How To Set Goals (and Actually Achieve Them)

It’s easier to set goals than to achieve them! Here are some tips for getting through the hard part of following through with what you’ve set out to do.

March 8, 2016
img

It feels really great to reach a goal. There’s nothing like making progress in specific aspects of our lives that we want to improve. But as anyone with real ambition and hope to change can tell you, we’re not always successful with our goals. Sometimes we fail, even spectacularly so. Fortunately, we can craft our goals in ways that will increase our chances of achieving them. Here are some strategies to create goals that you’ll actually meet.

The first thing is to make sure that the goals you set are realistic. Vowing to never eat sugar again or attempting to lose 10 pounds in two weeks is simply not practical (and also sounds pretty miserable!) You know best what you’re capable of, so make sure your goals reflect your abilities and your commitment level. Still be ambitious and reach high (if that is what you desire), but don’t set unattainable goals for yourself, as they will likely cause frustration and disappointment. Also, consider the time and effort it will take to reach certain goals. Increasing your annual income is something that many people seem to aspire to. Maybe you’re truly willing to work hard and make a change to see that happen. If so, have at it! If not, it’s probably best not to make that a goal in the first place.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that your goals are more likely to become a reality if they reflect what you want to achieve, not what you think you should achieve. For example, some may feel that it’s important to make their bed (we had to do it as kids, so it must count for something, right?) Resolving to do this every day may seem like a trivial goal, but if it’s something that you struggle with and actually want to get better at, I say go for it! For me personally, however, I’ve realized that this isn’t something that I particularly value, and I’ve decided not to worry about it. I used to feel self-imposed guilt about this kind of thing, but I’ve learned to let it go, and now I can’t even remember the last time I made my bed!

Accountability is crucial to reaching our goals. Our connections with other human beings are vital to our well-being in so many different facets of our lives, and becoming our best selves through goal-setting is no exception! Our friends, siblings, spouses, and children can give us encouragement, love, and support. They can also provide a level of accountability to help us stick to our commitments. For example, a couple who is trying to get in shape for bathing suit season can help keep each other on the right track—not by micromanaging what the other person eats, but perhaps by going on long jogs or making healthier versions of shared favorite meals together.

In addition to communicating our progress toward our goals to other people, there are more ways to make ourselves accountable. I know a young woman who had set a firm resolution to do or say one nice thing for another person every day. To help her stay strong in pursuit of her goal, she started a journal where she could write down her good deeds. If you really want your goals to become reality, find concrete ways to make yourself accountable for them.

Remember that goals are most effective when they give us purpose and direction. I suggest setting just a few specific goals of things that you really want to achieve. These can help guide your actions and behaviors for the long term. One common struggle is decreasing motivation over time. It seems like we’re often pretty strong coming out of the gate but then begin to lose steam and excitement over time. To combat this, I’d suggest frequently taking the time to reassess your goals and reinvigorate your own commitment, and giving yourself visuals of how far you’ve come and how much you want to achieve something.

I love the process of goal-setting and achieving. It can bring great confidence and satisfaction as it allows us to truly envision our potential as human beings to improve our own lives. Set challenging yet attainable goals, lean on your relationships for support and accountability, and also take steps to keep yourself motivated along the way.

Best of luck with your goals!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR