Everyone has hopes and dreams for the future, but there’s a big difference between dreams and goals. A dream is simply that: a dream, meaning that it’s much more fantasy than reality. Meanwhile, a goal is attainable; it’s within reach. So how do you go about setting goals effectively, in order to make them a reality? Read on to find out!
5 Steps to Effective Goal-Setting
1. Decide what you want to achieve.
The very first step is to establish your big-picture goals. What is your endpoint; where do you want to end up? You can choose to set lifetime goals, goals to be achieved in the next 10 years, or goals to be achieved in another specific amount of time. These overarching goals will then set the tone for the rest of the goal-setting process.
It’s a good idea to identify long-term goals in various categories: education, career, finances, family, physical health, mental health, hobbies, and public services are all good places to begin. As you establish these goals, be sure that they are things that you want to accomplish, and not goals that your parents, your partner, your friends, or anyone else wants you to achieve. Choosing goals that are your own is essential for mental wellness.
2. Make the commitment.
Once you’ve chosen several long-term goals in various categories, it’s time to commit to them and get serious about making them a reality! A good way to stay committed is to schedule reviews of your goals every week or month. Set a reminder on your phone or computer so that you remember to go over your goals and evaluate your progress.
3. Break down your big-picture goals into smaller goals.
The thing about big-picture goals is that they’re big–which means that they can be very intimidating. Say that you started with goals for your lifetime.
Now it’s time to break those down into five-year goals. Next, break those down even further, into one-year goals. If necessary, continue breaking your goals into smaller ones, down to six-month or even one-month goals. The key is to create smaller goals that will eventually lead you to achieving your big-picture goals.
4. Break smaller goals down into manageable steps.
Now that you have smaller goals, it’s time to get SMART with them: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
• Specific means that you’re clear about exactly what you’re trying to achieve. For example, rather than a vague goal such as, “Travel the world,” you could write, “Travel to China, England, and Spain.”
• Measurable means that you can easily keep track of your progress toward the goal. An immeasurable goal would be something like, “Achieve success in all areas of life.” It’s hard to measure success in this way because it can be very subjective. Instead, make your goals more objective: “Increase my earnings at work” is much easier to measure than “Achieve success.”
• Attainable means that your goal is realistic and achievable. “Lose 100 pounds in a month” is clearly not attainable, but “Lose 1-2 pounds each week” is much more realistic.
• Relevant means that the goal is related to your overall life goals. If your big-picture goals include going to trade school and excelling as a carpenter, then “Become a NASA engineer” isn’t very relevant. “Find a suitable apprenticeship” would be a more relevant goal.
• Time-bound means that there needs to be a time limit on the goal. Rather than setting a goal such as, “Become the president of a company someday,” you might set the goal to “Apply to higher positions in the company once a month.”
Using SMART goals is a way to ensure that your goals can actually be reached, and that you can do so in a reasonable amount of time! Create daily SMART goals, and be sure to write them down on paper or in a spreadsheet so that you can easily keep track of your progress.
5. Get to work!
At this point, you’ve done all the work of identifying your goals and breaking them down into smaller ones. You’ve broken them down even further by creating attainable daily SMART goals that allow you to take measurable steps toward your big-picture goals.
And now it’s time to actually begin working towards them! All you have to do now is follow your plan, review it frequently, and adjust it as needed. As the weeks and months go by, you’ll be able to see progress towards your daily, monthly, and big-picture goals–and it will be extremely rewarding!
If you want to move forward in life, setting goals is one of the best ways to do so. But simply setting vague goals isn’t enough; once you’ve identified the big-picture goals you want to accomplish in your life, it’s necessary to break them down into smaller goals, and then into even smaller steps that you can take day by day.
It’s a great idea to use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) in order to make sure they are realistic and achievable. Once you’ve set your goals using this method, all that’s left is to take action and move towards them!