessible to anyone with a pair of running shoes. It should definitely have a place on your list.

8. Hold a Deep Squat for One Minute

You might think that this is one of the easy goals in life to accomplish because tiny babies can do it with ease. You might want to think again!

Although some of us can do it with relative ease, a surprising majority of people either struggle to get deep enough or fall backwards off balance when they get into the deep squat.

As an article on QZ points out, it is a form of active rest that is evolutionarily designed to counteract the bodily harms caused by sitting for long periods during the day.[2]

Holding a deep squat for a minute or more every day is a great way to boost your ankle, knee, lower back and core mobility, as well as boosting your balance.

9. Eat for 80% Health, 20% Pleasure

One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received comes from a certified dietician talking about her own diet. She eats 80% for health and 20% for pleasure.

80% of what she consumes is food that she knows is good for her that she may or may not particularly like. The other 20% is food that she loves, no matter how “bad” it is for her.

This is one of the best health goals in life to have and live by. It recognizes that the vast majority needs to be the good stuff but life isn’t truly lived without the tasty stuff every now and then, too.

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10. Drink More Water and Less of Everything Else

Although things like coffee, protein shakes, and soda have their place for making you feel like a more productive human being, it is important to remember the water.

With over half of your body made up of H2O, getting at least a couple of glasses of the good stuff a day is essential to your overall well-being, especially as your body uses water in all of its cells, organs, and tissues and the role it plays in many other vital processes.

11. Prioritize Sleep

The hustling “no-sleep culture” is slowly fading away, and with it, a new appreciation for our oldest biological friend: sleep.

The literature on the importance of sleep is growing every day and is causing even the hardest-working entrepreneurs out there to start prioritizing some shut-eye[3]

Recommended Hours of Sleep

     

    Sleep has been shown to improve learning and reduce risk of depression, and even napping has been shown to be a great way to counteract some of the effects of a bad night of sleep.[4]

    12. Write Every Day for a Month

    This is one of the goals in life that isn’t actually as complicated as it might first seem. By writing every day, it might mean anything from one page of journaling to writing 1000 words per day on your blog.

    The act of writing helps to both clarify and organize your thoughts, which is key when setting personal goals. It is common to be brooding over a problem for days at a time only to realize how silly it sounds and looks when you see it written down on paper.

    Simply keep a small pad of paper and a pen with you wherever you go. Sit down and write a story at your desk, or write down some ideas about your next business venture.

    Even if you only pursue this goal for a short period of time, you will learn a lot about how creative you can be.

    13. Write Down 10 Ideas a Day on Any Subject

    Legendary entrepreneur James Altucher was the first to coin this idea of becoming an “Idea Machine” and the effectiveness of writing down just 10 ideas a day. Since it went viral, thousands of people have adopted it as one of their own goals in life.[5]

    The concept is simple: by writing down 10 ideas, you flex your creativity muscle that rarely gets pushed hard. Your theme for the day might be ideas for a book to write, or ideas for becoming more productive, or even something as silly as ideas about what you would spend $1 million on.

    The theme doesn’t matter, but the thinking does. It is usually around point five or six when people have to start thinking. This is where the goal becomes most valuable, and in no time, you will be an Idea Machine.

    14. Pursue Being a Beginner Again

    As you progress through life, your late teens and early twenties are far behind you. You have a better sense of who you are, what you like doing, what gives you joy, what irritates you, and how to interact with other humans.

    All of this might be convenient, but it involves a slow slide into your comfort zone. And as you probably know by now, not much exciting life is lived in the comfort zone.

    Ask yourself when was the last you time you were a beginner at something? The last time you knew that you looked a fool because you didn’t know what you were doing?

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    The answer should be often if you want to keep growing your character, personality, and fortitude when it comes to dealing with new and uncertain situations. So, get out there and try a new sport or a new hobby.

    15. Learn How to Say Sorry

    Alongside “I love you” and “Irish wristwatch,” saying sorry is one of the most difficult phrases to say in the English language.

    There is something about an apology that can really interfere with your ego and lead the blame to be passed on to something or someone else on a frequent basis. Because of this, not many people apologize in their lives at all.

    Therefore, it might seem like a bit of a trivial goal to have in life, but if you can learn the art, you will be one of the few people out there who knows how to say sorry. That is something worth striving for.

    16. Call or Text Someone You Haven’t Spoken to in Months

    As life ticks on, you tend to drift away from certain people that you were once close to. Even with your best friends or family that you still love deeply, it might be the case that you now only see them once a year as life starts to get in the way.

