Setting Goals You Keep
Today, I am welcoming Jennifer Landis from Mindfulness Mama to the blog to share with you tips on setting and keeping your goals. Jennifer’s tips remind me goal setting can be done anytime, not just in January. As our children are starting back-to-school, these tips are great for setting goals for our children too.
Many people think of goals only in the context of their professional lives. In an annual review, you sit down with your supervisor and set objectives for the coming year and sign on the dotted line.
If you are part of a well-run organization, you’ll revisit those goals with your boss regularly and be supported in your efforts to achieve them. What about personal goals, though? There is no supervisor – besides yourself – to hold you accountable for setting personal objectives and for achieving them.
Therefore, we often find ourselves daydreaming about improvements to our lives, but we don’t follow through on those dreams. Here are five ways to set and keep your goals for good.
Give Goals Lots of Thought
It’s easy to come up with goals off the top of your head: lose 30 pounds, fully fund retirement or change careers. However, if you want to be successful in meeting and exceeding these goals, spend time brainstorming what is important to you and your family, what your stress points are and when you feel the happiest or most frustrated. Visualize yourself the way you want to be, and be honest about how that is different from where you are now.
Spending this time to be intentional and thoughtful about your goals will help you narrow down the specifics from your ideal big picture.
Make your Goals SMART
A common tool used in writing the best objectives is to keep them SMART. That is an acronym for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related. SMART goal criteria are proven to help achievement because they ensure the objectives are easy to understand and simple. Let’s look at an example.
A general goal might be: I want to be healthier, feel better and lose weight. That sounds basic enough, but how do to measure your success?
Now let’s apply the SMART criteria to the same goal: I am going to go to the gym twice a week for the next two months.
See how different those two goals are, even though they are working toward the same end? In the SMART goal, you’ve assigned who’s responsible, and been specific and measurable while being realistic and setting a deadline. You didn’t say you’d go to the gym every day for the next year – that would have been so unrealistic you’d never get started.
Don’t Allow Discouragement to Derail You
Once a goal is set, that initial enthusiastic momentum will probably propel you to success in the initial days or weeks of striving toward it. Then real life kicks in. For example, your goal is to put your phone away when spending an hour with your kids before bedtime. However, work gets in the way and other family members are texting with their own problems, so it’s easy to convince yourself, “This is such a stressful time, I’ve just got to get my phone.” You don’t achieve your goal because of discouragement, stress and perceived need.
In reality, about 22 percent of Americans are under extreme stress, which, in addition to being an obstacle to achieving goals, also leads to chronic illness, changes in brain function, and a host of other negative results.
Instead, recognize the abuse and come up with healthy ways to combat it. In this example, perhaps you use the “do not disturb” function on your phone for that hour, so you don’t hear the texts or phone calls come through, or eat lunch at your desk to ensure you finish as much as possible before you head home. Also, recognize which stress relievers work well for you. Getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are proven stress busters.
Find an Accountability Partner
Having someone to keep you on track is critically important to keeping your goals for good. Choose someone who is working toward the same goal or who is a positive, responsible friend. Tell them about your goal and set a time to check in with them to report on your progress. The idea of having to tell him or her that you haven’t made it to the gym at all in two weeks might be enough to propel you there. Even better, perhaps that person will meet you at the gym and show you a few machines that were critical to their fitness success.
Another way to rely on others is to surround yourself with those who have had success in the field on which you are working. The truism “birds of a feather flock together” applies to achieving your goals as well. Flock with those who are successful and motivating.
Take Time to Reflect
Say your goal is to pay off that credit card debt within a year. You are three months in, and you just don’t feel as though you are making a dent. You’re considering ditching the whole goal.
Instead, pull out that first statement from three months ago. Do a little math to see how much the extra payments you’ve made have saved you in interest. Compare the balance to today’s balance and take time to appreciate how far you’ve come.
Depending on your goal, you may want to write in a journal, email status updates to family or take pictures. No matter how you decide to move forward, just be sure to appreciate how far you’ve come.
Being intentional in your personal life as well as professional life is important for success. By following these five steps, you can set and keep your goals for good.
How do you set your goals? What steps do you take to ensure you keep your goals?