Five Steps to Meeting Your Goals

Ten days ago, the new year started, with many fireworks, much drinking, and as always, plenty of resolutions. While there are a probably some people still celebrating, most of us have since had to resume our regular non-partying lives, while trying to achieve all our new goals. It can be tough to achieve all your goals for the new year; there’s a reason most people end up giving up on their resolutions by mid-February.

But that doesn’t have to be the case for you. If you make sure to prepare, create a plan, and stick to it, you can be one of those rare few people who achieve the goals they set out in their resolutions. Lest you think I’m looking down on you as you try to achieve your goals, keep in mind that I’m hoping to be right there with you; I have plenty of my own resolutions for 2013.) In order to meet our goals, we need to meet:

Five Steps to Meeting Your Goals

1. Look At The Big Picture: Before you start to make your individual goals, it’s good to consider where you want to be in life many years, or even decades, from now and set the some lifetime goals. From your future standing financially to what you want to be doing in work (if you want to even still be working at that point) to your physical shape, getting a big picture of where you hope to be in life can serve as a wonderful guiding star to determining what changes you need to make and how you can help ensure that you reach that point.

Maybe not this big a picture, but a big picture nonetheless
Maybe not this big a picture, but a big picture nonetheless

2. Break The Big Picture Goal Into Smaller Goals: As good as it is to look at the long term, you can’t gain a million dollars or lose twenty pounds overnight. To reach your overall goals, you’ll need to split them into smaller pieces, more reasonable piece, the steps that you can achieve throughout the time you’ll need to reach your overall goal. Determining how much you need to save each year to be a millionaire by sixty or the amount to lose each week to meet your weight loss goal before the end of the year will allow you to set out a more precise plan toward your overall goal. Speaking of your goals, be sure to:

3. Make Your Goal S.M.A.R.T.: There’s a lot of things you need to do when setting out goals if you want to mark them complete. One of the best methods I’ve seen for goal setting is the S.M.A.R.T. method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Specific. Let’s look at each point in turn:

-Specific: There’s a lot you can do to help ensure that your goals are reached, starting with the nature of the goals themselves. You can make your goals vague (“Become rich”) or specific (“Have a net worth of at least one million dollars, not including my primary residence, by the age of sixty”). The former might be easier to write down, but the latter gives you a better focus on what you hope to achieve.

-Measurable: Setting goals without having a way of marking your progress makes them much harder (if not impossible) to achieve. Being able to mark your progress, whether in dollars earned, hours spent, or pounds lost, allows you to determine if your actions are improving your situation or not.

-Achievable: In order to be a goal and not a dream, you need to be able to influence your progress toward the end result. It can be something that will take a long time to achieve, but you need to be able to do it as a result of your own effort. You can get help, of course (and more on that in just a bit), but being able to actually work towards it is part of what makes it an appropriate goal, rather than a fantasy like ‘winning the lottery’.

-Relevant: If you’re going to achieve your goal, you need to make sure that it is something that encourages you to work, possibly long, hard, and with light compensation, in order to reach it. A goal that would improve some part of your life, be it your work, your family life, or even your recreation, will be much easier to stick with than a goal that has nothing to do with your life.

-Time Specific: Work expands to fill the time allocated for its completion, as Parkinson’s Law notes, so does the effort to achieve a resolution. If you don’t set any time limits, you will never reach your final goal. You don’t have to make them extremely tight time limits; at best, that will leave you unable to reach said goal, at worst, you can find yourself seriously ill (if your goal involves your health, like losing 20 pounds in 20 days). But if you give yourself too much time to complete your goals, you can find yourself slacking off so much that you never reach them. Setting a reasonable time limit for your goals (and each stage of the goal) will help you move toward the overall goal in a steady manner.

4. Revisit Your Goals Regularly and Measure Your Progress: There’s no sense in making your goal measurable if you don’t bother to measure it. Make sure that you check at regular intervals to ensure that you are making progress. What intervals you choose will depend on the type of goal you are trying to achieve and the time period you are seeking. (I’d suggest you do so at least once a month, just to keep the goal in your mind as you work towards it.) Compare where you stand in reaching your goal with the stage of progress you expected to be at, and modify your future efforts to make up for less than great results (or speed things along quicker than you first imagined possible).

5. Seek Help When Needed: You might be someone who prefers to do things their own way, at their own pace, with no interference from anyone as you try to achieve your goal. But you can’t always do everything you need to do to achieve your goals by yourself. You’ll need to find sources of help and encouragement, from resources like magazines, books, and blogs that provide advice on how to achieve your particular goal (or goals in general) to the people in your life who can provide support as you move towards your goal.

There you have it, five steps to setting your goals and then achieving them. While these are not the only things you need to do in order to meet your goals (each individual goal has its own dos and don’ts that you need to follow), they should give a good set of directions as you move yourself toward your goals. Good luck to you as you do; I know that it can be a long and hard process.

What goals are you trying to achieve? How are you working towards them? When do you hope to have them accomplished?

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