Written By: CodeKristi
Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to do in your life and determining which things are relevant and which are ‘stealing’ your time. You then write down a plan of action to reach these things you want to do and to help you get the motivation you need to do it.
There are many articles / blogs about goal setting. Some people even make their whole career based on the topic. In this blog post, I am trying to summarise what I’ve read in different blogs / articles when I started setting my own goals and to mention the things that are currently helping me to reach it.
I am dividing this post into three sections, with each section subdivided into different sub-sections:
“A goal is a thought with commitment to make it real.”
A) BEFORE SETTING YOUR GOALS
Step 1: Get to know yourself
Before you can even think about starting to set goals, you have to look at where you are now. Who are you? What are things you have struggled with in the past (e.g. starting new projects / finishing old projects / determining which projects you want to do / etc). If you can identify these things – the things that played a role in preventing you from reaching your goals in the past – you can start to work on it.
The best way to identify these areas in which you struggle is by evaluating your past successes and failures. You don’t have to judge yourself, but you need to critically look at the things you had effort with and also the things in which you excelled at in order to determine when, how and possibly why you were successful or not.
Step 2: Dream your most crazy dreams!
The next step is to brainstorm your general life goals or dreams. Let’s say you want to own a house before you are forty. Or you want to have your own business. Or you want to become a well-known blogger… It doesn’t matter how unrealistic these dreams might feel right now because this step is not about being realistic, this step is about your dreams and hopes. What do you want from life? If you could imagine anything, what would it be? It is very important to focus on YOUR dreams, thus not on what other people expect from you, but what YOU want to do.
Step 3: Dream holistically
Before we change your dreams into goals, we have to ensure you have dreamt holistically. What I mean by this is: have you dreamt about all the important areas in your life?
According to studies each person has to meet certain minimum criteria in different areas of their lives in order to be a healthy, full-rounded individual. These areas can be divided into the following parts:
- Family and Home
- Financial and Career
- Spiritual and Ethical
- Physical and Health
- Social and Cultural
- Mental and Educational
This step is just to ensure you set goals for each important area in your life. This is not a required step, but I do think it will be beneficial to set at least one goal for each of the above-mentioned areas.
Step 4: Change your dreams into goals
Now that you have written down your dreams, you have to set a timeframe for these dreams. So you want the house in 7 years, or you want to become a well-known blogger in 2 years. You first start with the big picture, and then you break it into medium and then short term goals.
So for the house example: If you want to buy a house in 7 years and you need x amount of money, you will have to save a certain amount per year. In order to do that, you will have to save y percentage of your salary per month. So now you have a long term, medium term and small term goal for how to buy a house in 7 years.
General suggested time frames for long term goals are about 3 years, for medium term goals about 1-2 years and for short term goals anything between 3-12 months. This can of course change depending on whatever your goal is, but it is important to break it into different time frames in order to make it more manageable.
Another important aspect of this step is to go through this process for each of your dreams separately. For instance, you will do very different things for blogging than for buying a house, and you will need totally different time frames.
“A goal is a future achievement with a timely deadline that you can work towards to.”
B) HOW TO SET GOALS
Well done! You are finished with the first section of goal setting! In this section, we will focus on making each of the goals you have written manageable and possible. So we are now going to rewrite each goal until it is perfect!
Step 5: Goals aligned with your values
Before we continue with fine-tuning your goals, we need to ensure the goals you have written down are still in line with your dreams mentioned in step 1. It should be, as it is based on your dreams, but just go back and double check.
You also need to ensure your goals are based on your moral and ethical values. This might seem silly because at first glance it doesn’t seem as if blogging has anything to do with moral and ethical values.
However, if you want to blog opinion pieces about famous people, but you think being judgemental is wrong, you should possibly change your topic. So make sure that your goals are aligned with your core values, otherwise, you will probably fail with the goal you have set.
Your subconscious brain needs to be fully on your side for you to succeed, so you need to be a hundred percent sure what you are doing is morally right.
Step 6: Complementing goals
Another essential aspect of goal setting is that goals cannot contradict each other. This may seem obvious, but sometimes you don’t realise goals are opposing each other without critically looking at them.
For instance, if you want to buy a house AND start a business in the next five years, saving enough money for both endeavours in the available time period might be impossible. So this means you will definitely fail in at least one of the two goals you have set, which you obviously don’t want.
Try and look at aspects like available time, money and needed effort when comparing the goals, and ensure that all the goals are working together.
Step 7: Handful of goals
Some people go a bit overboard when setting goals, and want to do too many things. It is advisable to keep your goals as few as possible. Instead of trying to reach twenty goals, rather only focus your energy on five, or maybe eight goals.
Remember, we are talking here about your long-term (big) goals. So these goals should be like your 3 or 5-year plan. As you break them down into medium and short term goals they will become ‘more’, but they are still all based on your few long-term goals.
Step 8: Setting SMART goals
This step goes to the core of creating good goals. SMART is an acronym for the following five words:
- Specific: when you write down your goals, be precise in what you want to do. (e.g. I want to buy a 3 bedroom house with a swimming pool in 7 years).
- Measurable: you must be able to measure your progress, so ‘measurable’ generally refers to your short or medium term goals (e.g. the amount of money you need to save per month and per year in order to succeed in buying the house).
- Attainable: you have to be able to reach your goals, specifically with regard to time, money and effort. So you have to set a high enough goal, but not unrealistically high. (e.g. if you get a salary of 10k and you want to save 5k per month to buy a house, it won’t be attainable if your expenses are 6k per month.)
