To reach our dreams we need to have milestones along the way that can help us achieve them. So how exactly do we do that? By setting goals. Most of us know what goals are, but how much do we really know about how to set our goals? I didn’t know much about goal setting until seven years ago, when I took a class on positive psychology. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken, because it was the first time I learned about setting goals and following through with them. Now I’m here to help you with your goals, just in time for your New Year’s resolution.
I can’t begin to tell you how many failed New Year’s resolutions I’ve set. I mean, it all starts off wonderfully. I’m sure a lot of you have been there too. Many years ago I had this awesome New Year’s resolution to go to the gym everday. In the first week of January I was so pumped to get to the gym five days a week. I felt great, and was proud of myself for sticking through. This continued for a few weeks until one day something came up and I couldn’t make it to the gym. A few months later? I was barely going to the gym and beating myself up for not sticking to my New Year’s resolution. Been there before? Don’t worry. I’m totally here to help you with whatever goal you want to set.
Setting goals doesn’t mean we have to be obsessed with them, but rather we have to find ways to plan and go through them step by step so we can reach our dreams. One of my favorite sayings I’ve learned in German is the expression “Schritt für Schritt” which is the English equivalent of step-by-step—and that is exactly how you are going to achieve any goal you set. For today’s post we will only be sticking with how to set goals, but next week I’ll help you put those goals into action so you can achieve whatever your heart desires!
How to set goals step by step
1) Get creative with your goal setting: brainstorm!
Get creative on this one. Draw, paint, doodle, write, whatever floats your boat. Think about what it is you really want to work towards in the next coming months. Write down whatever comes to your mind. Don’t worry if many thoughts pop into your mind just jot or draw anything that comes to your mind. Take your time and try to really figure out one goal you really want to work on. Maybe it’s finding a new job. Maybe it’s starting an exercise routine. Maybe it’s starting a blog like I did a few months ago. This step might take one day for you, or it might take weeks like it did for me. Weeks to set a goal? Yeah, seriously it took me weeks. You can see what I mean in the next step below.
2) Try to set SMARTer goals
Ok, so now that you’ve brainstormed a bit it’s time to break down this goal using the SMART acronym. Have you heard of this one before? It’s wonderful! SMART stands for:
Using this acronym will help you to really figure out the nitty gritty details of setting your goal—which is essential to the success of reaching your goal. I used to be really bad at sticking to my goals and got so frustrated with myself because of that. But, when I started to really plan every aspect of my goals, I was able to stick to them. You can do it too!
So let me break down the SMART acronym with a personal goal of mine, which was to start this blog. Being a blogger is something that takes a lot of goal setting. My blog—like many other blogs out there—was meticulously planned. I did it as so:
SPECIFIC: How did I make my goal specific? Well, instead of saying something like ‘start a blog’ I came up with the idea to start a blog in the topics of: love, travel, following your heart, and balanced living. You want to know how much time I needed to come up with a specific goal like that? Weeks! But, I needed that time to develop my goal. This part can be a bit tricky, but it is absolutely crucial for the success of your goal. If I just came up with the idea to write a blog about anything without any planning, it would have been total chaos! But, because I took time to really figure out what I specifically wanted. Obviously some goals might take you just a day to figure out or even a few hours. This is going to be totally dependent on you and your goals. Just remember that you really want to have something specific instead of a very broad or vague goal.
MEASURABLE: I made my blog measurable in two ways. I first figured out how much I would blog/vlog per week. In this way I could answer the question ‘how much’ or ‘how many’ that is essential for reaching our goals. I also had to come up with a specific timeline for my blog (which I did via word document) to break down the goal by each month. You really want to be able to quantify your goal in this step. It will help you stay on track and keep you on target to reach your goals little by little. I will cover this in much more detail in the next blog post about goal setting, because it is directly related to achieving your goals after you set them.
ATTAINABLE: How can you make sure that you can achieve your goals? By creating action statements. Action is key when trying to figure out how to set your goals. Think verbs here. You really want to come up with something that you can set out and do with your goal. To set up a blog I really had tons of things I had to do beforehand. I had a massive list and felt really lost of how to go about them. But by writing them in terms of doing them, it made it much easier to tick off each one.
Some of the things I included were: contact web-hosting service in May 2015, do keyword research in June 2015, contact web designer on July 2015. Things like that. I could have easily just said something like get everything together for blog, but what good what that do me? The key here is to really come up with the things you are going to do. Try to start off each statement here with a verb, it will help motivate you to get started because you have a clear defined task set out in front of you.
REALISTIC: Oh man, when I first decided to work on this blog I was totally ambitious. I came up with this idea to blog 3x a week and make a video on top of it. That was not going to happen! I also work as a travel blogger for a site called Trip101, and I work as an English teacher. There was no way I could do all of that, plus write 3 blogs a week, and a make a video! I realized after some careful thinking that I had to scale back and decided to start off with just 1 blog per week at first. Remember it’s little by little! You can always add on to whatever you are doing as time progresses. You don’t have to achieve everything at once.
TIMELY: You need to have an end date here. If I said something like put up blog this year, I probably still wouldn’t have done it. But, instead I came up with a specific date, which was November 8th, 2015—my 28th birthday. You might not achieve this goal exactly by that date, that is totally ok! I had some issues with the web design on my blog, and so I had to put the blog up a couple days later. But, because I had an end date here I was able to accomplish exactly what I set out to do. I will cover more about the aspect of being timely in my next blog post.
Ok, so I wrote my SMART strategy out above in pretty lengthy detail, but you definitely don’t have to do so. You can totally shorten it. For example, if you want to start exercising you can say something like:
I will go to the gym 3x a week (M, W, F) at 6:00 p.m. for the next 3 months.
That meets all the criteria of SMART in one short sentence 🙂
3. Write your goals down
So, after you’ve figured out how to go about your goal the SMART way, what can you do next? You can write down your goals. I know that might seem a bit straightforward, but a lot of the time we ignore this step thinking that we will just remember our goals. Yes, that is true, we probably will remember, but when we write down our goals we are more likely to stick through them. There is something about the power of writing and seeing it written down that compels us to work towards something. There is truth in this statement. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychologist from Dominican University in California, did a study on 267 participants found that people were on average 33% more likely to succeed in their goal if they wrote them down. Not only that, but she found that these participants were more likely to succeed if they told someone about their goal, which is the next step of your goal setting journey.
4. Tell someone about your goals
You should tell someone about the new goal you are going to set. As mentioned above, Dr. Matthews found that people are more likely to succeed with their goal when doing so. However, it is important to find the right person to tell. When I decided to start my blog, I only told a handful of people and I kept the whole thing under wraps until I was ready to launch. I made sure I told people who would be positive about my new goal I set for myself, instead of telling people who would try to undermine me and make me feel as if I couldn’t accomplish my goal. You should do the same. Find people who will support you and your journey towards your goal. I’d definitely recommend telling just a few people though, definitely no more than you can count on one hand!
So, those are the 4 steps on how to set your goals. I hope that they helped you, maybe even in time for setting your New Year’s resolution. Keep your eye out for my next post that will help you to achieve the goal you are setting. If you ever need help, feel free to reach out to me. I would be more than happy to help!