A guide on how to set goals and achieve them
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If you’re on a quest to live a lifestyle by design that’s full of happiness, personal freedom, and even good health, then it’s important to learn how to set goals and achieve them.
A staggering 92% of people who set goals and resolutions at the start of the new year don’t even accomplish them. Yes, a whopping 8% actually do what they’ve set out to do. 9.2 out of 10 of you aren’t shocked.
That’s a huge number and can possibly explain why so many of us feel as if we’re stuck or not really making any progress in life year after year.
Whenever I brought an 89.6% A- exam into our Nigerian household, my dad would tell me that those who got 100% don’t have two heads. While a harsh reality for a middle schooler, it’s a life truth. The people who achieve success aren’t genetically different or special than the rest of us. They just set goals and actually commit to them.
But before we dive into how to set goals and achieve them, we first have to figure out what goals are and the best approach to take.
What is a goal?
According to Merriam Webster, a goal is the end toward which effort is directed. Goals have certain characteristics that differentiate them from dreams, hopes, wishes, ideas, etc.
Goals have to be specific and measurable with an end or deadline to signal achievement or accomplishment.
The Easiest Way To Set Goals
When it comes to setting goals, we often set ourselves up for failure right from the jump. It’s good to dream big, but when those dreams are so big that you’re overwhelmed and taking no action, then you’re hurting yourself in the end.
Rather than trying to skip to the end and doing everything at once, take baby steps and slowly but surely chip away at your objectives.
Reaching your goals doesn’t have to be insurmountable or something that you never overcome. Here are some tricks I’ve used to set goals and achieve them and live my life as I’ve designed.
How To Set Goals And Achieve Them
Get game-day ready.
The most important step to setting some goals you hope to accomplish is by starting with your mindset.
Anyone who’s been in business or freelancing for a while will tell you that the hardest part of all of this is conquering your mind. Learning how to stay focused, keep the negative voices at bay, and continually churn out project after project with no motivation or little result is difficult to put it lightly.
Yet, that’s how a common reality in business and solopreneurship, especially in the beginning.
If your goal is to be in the game for a while, then you have to get game-day ready.
Take self-care seriously and be persistent and hungry in your quest to win and move to the next level.
Practice meditation or yoga and master the art of being present. Use prompts to help you form a journaling habit.
Whatever you have to do to get your head in the zone, do it. If that means taking morning swims in the Pacific Ocean, then so be it. There’s work to be done.
Decide on what needs to get done.
Now that you’ve done some mindset work, it’s time to figure out what exactly you want to accomplish.
Why is this step important? It’s hard to move forward if you have no clue where you want to go, and setting goals gives you direction.
It’s really as simple as sitting down with a pen and paper, or a laptop if your eyes don’t need the break, and deciding on what it is that you’d like to work towards.
I like to approach this by thinking deeply about my motivations, core values and beliefs, and even my passions to gain some clarity on the direction I wish to take.
Here are some questions I like to use to help stimulate some thought:
- What do you wish you did in the last year but didn’t?
- Where do you see yourself in the next one, three, or five years?
- If you could do anything and money, time wasn’t an issue, and nothing was impossible, what would you do?
- What does your ideal life look like?
- One year from now, what would you be happy to have accomplished?
- What do you enjoy doing the most?
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
When you’re first getting started with goal-setting, it’s easy to want to do everything all at once. While that might be a fast way of doing things, it won’t really get you anywhere.
Taking the time to prioritize your goals helps you get organized and focus on what needs to get done when it needs to get done so that you can get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.
Working on too many things at once is self-sabotage. It’s a sure-fire way to stretch yourself thin and burn out. If you’re burned out, then you’re like a sailboat in a dead calm.
In order to achieve your goals, you have to work on them constantly and regularly. The best way to go about this is by giving them your focus until the job is done.
Analyze all the projects or tasks you want to get done and then commit to those things until they’re finished. I recommend having no more than three major to-do’s, tasks, or projects at any given time, especially if you’re just getting used to taking a focused approach with setting goals.
Breaking down your goals into fewer goals that are smaller makes them more approachable or attainable and encourages you to actually stay committed to accomplishing them in a timely fashion.
Take a SMART approach.
Setting goals for yourself is one thing. If you really want to achieve and take yourself to greater heights, then consider incorporating SMART goals to your work or productivity flow.
SMART is a simple formula for goal-setting and helps you paint a narrative or purpose as to why you’re creating objectives in the first place.
SMART goals are:
- Specific – clear and well-defined
- Measurable – you’re able to track progress towards your goal(s)
- Attainable – challenging but not impossible to achieve
- Realistic – within reach and relevant to your goals or purpose
- Time-specific – give yourself a deadline
The problem with generic goal-setting is that we tend to be vague without much specificity around what it is we’re trying to achieve. Here are some examples:
Vague goal #1: lose weight.
