Life isn’t meant to be stagnant. Things change, and hopefully we as people do too. And for the better. We try new things, experience growth and help others do the same along the way.
Does growth happen by itself? Sometimes. As children, we grew taller and learned what our parents and teachers shared with us. As emerging adults and beyond, continued growth is really up to us.
One way to spark growth is through goal setting. Setting goals and working toward them can help us reach higher and achieve more, giving us a greater sense of accomplishment, purpose and satisfaction. And paying real dividends!
Consider which aspects of your life you want to improve: physical health, financial stability, employment success, emotional well-being, family relationships, intellectual health, etc. Then create a few goals to usher in the change and growth you want to see.
Why Setting Goals is Important
Both Benjamin Franklin and Sir Winston Churchill shared wisdom that has been boiled down to this truth: People don’t plan to fail…they just fail to plan. These men knew a thing or two about goals as they were instrumental in guiding their nations through the most trying of times.
Goal setting allows big things to happen. It helps us create a pathway to success. Other benefits of setting goals include:
- Greater clarity and focus. When you set goals, you force yourself to think about what you want to achieve. What are your heart’s desires. What deserves your time, energy and attention? What will you focus on? Goal setting helps you live more purposefully, with less time wandering around and more time crossing finish lines. Goals funnel you toward your desired outcomes.
- Motivation and drive. Goals can inspire you through tough times. People without goals are more easily distracted.
- Increased accountability. Responsibility helps keep you on track and applies positive pressure. And people who prove their dependability are often rewarded in business or other pursuits.
- Achieving your potential. Goals help you get out of your comfort zone to try new things, learn and grow. Challenge yourself and then rise to the occasion.
Who Should Set Goals?
Goal setting is for everyone. Even small children can set goals to pick up their toys for 5 minutes a day, be nice to their sister for 3 days in a row or read 10 books during the summer break. And creating rewards (even as simple as a star chart) helps them feel fulfilled and pleased. Kids who learn to think about and set goals when they’re young are more likely to get what they want out of life as adults.
What makes goals worthwhile? That’s up to the goal-setter! What’s important to you? What do you want to achieve, learn or do?
How to Set Great Goals
A goal is just a wish until you write it down. That said, writing it down is not enough. No more grand New Year’s resolutions that are jotted down then stuffed in a drawer or left forever on a miscellaneous digital file. For goals to work, you need to keep them top-of-mind and review them often. Even adjust them when needed.
Start by listing what you want in the end.
- Have a healthier body (lose 15 pounds by June 1).
- Increase productivity at work by xx amount.
- Run a 10K with your friend or sibling this summer.
- Add $xxxx to your savings account by Dec. 31.
- Learn basic Spanish.
- Reduce stress and increase the peace in your life.
Then decide on goals or action steps that will create a pathway to get you to your ultimate desire or destination.
If you want to lose 15 pounds this year, what’s really holding you back? Is it what you eat or drink? Is it how much you eat? Or when you eat? In other words, do certain habits sabotage your chances for success? Or do you need to move more to feel better and more fit? Whatever those limiters are, create small and measurable goals to help you get past them. And for best results, make your goals SMART.
SMART Goal Setting
Goals should be:
- Specific – Clearly state how much or at what level you will succeed.
- Measureable – Making your goal measurable allows you to evaluate your success or failure. Did you save $2,000 instead of $5,000?
- Achievable – Goals should be reachable without being too simple. Think of your goal as something you can do daily to achieve a larger overall result. Instead of “Clean out the garage” try “Spend 20 minutes a day sorting through the boxes in the garage.” Or practice trumpet 45 minutes a day to prep for the jazz band audition in June.
- Relevant or Realistic – Is your goal within the realm of possibility? If you want to lose 40 pounds before your upcoming reunion, that’s not too realistic. Neither is giving up more than one hour a day to work on a goal for most busy people.
- Time-Bound – Choose a deadline or end date. This helps you measure your goal and prevents it from dragging on forever. A timeline compels you to act. It also helps you try something challenging to see how it feels. Instead of saying, “I will get up at 5:00 a.m. to run all summer,” try getting up at 5:00 a.m. to run for a week. And if that works, do it again for two weeks. It’s more attainable and helps you feel accomplished, which fuels you for the next round of goals.
Many people like to have a visual reminder of their goals. They may post their written goals in a place where they see them daily. “Smile more” on the bathroom mirror. Or “Eat healthy food” on the fridge.
Others make a vision board of what they are reaching for. This can be a poster collage of pictures that represent their goals:
- a vacation to Hawaii
- the finish line of a road race
- a photo of their younger, thinner self
- the new house they’re saving for
Whatever your goals, be sure to keep them in front of you so you remember and revisit them often.
Change Your Focus, Change Your Health
Want to get healthier? Set some health-related goals. You don’t have to call it a New Year’s resolution, although according to a Statista study of 1,500 Americans, the top two most common new year’s resolutions are to exercise more and lose weight. Setting the goal is the first step (remember to make it SMART).
Track Your Goals!
You set your goals, now let’s track them! Keeping track of your goals and habits keeps YOU on track for success. Tracking helps you see your progress and provides a visual reminder of your hard work and daily commitment to change. Depending on your goals, you may want to track food consumption, protein intake, calories, water intake, exercise type and duration, body measurements, stretching time, meditation, sleep time/quality and more.
Don’t let tracking overwhelm you. Just find a tool or system that works for you and use it.
- Download a free or low-cost app to track the food you eat or your exercise or both. Consider MyFitnessPal, Apple Health, Fitbit, MyPlate Calorie Counter, Lifesum, Noom, iNuba, PlateJoy, etc. Look around online. Talk to friends. Find an app or device you like and make it a part of your day. Some apps or programs may have a one-week or one-month free trial so you can test it before you pay.
- Prefer paper? Detailed habit tracking worksheets can help you track healthy eating and other habits, along with weight loss, body measurements and more. Look on Etsy or Pinterest for some you can download for little to no cost.
- Try creating your own custom tracking charts on google sheets or Excel.
TIP: Sweeten the Process by Building a Reward System
Most of us enjoy and are even incentivized by a pat on the back. So think about adding some incentives and rewards to sweeten your goal-settting-and-achieving process and take goals to the next level.
- Treat yourself to new clothes for working your way to a healthier body.
- Get tickets to a show for a celebratory night out when you’re halfway to your goal.
- Plan an awesome weekend getaway that you can work toward.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Just find something you will value and make it your dangling carrot.
Remember, if you can imagine it, you can achieve it. Just set your goals and get to work!