HOW TO: Set Goals that Stick
As the new year approaches, it’s only natural to feel the weight of the unknown. What will this next year bring? What do I want to accomplish? Who do I want to become?
Answering questions such as this are an essential first step towards enacting change, but in order to achieve real results, we must do the work and follow through. The best way to do this? Just remember the acronym, SMART, a method first created by Management Review author, George T. Doran, that illuminates 5 critical steps to setting goals and, most importantly, sticking to them.
First and foremost, write them down! Visualizing your goals is imperative towards seeing results. In fact, those who actively write out their goals are three times more likely to achieve them. Just be sure to keep your goals specific so you don’t feel overwhelmed and unmotivated. An example of this is updating a vague, general goal of, “I want to eat healthier,” to a more detailed goal like, “I want to replace eating out 3 days a week with a healthy, macronutrient-focused meal delivery service.” To help you with this, try answering the following questions first:
- Who is involved in this goal?
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Where is this goal to be achieved?
- When do I want to achieve this goal?
- Why do I want to achieve this goal?
Keeping track of your goals is a great way to keep you motivated. Making deadlines and assessing your progress along the way will help you visualize the end game and force yourself to remain accountable along the way. In order to measure progress, you must include criteria. Be sure you can answer the following questions as you strategize:
- How much/how many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
Whether big or small, choose goals that are challenging yet attainable. In other words, they should stretch your abilities but still remain within reach. Some questions that may help you keep your goals achievable are:
- How can I accomplish this goal?
- How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?
- Have others done it successfully before?
One of the most critical points of goal setting is ensuring your goals truly matter to you and are relevant to your life purpose. Choose goals you’re excited about that will not only propel you forward but will align with your other goals as well. Plus, your goals must be realistic in order to be attainable. SMART goals may answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Does this seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time?
- Is the goal realistic and within reach given the time and reasources?
- Am I able to commit to achieving this?
Every goal needs a deadline. Set realistic, yet challenging start and end dates for your goals so you can create a sense of urgency while keeping yourself accountable along the way. Of course, life happens and everyday tasks will always fight for the spotlight, however, keeping your goals within a specific timeframe will help you keep them a priority. Ask yourself the following questions when choosing your dates:
- When do I want to achieve this goal?
- What can I do six months from now?
- What can I do six weeks from now?
- What can I do today?
Once you’ve created your SMART goals, just remember, it’s ok if you don’t achieve them all! It’s natural for motivation to wane or for goals to change, and, unfortunately, we can’t always control what life throws at us. But we can control our daily mindset and actions.
Our advice? Be specific, realistic, and intentional with your goals, share them with a friend or family member to keep yourself accountable, and celebrate every victory (big or small) along the way. Because all those little moments in between setting and achieving your goals are where the real magic happens, the changes take effect, and you grow into your best self – and in the end, that’s really what life’s all about. 🙂