Every January 1st, millions of people set new goals for the year. Often, these goals are forgotten within weeks, or even sooner. Here’s how you can set goals that truly inspire you to work on them until they are fully realized.
First, spend some time thinking about what you enjoy doing, and what you do not enjoy. Yes, think about the negative as well as the positive. It’s important.
Imagine that you’re looking at your life 10 years from now, and it’s more glorious than you could have ever dreamed possible. Ask yourself these questions about that future reality:
- What would you HAVE?
- What would you DO?
- And who would you spend time WITH?
Repeat these questions in regards to your home life, your work life, and your social life. Write down the answers.
Now, what are the main differences between your current life and your ideal life? What does your ideal life have that your current life does not? What has been eliminated from your current life to produce your ideal life?
- Is your income different? If so, by how much?
- Is your work different? How so?
- Do you spend your time with different people? If so, how are those new people different from your current social circle?
- Does your ideal life depend on having any specific THINGS? If so, what are they?
- How are YOU different in that future reality? Are you more optimistic? More persistent? More determined to achieve your goals?
The answers to the questions above will give you specific goals that are rooted in your inner desires, and are therefore much more motivating to you personally than a goal set merely because “it’s the thing to do.”
Achieving Your Goals Intentionally
At this point, it’s important to identify —at most— 3 goals to work on. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much all at once.
Pick the most important goals to set. The ones that seem to be at the heart of all the others. Once you’ve accomplished these, you can start to work on some of the others.
For most people, these goals will center around the people you spend time with, the type of work you do, and the way you approach your work.
The first step in actually achieving your goals is to map out a plan. If you don’t know how to achieve a goal, then your plan will start with:
- Step 1: Determine how best to achieve this goal.
- Step 2: Follow the prescribed plan.
As you discover the most effective ways to achieve a goal, you can add them to the plan.
If you’re planning to work on multiple goals at once, it will also benefit you to look at the plans for each and see if there might be some way to combine them so the actions you take towards one goal will also help you achieve one of the others as well.
Depending on how large your goals are, you may also want to break them down into smaller sub-goals.
In particular, have specific goals that can be achieved each week, with larger goals that can be reached within a month, and if necessary, even larger goals for 6 months to a year.
The value of having smaller goals is that it helps you track your progress so you can see how you’re doing, and if you need to adjust anything along the way. It can also motivate you to continue working on the larger goals when you see how easy it is to reach the smaller ones.
For example, if one of your goals is to develop greater persistence, and you usually spend 15 minutes a day reading, set a goal that you will extend your reading time to 20 minutes for 3 days straight, then to 25 minutes for another 3 days.
Or if you have a goal to start a new business, set a goal to spend 4 hours researching possible business models you may be interested in.
These sorts of goals are easily reached, easily tracked, and help to motivate you to continue towards the larger goal.
Additional Aids To Achieving Your Goals
Many folks feel that they cannot devote as much time to pursuing their goals as they would like. There are many ways to manage time more effectively, and free up the time you need.
After studying many great books on time management, you find that the “ideal” condition for high-productivity is to eliminate all distractions and interruptions so you can focus 100% on getting things done.
While it may not be possible to eliminate ALL distractions, you CAN take steps to minimize them.
For example, it’s often easier to focus on your work if your work area is clean and organized. While it may take an hour, a day, or even a week to completely clean and organize your space, the time you invest in the process will pay off over time.
If a goal seems overwhelming, the feeling of overwhelm is itself a distraction. One way to deal with this is to focus on small, manageable sub-goals.
For instance, if you’ve just set a sub-goal of organizing your work area, you may need to break it down even further to spend 15 minutes each day on the task. This way, you’re not focused on the whole job, but on one small piece — 15 minutes at a time.
Setting aside time in small blocks is also a great aid to working on your goals. If you set aside a block of 2 hours to complete a task, then do whatever you can to prevent others from interrupting you during those 2 hours. This includes email and Facebook. Close out those programs and keep your focus on the task at hand, at least for the time block you’ve designated.
At some point, even with all the time-saving tips of the experts, you may find that you have more goals than time available. This is when you need to set priorities on each thing, and spend more time with the more important tasks, and less time with the non-important ones.
When all is said and done, if you start with the most important things and work your way down the list, whatever you get done will be far more important than whatever didn’t get done.
And if you find that some things are getting missed that you really wanted to get done, then simply re-assign the priorities and move forward.
For example, grocery shopping may not at first seem a highly important goal, but when you’ve run out of food, it takes on a much higher priority.