How to Effectively Set and Achieve Your Goals
Written By: Matt Mignona
We've all had the disappointing and frustrating experience of making goals only to not stick to them. This year, that doesn't have to happen! There are some clear ways to make sure your goals are the right level of ambitious that will light a fire inside you and push you to new heights. Follow these steps to make and reach your goals.
Step 1: Reflect on What You're Grateful For
Many people start too broad with goals, making things up from thin air. A great way to focus your intentions is to think back to the past weeks or months, or even years, to the best successes and the biggest joys in your life. Our Free Monthly Happiness Audit and Gratitude Log can be great guiding documents to get you started. As you brainstorm the best persistent positives in your life, you will start to notice themes.
Maybe what emerges is that you have dreams for expanding your business because you have seen such promising starts this year. You might be ready to commit long-term to your love, or settle down in a home, or get serious about your meditation practice. These things come naturally from a place of gratitude: you've been positively affected by them in the past, or by the seeds that have begun in 2018. Now, it's your opportunity to push them forward in 2019.
Step 2: Dream Outlandishly
Another mistake is to set goals that... well, will probably be achieved anyway. Setting an intention like, "I will keep going to work every day" is quite achievable, but is it inspiring? Not particularly, and it's hard to see yourself growing from such a goal. What's more is that these big goals can evaporate if you don't write them on paper. Lastly, make sure you pick well-rounded goals: focus on faith, family, health, wealth, intellect, and career to truly improve yourself holistically.
So in this step, push yourself to think about what your best self would look like. Whatever you think you can achieve, envision a way to double it, triple it, increase it.
Want to write a book? Aim instead to get it published by December 31st.
Want to get back into running? Set your sights on that marathon in your city.
Obviously, not every goal is reasonable to just "double," but realize that making goals that are super easy to achieve doesn't push you or inspire you. When we are in awe of our goals, we tend to get down to business and achieve them.
Step 3: Create Sub-Goals
Here's where the work comes in. Now that you have 2, 3, or even 4 large goals for this year, things that seem just shy of impossible to achieve, brainstorm out the many smaller things you'll need to get to.
For the book example, you may need an outline, some serious research material, multiple proofreading, and self-editing rounds, some query letters to agents, and time to incorporate an editor's feedback. Each of these is a goal in its own right.
To get to your marathon, you'll need to hit benchmarks: 2 runs a week, then 3 runs a week, then at least 5 miles on a long run, then at least 10 miles. You'll be creating smaller stair-steps up to the end goal.
These goals will still be ambitious, but think of it like looking up a staircase: jumping straight to the top is nearly impossible, but moving one step at a time is doable.
Step 4: Create SMART Goal Deadlines
SMART Goals are where you start to move your big picture goals into the context of your life. SMART goals, according to The Balance, are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
This means saying, for instance, "I'll write 5 pages a day for 4 days a week, with 2 days for research (take at least two pages of notes each day), during my evenings after work, for the whole month of January."
See how this doesn't say "write every day"? It's specific with how much and when. You know when you've achieved it (measurable), it fits in the time allotted (achievable), it moves you toward the goal (relevant), and it has a set end-date (time-bound).
While SMART goals add to your success, remember that attainable and achievable shouldn't mean small, boring goals. You can reach for the stars while building a clear framework to get there. Big, scary, vulnerable goals are what propel us forward, so don't let SMART=small.
Do this analysis for all your goals and sub-goals. Yes, you can always revise, but when you see all these goal deadlines set out, you'll notice just how much you can achieve through these small steps.
Step 5: Revisit Goals Daily
Setting goals is only the beginning of achieving them. In order to truly see the results you seek, you need to come back to your goals twice daily, morning and night. The structure of the Happier Mind Journal is made with daily goal revisiting in mind: you'll re-write your goals, and you may see them slowly morph as you learn more and grow as a person.
You should continue to notice what your intentions are for this specific day as well as what you are grateful for: these items fuel us toward our next achievements. If you change course, take the time to re-create SMART goal deadlines, so that you feel that positive jolt of satisfaction as you meet your objective that was fully achievable and relevant.
Step 6: Realign Every 10 Days to Never Lose Sight
Every 10 days, you can take time out to specifically reconsider: is this set of goals, sub-goals, and goal deadlines working for me? This is where so many people stumble in their goals: they let themselves say "If I haven't accomplished exactly what I said I'd do, I can throw it all out!" This is not true; by realigning and reevaluating using your journaling, you can make the goals continue to work for you. These subtle adjustments (or total redirections!) will keep you in the spirit of your big, ambitious goals without committing you to an aim that doesn't serve you anymore. The Happier Mind Journal builds these 10-day evaluations right into the journal - you'll never forget them!
Is setting and achieving goals easy? Some would say no, but that is usually due to discouragement and lack of structure. Setting and achieving goals is much easier than you think when you commit to the process of dreaming really big and building the structures you need to get there. Make 2019 the year you build the structure that will carry you forward in life. Sign up for the Happier Mind Journal newsletter to learn more about goal setting and achievement in the New Year.