    Incredibly, you are fortunate enough to live in an era where distance has shrunk because of technology. Those friends and family that you don’t get to see face-to-face anymore are just a text or phone call away, so use this as one of your goals in life to stay connected.

    17. Consciously Maintain a Work-Life Balance

    When you are at your productive best, and the work piles up just as quickly as you complete it, it can become easy to get lost and think that work = life.

    The two are not equated though. Work is just one facet of life, usually the activity that you complete to make money or, if you are fortunate, something that you enjoy, too.

    However, there is far more to life than just work. Your relationships, friendships, hobbies, health and many other aspects are just as important and often become neglected in the face of work.

    It is a noble goal in life to limit your work and to take time for all the other essential parts of life as well. Nobody regrets working too little on their deathbed, only too much.

    18. Communicate Your Ideas With the World

    It is surprisingly common for an infinitely complex human like yourself to put themselves down and not feel like they are worthy enough to share their opinion.

    Whether you realize it or not yet, the world needs you. It needs your ideas, your enthusiasm, and your unique perspective on the human experience. While many people think they are doing good by keeping thoughts to themselves, they are actually doing a disservice to everyone who would benefit from their voice.

    Your communication goal doesn’t have to be giving a TED Talk. A great goal is to simply be more expressive about your thoughts and opinions and to be receptive to those of other people.

    Starting your own blog or podcast is one of the best ways to do this, but simply telling your ideas to a friend is a fantastic start for your goals in life.

    19. Fix Things That Are Broken

    If you pursue this goal, even passively, it will lead to not just a much better life for yourself but also for the world around you.

    The beauty of this goal is that it can be as small-scale or as large-scale as you want it to be. If you don’t like how your bathroom door handle jiggles, fix it. If you don’t like the fact that there is no app for that problem yet, build it.

    Entropy may be the natural state of the observable universe, but we can keep things in order for just a little longer.

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    20. Volunteer for a Charity

    This is one of those life goals that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, but not everyone gets around to doing. If you can manage to complete it, the results can be life-changing and help you lead a more fulfilled life.

    Volunteering for a charity gives you an impression of what life is like for those in less favorable circumstances than your own. It provides a unique perspective about all of the blessings in your own life and is usually followed by a profound sense of gratitude.

    21. Aim to Live Debt-Free

    Debt is something that will hang over your head for the rest of your life if you let it, and it can definitely be a hindrance to achieving the other goals on this list if there is too much of it.

    Debt is almost inevitable in life, whether you are paying off a mortgage, have monthly car payments, or use a credit card. However, living debt-free has to be one of your goals in life, as well as the associated peace of mind to go with it.

    There are a number of ways to manage it, but perhaps the best way is to save a little more money when you get paid. Not only is it easier to save when you get paid compared to when you are running out of money, but these small savings eventually accumulate to big ones that allow you to pay off big chunks of debt.

    22. Stop Trading Time for Money

    Most conventional jobs do just that. The one resource that you can never get more of (time) is traded away for a resource that you can always get more of and, beyond a basic level of income, is only used to buy wants not needs.

    To stop trading time for money is to enjoy freedom. It is to take advantage of the universe’s scarcest resource and live life on your own terms.

    There are a couple of ways to achieve this goal; either find a job that you enjoy and you get paid for, or build new income streams like a side-hustle that helps you to buy back your time.

    23. Live Below Your Means

    To live below your means is the knot that ties the bow to the previous two goals.

    Just because you earn a certain amount of money doesn’t mean that you should spend that amount. Living below your means is spending less overall than what you earn, and it ties back to the preciousness of time.

    Trying to fund a specific lifestyle to impress others is not only exhausting but costs both time and money.

    Spend less and you will gain much more than money. You will gain time to get after all of the other amazing things in life, including some of these new goals that you have set yourself.

    Final Thoughts

    With all of this information on the various goals in life that you can pursue for greater personal success, I hope that you feel a little less stuck and a little more inspired than when you first stumbled across this article.

    As mentioned in the introduction, these goals are something that you can work at forever. Because the path is so long, don’t be disheartened by all of the bumps and jerks that will inevitably arrive in the journey. This is just part of the process.

    You don’t have to wait to begin any of these goals. You can begin working on any and all of them today. Take Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination now and learn what you can do to start working toward your goals in life.

    Tips for Achieving Your Goals in Life

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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