What are your goals in life? Lose 20 pounds and go to the beach in your bikini? Hit the gym three times a week? Start your own business? Get a new car? Be a millionaire by the age of 40? Have a happy family?
Whether they are short-term or long-term, we have many goals in our lives, and our happiness is strongly related to how well we set, manage, reach and re-set them. And as you know, it’s not easy: we sometimes procrastinate, sometimes set the wrong goals or bite more than we can chew. How best to fulfill our aspirations? It’s hard work, let’s be honest, there is no magic formula – but here are a few principles which may guide and facilitate your personal goal quest.
1. Know who you are.
Let’s start by the beginning. It’s good to reach goals, but they have to be the right ones for you! And to decide which goals are right for you, you need to have a serious conversation with yourself and listen to your deepest aspirations. You won’t be happy in the long run pursuing goals which are not really yours, standard goals you may have selected by default, influenced by what society projects as goals worth pursuing. There is no “one-size-fits-all”. You have to know what makes you truly tick and choose goals that are aligned with your values and principles.
Of course, we may not get it right the first time but through iterations, missing and reaching goals, setting new ones, analyzing how we feel about it, it will become clearer and clearer. We’re not reinventing the wheel here! Horace and Shakespeare -and more recently Pharell Williams ! – have already been repeating the same thing over and over.
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
– Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82
So how to go about it? Here are a few avenues you can explore to raise your self-awareness:
- Meditate. Meditation will allow you to clear your mind, relax your brain, reduce your anxieties, think positively, and focus on things that are most important to you. Try the Calm app, at goalmap we find it simple and efficient.
- Know your passion. Set goals you are passionate about. Passion will provide you with the energy you need to achieve your goals no matter how hard they are. So think about the things you are most enthusiastic about.
- Recognize your talents. Your goals should be challenging to be enjoyable, but if you target too high they will become stressful. Be honest with yourself, and set goals which are achievable based on your skills and your resources (time, energy, etc.). Reach them, then target higher!
- Analyze your past successes and failures. Know what went right and what went wrong. Examine why you did fail or succeed in accomplishing your previous goals. And do it each time you reach or miss a goal. You will thus learn from your mistakes and capitalize on your strengths.
2. Have a smart plan.
You can be the most talented individual on the planet, yet if you don’t plan ahead there is little chance that you will reach your full potential. Planning is everything! So before you even start your journey toward your goals, make sure you have it all clear in your mind. All your goals should be S.M.A.R.T.:
– S for Specific. Your plan should be detailed and should help you hit the bull’s-eye. For example, rather than just having a goal “to be in good shape” or “to lose weight”, have a target quantity (e.g., lose 5 kilos) and a specific date (e.g., by year-end).
– M for Measurable. To the extent possible, your goal should be quantified so that you know at any point in time whether you are on track or not. And you should track your progress on a very regular basis.
– A for Achievable. You should be practical. Your goal should be realistic, within reach. And if one of your goals is too big and seems nearly impossible, try and break into smaller manageable goals that you can achieve step by step
– R for Relevant. We have discussed this already: your goal should be really meaningful to you. You should know why you are trying to achieve that goal in particular and what it will bring to your life once accomplished.
– T for Time-bound. Your goal should have a deadline. Without a deadline, a goal is not a goal, it’s a dream – and dreams are outside the realm of actions. Have a date!
3. Stay focused, build habits.
We are not saying here that you shouldn’t take a break from time to time. On the contrary, building up regular pauses in our schedules is healthy as it allows us to breathe and regenerate. But focus is clearly pivotal to success. Keep your eyes on the prize. Reaching goals and fulfilling one’s potential is an endurance game. If you stop-and-go too much, you will end up losing your drive. Be steady and persistent. In the long term, the things that we do repeatedly shape what we achieve, and who we are. So let’s focus on building the right habits. For example, if you have a big long-term one-off goal such as publishing a novel, work on the daily, weekly or monthly goals you need to set in order to reach it, such as writing 2,000 words per day or publish 5 blog posts per month.
4. Get the right toolkit.
We have many goals in our lives and they evolve over time. It’s pretty hard to keep track of them over time and have visibility on how we are doing over all. We can’t keep them all in our heads. We need a tracking tool. Otherwise we lose sight of our goals; we get side-tracked by short-term emergencies and forget about the long-term vision. How many of your goals are currently getting dusty in the mental attic of your life? Probably quite a few…
So write your goals down, set reminders, plan quarterly or yearly reviews. Let’s be structured and methodical about it, it will pay off!
Tools tend to be specific and vary from one person to another. Some like post-its, others prefer Excel spreadsheets or apps. At goalmap, we have built a system to help people set and track goals in any area of their lives (Sport & Health, Personal Finance, Work, People, Travels & Experiences, etc.). Feel free to check it out and see if it’s the right tool for you at www.goalmap.com. It’s free!
5. It’s not all about the numbers.
You probably got it: we like numbers. It’s true, we are really interested in personal analytics and new trends such as “quantified self” (for more info, go to www.quantifiedself.com). Having said that, you can’t expect any technology to be really helpful if you’re not motivated, inspired and committed to begin with. In general, we’d recommend using goalmap and other personal tracking devices or methodologies with the right mindset: technology gives you a framework, but the impulse is within yourself. Assessing results is also fairly personal, the numbers only will not give you full picture – use your sensations and emotions as well.
6. Go social and share your goals.
Be tribal. Find and join communities of people who share your passions. Whether your goals are about fitness, travels or finance, you will always find people who are on the same journey. Go find them on online forums or social networks (e.g., Facebook groups or Google+ communities) – or in real life, even better! Within these communities of like-minded people, peers support and stimulate each other. You’ll get / give inspiration, ideas, and tips from / to others.
The groups you join may change from one goal to the other. They may be big or small, even as small as one person you trust and who plays a mentor role for you.
You may want to keep some of your goals private (e.g., financial goals, love life) but for most other goals sharing with others is pretty powerful. When other people know about your goal, there is much less room to back down – pride makes wonders!
7. Reward yourself.
Rewarding yourself for every major milestone that you achieve will help you appreciate all the hard work you put in to get there. It will reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes. Yes, you deserve a tap on the back – go for it. You finished your first triathlon? Get yourself a new pair of runners. You worked hard and just got promoted? Take some time off. You lost six kilos? Buy this new dress you’ve been fancying for a while. Not only this will validate the efforts you made to date, but it will also give you a boost to get to the next level.
Setting and reaching goals is not a piece of cake! As we discussed in this post, it’s not really about talent, it’s about being able to take a step back and give meaning to our lives through careful planning and sustained effort. It’s more of an art than a science, and sharing your inspiration, your experiences and your doubts with others can make a huge difference.
Feel free to comment on this post and let us know your thoughts. Tell us about your own experiences of successes and failures, and the key things you learned. Feel free to ask questions and suggest any personal development topic you would like us to explore in a coming post. Until then, stay tuned – and become who you are!
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More articles on the goalmap blog that you might like:
- 20 Blogs that will Inspire you to Achieve your Goals in Life
- Why Everyone Needs a Goal Map – yeah, including you
- 20 Motivations Quotes to Push You Further
- 5 simple rules of goal-setting