If you suck at setting goals, you’re not alone. Heck, just take a look at how often people actually follow through on their New Year’s resolutions. We all know that goal setting can be a powerful tool to help us achieve our ideal future, but most people have never been taught how to write effective goals.
Make SMART Goals
When people look at their goal list, they may see something that looks like this:
- Eat better
- Exercise more
- Be social
- Get enough sleep
- Go on more dates
The major problem is that you might as well wrap all of these up into “Do better!”. Without specific and realistic goals, they don’t really mean anything. Instead, start making your goals SMART goals. SMART stands for:
This should answer your Who, What, Where, When, and Why kind of questions. For example, if your goal is to “lose weight”, you should make it more specific. Instead, try something like “I want to lose weight so that I can feel more confident in myself”.
This should answer your how questions such as “How much” or “How long”. A question I like to ask people about their goals is, “How do you know when you’re done?”. What is the end result of the goal? You’re looking for numbers here. “I want to lose 20 pounds so that I can feel more confident in myself.”
This should answer questions like, “What do I need to do to achieve this goal?” What are your action items? Does it include a skill or resource that you don’t have? If so, what will you need? “I want to lose 20 pounds by going to the gym three times a week so that I can feel more confident in myself.”
This should answer questions like, “Is it possible to achieve this goal?” A good goal should push you outside of your comfort zone, but it should also be within reach if you’re willing to put in the effort. Start small and don’t worry too much about becoming the best, only measure yourself against your previous self.
This should answer questions like, “When should I have achieved this goal?” Set a deadline for yourself of when you need to achieve your goal. “I want to lose 20 pounds over the next three months by going to the gym three times a week so that I can feel more confident in myself.”
Notice how much more detailed our SMART goal is compared to our original goal of “Lose weight”.
Become the New You
Once your goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bounded; you can dig deeper into what it takes to actually achieve those goals. I like to start with some brain storming. Spend about 10 minutes writing down what you’ll be like when you’ve finally achieved your goal. The idea is to get you to start day dreaming about your future self because, when we day dream, we are actually training our minds into creating our future selves.
Play to Your Strengths, Work on Your Weaknesses
Write down all of the limitations that you feel like you have and why you’ve never been able to achieve this goal before. These can be things like, “I eat too much fast food”, “I don’t exercise a lot”, “It’s hard for me to stay committed”, etc. After that, spend about another 5-10 minutes writing down specifically all the tools, skills, knowledge, and resources you’ll need to achieve your goal. This will include things like learning how to prepare healthy meals, committing to a work out plan, having access to exercise equipment, having someone or something to hold you accountable, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, developing the habit of living a healthier lifestyle, knowing how much time per week or per day to dedicate, and making the time in your day. If don’t have any of the skills or resources that you need, write down what you’ll need to do to get them.
Finally, once you have all that written down, ask yourself “What can I do today to move me towards that goal?”. Do that! You should also write your answers down so that they’re in front of you and you don’t forget what needs done. Make things as easy as possible on yourself by starting small and with what you know. For exercises, you should already know how to do pushups, sit-ups, crunches, lunges, and running; these are all things you can start doing today. As for your diet, count your calories and start drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Regularly repeat this step to keep track of your progress and push you forward. Reviewing your goals frequently will put them at the forefront of your mind so that you can turn them into realities.
Here are some examples of goals that I’m working on right now:
- I want to write for one hour every day so that I can improve my writing skills
- I want to write at least one post a month to grow the NGFF blog
- I want to work out three times per week so that I can improve my physical fitness and self-image
- I want to learn how to cook, and cook at least two meals a week (for now)
- I want to talk to three random people per day to improve my social skills