How To Set Goals You'll Actually Achieve
Goal setting is something that has gotten more and more important to me as each year flies by. As a younger person, I would set new goals each year and kind of feel like they were pointless because I would never stick to them. Now, as I sit at my favorite bagel shop in Manhattan writing this, it’s funny to think how far I’ve come on that. At 25, I'm super into goal setting because I’ve finally figured out how to make it work for me, and I’ve seen so many life-changing results from goals I’ve set more recently. It's awesome! I talk about goals a lot with the people in my life. Whether it's at work or just in my group texts, it’s on my mind always. I'm obsessed and I totally believe there are right and wrong ways to set goals--or maybe more just that there are methods that work and methods that don’t.
Below are 5 goal setting strategies that have helped me in my quest to live my best life, one step at a time. Take a look at this list and then actually get out there and set some new goals you can stick with- big goals or small ones. It's worth it, I promise!
1. Set goals you actually care about.
There’s nothing less inspiring than working toward something you don’t even care about. The first thing that will set you up for failure is going to be if you don’t actually care about the goal you set. It’s a funny thing-- sometimes there’s more to your goals than even you know.
If you find yourself setting goals that you already dread working toward, take a step back. There might be something bigger staring you right in the face. It may be that you need to deal with something bigger than the goal you’re actually focused on.
2. Think big, then go small.
We should always be working toward a grand vision for our dream lives. Ask yourself who you want to become ten or twenty years from now. Every single one of your shorter term goals should set you up to eventually become your ideal version of yourself. I always have my broader eye on 40-year-old me. That’s because in my mind, at 40, I will have achieved some bigger picture goals of mine and I will be the best version of myself
After you look that far ahead into the future, start to consider bite-sized pieces that you can take on in the next 2 years, or event in the next 6 months. Then start to turn those pieces into a step by step plan. By the time I’m 40 years old, a goal of mine is to have written a book that's sold on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. My big picture vision is to “publish a book in the next 15 years,” but that goal on its own will totally fail. I need bite-sized steps to make that happen for myself.
In order to achieve that down the line, I need to be biting off smaller tasks now. So maybe for this year, I need to be focused on finding my message, building a following, studying writing, and learning about what it would take to actually publish that book. My goals for the year are now more attainable and actionable than they would have been before. You’ve gotta break it up.
3. Think in dates and numbers.
You should never set a goal that you can’t measure. This means that every one of your goals should have a number and a deadline. If you don’t have those two things, there’s a very small chance that you’re ever going to see the results from that goal. This especially comes into play with larger picture goals. You may have a goal to save more money. The sentiment and reasoning behind that goal is a great start, but I guarantee you’ll not save very much money that way.
Attaching numbers and deadlines to a goal like this will improve the outcome greatly. Just adding a dollar amount and a deadline for this goal will change the way you save money. There is a crucial difference between wanting to “save more money” and wanting to “save 500 dollars by June 30th.” The person who made the first goal has no clarity, no strategy, and no way to evaluate their success. The person who made the second goal will know down to the dollar how well they did. If they only saved 400 dollars by June 30th, they’d know that they were only 80% successful. If they ended up saving 600, they can look back and say that they beat their goal by 20%. That's so much better, right?
4. Build your own tracking system.
Now that you have built new goals with numbers and deadlines, you need to have some strategy for tracking it. Many of our goals are cadence based. Some of my own cadence based goals are around posting on my blog a number of times per month, or even bringing my lunch to work 3 times a week. You need to be tracking these goals. Whether you have an excel spreadsheet open that you fill out once a week, or a planner on your desk where you can check off each task, tracking goals is super important.
Even goals that are not cadence based need tracking. For example, I have a 2018 goal category called “time for myself” and some of the tasks are one-off tasks that I’ve been putting off for some time. It’s random things like “find a new psychiatrist by April fifteenth” and “get one facial in the month of March,” and I’ve been able to mark these things down as I’ve completed them. Tracking is a goal setting must.
5. Shout it from the rooftops!
Goals should be a collective effort among the people closest to your life. Your friends and family want to see you succeed, so let them in on your goals! Once you actually set these new goals, you should start to tell people about them. I’m personally an open book and I tell everyone I meet about my new goals and life initiatives I’ve set-- I know not everyone is like that.
It doesn’t matter if you tell one person or ten people. Once you get your goals out there a few things will happen. The first thing that will happen is you will start to hold yourself more accountable. After you tell someone that you are going to do something, you’re more likely to do that thing just because you know they might ask about it next time you see them.
Another thing that may happen is that they can help you with your goals. The job hunt is a classic example. If you tell someone that your goal is to move to a new company by the end of the year, that person might have information that will help you. They might know someone who is hiring, they might have some resources that you don’t, and they might also just keep an eye and ear out open for you. You’ve got to talk about your goals.
Goal setting is one of my favorite areas of life because it’s one of those things that can actually transform you into a whole new you-- and we love a transformation moment. It’s one of those things that takes a few tries, but stick with it! And if you have any questions or want to share your goals with me, I’m so here for that. Thanks, now go make it happen!