Vague goal #2: make more money.
Vague goal #3: travel.
While those are nice goals to have, they say nothing about what exactly needs to be accomplished, how you plan on achieving those things, or when you plan on achieving them. It’s like driving without having a destination.
SMART goals give you a sense of direction and help you stay focused and increase your chances of achieving your goals. So, instead of vague goals, we now have goals that look like this:
SMART goal #1: I will start a running regimen to lose 15 pounds by February for the wedding.
Specific: a well-defined goal of losing 15 pounds.
Measurable: success can be tracked by the amount of weight lost.
Attainable: 15 pounds is a doable goal in the allotted time frame.
Relevant: the goal is for an upcoming wedding.
Time-specific: there’s a specific deadline in February.
SMART goal #2: Start freelancing as a copywriter and make $3,000 per month so that I can quit my job in six months.
Specific: a well-defined goal of making $3,000 per month.
Measurable: success can be tracked by the amount of freelancing money you’re able to bring in each month.
Attainable: the amount of money is doable in the allotted time frame.
Relevant: the goal is to make enough money to achieve the goal of quitting your day job.
Time-specific: there’s a specific deadline of six months.
SMART goal #3: Plan the ultimate ski trip to Reno during the week of Christmas.
Specific: a well-defined goal of winter travel.
Measurable: success can be tracked by booked reservations and airfare.
Attainable: planning a winter trip is possible with advanced planning and research.
Relevant: it’s a bucket list destination for the goal-setter.
Time-specific: the trip is tentative Christmas week.
SMART goals set you up for success by being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Taking a SMART approach gives you reason to actually do the things you say you will and gives you a sense of purpose to move you in the right direction.
Write them out.
Did you know that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down?
I’m always baffled to see myself as a writer and one who frequently gives out writing advice because it was my least favorite subject in school and that was not what all the quizzes and tea leaves were saying back then. Writing has singlehandedly changed my life in more ways than one, and especially for setting goals and achieving them.
Writing out your goals makes them come to life and feel tangible. Seeing them written in front of you is a huge motivator and helps you plan out the necessary steps to make them become a reality.
A quote that I’ve found myself repeating in adulthood is “out of sight, out of mind”. It’s why I have a day planner because if it’s not written down or saved somewhere then there’s a good chance it’s not getting done. From lofty goals to small daily tasks, it all gets written down.
Here are some helpful tips when it comes to writing your goals down:
- Write positive or affirming words. Encouraging language will inspire you to stay focused.
- Use a to-do list or checklist format. Crossing or checking things off your list will keep you motivated to do them.
- Keep your written goals top of mind. Post-it notes, mobile or desktop wallpapers, and reminders are all super helpful.
Tell people what you’re going to do.
If you want to succeed, don’t tell anyone…?
I’ve seen that quote floated around so many times, and I believed it for the longest time. Not only did I believe it, but I practiced it. And why wouldn’t I when psychology backs it?
According to a post from Psychology Today, when people announce an intention to commit to an identity goal like new hobbies, body goals, career transitions, etc., in public, that announcement may actually backfire.
With that being said, I still tell people what I’m going to do.
Public announcements do not work for me. Multiple times have fellow lifestyle entrepreneurs recommended making some kind of public statement so that I’ll actually commit to what I say. That doesn’t do anything for me. If anything, it’s like challenge accepted and whatever it is I was supposed to do gets dropped.
So, what have I found to work? Talking to people who you trust, whose opinions and values you respect enough to be vulnerable and ask for help or support, who can and will hold you accountable.
When I tell those few people that I’m going to do something, it gets done. Why? Because I said so. Literally. That’s my mantra. “It’ll happen because I said so.”
And if it doesn’t? The people closest to me who care and have time to keep me in their thoughts tend to ask for updates, just as I do for them. Just like that, things are getting done.
Stay the course.
If you want to accomplish your goals and achieve success, then you have to be disciplined and determined to stay on the path. No matter what.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t succeed is because they deviate from the plan or lose focus. Solopreneurs and those in the business space are particularly fond of this, and there’s a name for it.
Shiny object syndrome (SOS) is when you get distracted from your current project and essentially chase after a new project, trend, or endeavor, likely without much planning or forethought.
Example: Person A recently started a relationship coaching business. After a while, Person A isn’t signing the clients they want or seeing their desired income results and becomes discouraged. So, they decide to take on work in anti-racist activism.
On a surface level, it might seem like a good idea or well-intended. But because you’re jumping onto the next thing without identifying possible obstacles, doing the research necessary to lay a solid foundation for your new project, or having built a relationship with people who may need your services, you’re setting yourself up for failure from the getgo.
If you want to achieve your goals and see more success in your life, then you have to stay committed to the path and doing all the work that’s necessary to get you to the other side.
Be patient. Take things one day at a time. Always get back up.
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