- Relevant: relevance refers to why you are setting this goal, as well as why you want to do it now? (e.g. if you want to buy a house, and you want to finish your degree, it might be more relevant to focus on first graduating and finding a job, before focusing on buying a house. You don’t need a house right now and you don’t have money with which you can buy a house right now, so it is irrelevant – for now).
- Time-bound: you need to set a time-frame in which you want to reach your short, medium and long-term goals. This is a very important aspect, as it distinguishes dreams from goals.
Step 9: Be positively present!
Goals should always be written in the present tense – never future tense! – in order to make them realistic. This is something that works with your subconscious brain: if you read the goals that are written in present tense, it will feel as if it is already true. If it is written in future tense, it will feel like something that needs to happen someday (which we know is just a code word for never…)
For instance: “I am buying a three bedroom house in 5 years.” NOT “I will be buying a three bedroom house in 5 years time.”
These two sentences might sound the same to you, but trust me, your brain is interpreting them very differently!
Another important way to write your goals is to always use positive language. So for example, instead of saying ‘things I am failing at’, say ‘things I have trouble with’. Whatever you write, do it in the most positive language you can. Negative words also have an effect on your subconscious brain by ‘blocking’ your ability to see or think past the negative word or concept. So, like in step 2 where you dreamt about any and all possibilities, your brain now needs to be able to ‘dream’ and ‘believe’ by reading and thinking only uplifting words!
Step 10: Be exact
In step 8, with the SMART outcomes, we said that goals need to be specific. Goals also need to be exact. So if you want a pink house, with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and with a big tree in the backyard, then you have to write it down. Yes, you can get into too much detail and of course, you don’t want a paragraph-long goal! But if these aspects are non-negotiable to make your dream real, then you have to make it part of your goal.
Step 11: Set deadlines
This step refers back to step 8 with the SMART goals, where we mentioned having time-bound goals. Each and every one of your short, medium and long-term goals need to have a deadline or a latest date by which the specific goal needs to be met. Without this, you will probably not be able to meet the long-term goals you have set. As the saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? Bite after bite.” So you need to take each little bite in order to reach your main goals.
Step 12: Performance and Operational goals
If you feel your short term goals are still a bit difficult to reach, you can break them into performance and operational goals. Performance goals refer to what you will do (e.g. you will save money each month), and operational goals refer to how you will do it (e.g. you will buy less take-away and watch fewer movies each month in order to save money).
It is important to note that performance goals are not the same thing as outcomes goals: outcomes goals is what you will get from doing something, while performance goals are what you will do. So don’t get confused!
Depending on your personality this step may or may not be necessary, but as mentioned in step 8, being more specific in your goals are always better. So if you feel willing, it is advisable to break each short term goal into these two categories.
C) AFTER SETTING YOUR GOALS
At last, you have finalised each of your goals into smaller chunks that describe exactly what you want to do. Now it’s time for the most difficult part: actually reaching your goal! Let’s see how we can ensure it happens.
Step 13: Write it down
This might seem apparent, but your goals need to be written down. It also needs to be somewhere where you can read it often, preferably daily. This is another way in which you can keep the dream alive, and keep reminding yourself that you are working towards something.
If you read your goals often enough, it is easier to constantly ask yourself: “Is this action bringing me closer to my final goal?” This will help you to track beneficial and wasteful behaviour, in terms of reaching your goals.
Step 14: Keep it close
You shouldn’t be going around sharing your goals with everyone who wants to listen. Many people are judgemental or are ‘realistic’ in their views of other people’s abilities. So sharing your goals will them might not be a good idea, as they could share their negative / more ‘realistic’ views about your goals with you, and might convince you it is impossible / crazy / outrageous…
So this very personal list of goals you have created is meant for your eyes, and for the few people close to your heart who is always motivating you and building you up. Remember, at some point during this journey it is going to get tough to keep going and you will need the best possible team of cheerleaders on your side to keep you motivated! So choose wisely whom you entrust with this very important job!
For me personally, it also helps to get an overseer: someone who literally comes and signs off on each week’s goals. In my case, if I reach my weekly goals, I even get a gold star!! So having someone else than yourself (from out of this trusted circle of motivators) who actually checks if and when you reaches your goals, makes it a bit more difficult to ‘cheat’. This helps to keep you on track.
Step 15: Review your goals
It is essential to go back to your list of goals very often to review it. For short-term goals, this could happen weekly to monthly, for medium term goals every three to six months and for long term goals every year.
It is necessary to review goals, as you might want to adjust it. As an individual grows, their skills and knowledge, and accordingly their dreams, might change a little bit. In order to keep your goals relevant (step 8) you need to ensure it stays aligned with the constantly changing you.
In this step, you can also keep track of your goals: are you actually getting closer to reaching it? Then you can adjust your short term goals to ensure you stay on track. This is an important aspect of keeping yourself accountable.
Step 16: Celebration
When you, at last, reach the happy and exciting moment of reaching your goal, you MUST celebrate it! And no, I am not only talking about reaching your big, long-term goal like buying the house. I mean you have to celebrate every goal you reach: short-term included. So every month when you put away the monthly savings for the house you are going to buy, you need to be happy, need to congratulate yourself, and need to celebrate it. Even if you just take one minute to tell yourself that you are a success because you are one month closer to being a proud house owner…
As we discussed in step 9, your subconscious brain uses every word you think or speak or write to decide what it thinks about you. So you must constantly tell your brain how amazing and successful you are! This will boost your self-esteem, which will ultimately make it much easier to succeed!
Great! So now we are through the process of how to set and reach your goals! As you can see from this blog, it takes a lot of planning and a lot of work to see it through. But everything worth getting is worth fighting for (or working hard for). So get your team of cheerleaders pumped up on positivity, and get going to reach your ultimate dreams! You can do it!
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I used the following sites as sources: